Apart from providing hours of fun, toys are great training and socializing tools. And initiating games means spending lots of wonderful quality time with your new friend. There’s a fabulous selection available in all price ranges from specialty pet stores, local supermarkets and on-line outlets. Because German Shepherds are herding dogs, you can also have fun teaching your new friend to gather up the toys after play time and put them in the doggie toy box to keep the home tidy.
Young puppies are always looking for things to chew. Just like children, puppies go through a teething phase, losing their first teeth and suffering from itchy gums while adult teeth grow. Fortunately, there are lots of chew toys specially designed to deal with this problem.
“It’s a good idea to give your puppy a variety of special teething toys each with a different texture because one might feel better than another at any given time while he’s going through the teething process,” suggests dog behaviorist Darlene Arden, author of Rover! Get Off Her Leg!
Teething toys include rope toys and chains made up of different shapes, sizes and materials. Specially designed puppy teething rings and chew sticks that can be placed in the freezer will provide lots of relief for irritated gums. Many of the material ones give off a crunchy sound when frozen which will also provide your puppy with hours of pure enjoyment.
Today’s canine toy trends are designed to appeal to a dog’s natural instincts as well as providing endless hours of interactive fun with both other dogs and family members. There are three main kinds of toys. Action toys for energetic games to burn off calories and expel lots of energy. Distraction toys to keep dogs occupied when they are home alone and also designed to provide both mental and physical stimulation. And, once again, just like small children, puppies enjoy comfort toys, something soft and plush to carry around and possibly sleep next to at night.
It’s important to ensure that a well-stocked puppy toy box contains a variety from all three categories. Toys are more than just play objects. A happy, playful dog is a content and socially well-adjusted one.
An action toy is anything that can be thrown, rolled or launched in a special launcher and instantly puts your puppy in retrieve mode so that you can repeat the process ad infinitum.
Even though German Shepherd Dogs are a large breed, it’s important to purchase smaller toys during the puppy stage so that the dog can easily grip it easily in its mouth. It’s often a good idea to purchase a popular toy in several sizes and simply exchange them at the appropriate time.
Tennis balls, hard non-toxic rubber balls, Frisbees and all tug-of-war toys also fall into this category. Many of them are made up of a variety of materials such as rope and ball combinations so that they can be both tugged and tossed for variety.
New in the action toy category are catapult toys. Often they resemble squirrels or birds and can be launched with a built-in catapult that will give the toy some “air” before it lands a good distance away. Many of the also squeak and make related noises that will certainly appeal to your puppy’s prey drive and encourage games.
Action toys are an excellent choice to use as a training tool to teach basic commands.
“Let your puppy ‘audition’ a variety of different toys in order to select its favorite which you can then use as a training toy,” says Arden, “ Then keep this toy aside and only bring it out for training purposes and allow your puppy to play with it as a reward after a training session.”
The main purpose of a distraction toy is to keep your puppy occupied when you are too busy to play or when it’s home alone.
Distraction toys are usually made from very durable non-toxic rubber materials and can be stuffed with treats or a nice dollop of peanut butter that will keep your puppy engaged for hours extracting and enjoying the contents.
“This type of toy is excellent when you are crate-training,” says dog trainer Harrison Forbes who specializes in training German Shepherds for police work. “Never leave a young pup alone with soft toys with squeakers that it could remove and possibly choke on.”
Thus battery-operated toys that jump about vibrate and give off fun noises should be played with under supervision.
In the distraction toy category, there are also dispenser toys that will hold an entire meal. As the dog pushes it around, the edible contents rolls out. Such a toy is a good idea to teach a young dog not to gobble down its food. Some dispensers have built-in recorders so that you can record a message that will play as the gadget rolls around.
All puppies, irrespective of size, love soft cuddly toys and there’s a huge selection available. Apart from the comfort aspect, most puppies enjoy dragging them around and trying to subdue them, which is a natural prey-driven canine instinct.
When your puppy first comes home, consider investing in a comfort toy that you can warm up in the microwave and place in a favorite sleeping place. There are ones that emit a heartbeat sound designed to pacify a young puppy that’s recently left its mother or has had a rough start in life at an animal shelter.
“Toys also make excellent targets if you are planning to clicker train your dog to teach certain behaviors and commands,” says Arden. “Clicker training is a method of positive re-enforcement that employs the use of a hand-held device that you use to ‘click’ to denote when a dog performs a behavior correctly. It works together with a target /toy which the trainer points at to define the action that the dog has to perform. Toys help dogs make this association quickly.”
Arden also suggests keeping the special toy selected for clicker training separate from the other toys in the toy box and only bringing it out for a specific training session.
MANAGING THE TOY BOX
Toy boxes that don’t have lids are excellent so that a puppy can help itself and initiates its own playtime fun.
It’s a good idea to rotate the toys in the toy box every couple of weeks. That way the toys will seem “new” and keep your puppy’s interest and enjoyment piqued. Further, all toys should be washed regularly and thrown away at the first signs of disintegration.
“Because German Shepherd Dogs are such a bright and intelligent breed, train your puppy to put the toys away at the end of playtime. It’s definitely worth the investment in time spent to initiate such training because this way your living room will always remain tidy,” says Arden.
And your puppy will enjoy this activity too, considering it just another fun game to play.