Owning a Dog – Step 1: Open Wallet, Burn Money

Every dog is different and nowhere have I seen this more than in trying to keep the puppy we’re fostering (NSD Edge) happy and engaged. While it’s true that training a service dog means he spends very little time home alone during the work day, in order for me to accomplish … well, anything, he needs to be relatively quiet and occupied.

Hello Kitty died on the way back to her home planet.

Hello Kitty died on the way back to her home planet.

Labs love chewing.  Fortunately, there are a ton of items out there made to keep dogs who love to chew occupied!  Unfortunately, whether they will work for your puppy seems to vary wildly according to the dog.

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Rest in pieces, Kong Genius, we hardly knew ye.

Through a great deal of trial and error, I’ve gradually found a small niche of toys that seem to be a good combination of durable and interesting enough to keep Edge’s attention for longer than .5 seconds. (Note: I’d love to have the amazon links in this post go to a shelter’s affiliate program – if you know of one, please send me a note, or leave a comment!)

1. Jolly Pets Teaser Ball

I was skeptical of the hard plastic, but this ball has withstood daily play for over a month now.  The holes are big enough that his snout can’t get stuck, but too small for him to get a good grip on the interior ball and puncture it.  This has been great for tossing around in the snow for exercise! (I’ve heard pretty good things about their original toy too, but haven’t tried it myself.

2. Bionic Stuffer

Since Edge is being trained as a future service dog, we’re limited to the types of toys we can use with him.  Anything resembling potential distractions (balls, frisbees, sticks) are out.  Bionic balls have been highly recommended by a lot of sides, but we’ve gotten a lot of use out of this one.  You can use kibble or small treats in the toy, or cram a piece of jerky or similar treat in the slot end, which can take some time to wiggle out.  After nearly six months, Edge has finally managed to chew one end off but the integrity of the toy overall remains durable enough for some supervised playtime and treat dispensing.

3. Kong Classic

Naturally!  We used a smaller puppy grade one till he outgrew it, and now use a regular red classic kong.  It’s a great way to keep him busy but the prep time and washing can be kind of a pain.  I started freezing wet dog food/canned pumpkin mixed with kibble to help with his teething, and it takes him much longer (and is less messy) than not freezing it, but if I forget to put everything together in the morning before work, it’s too wide open to last long with just dry kibble in it.  I have found some success with pushing bully sticks through the tiny hole, and breaking them off so they end just before the big opening, so he has to spend some time working it out.  There’s a million sites out there for Kong stuffing ideas and training tricks.  And neither the puppy kong nor this one have suffered any serious damage against his powerful jaws, so they are a great value.

4. Kong Extreme Goodie Bone

I bought this one recently after remembering how taken Edge was with my sister’s dog’s bone.  Unfortunately, one of the knobs was not long for this world – but Kong’s reputation isn’t just from the indestructible nature of most of their toys, but also because of how they come apart when they do get chewed up.  The end came apart in two or three big chunks that were easily taken away, and the rest of the toy is intact.  Since most of his toys are meant to keep him busy at my feet while I work, it’s easy to stuff this with a little wet dog food or soft treat, and supervise his playtime. I wouldn’t recommend this for crate playtime, however.

5. Kyjen Bottle Buddies

This is a weird one.  The first one we got when Edge was a baby and it lasted forever.  You could replace the water bottles inside when they became too crushed, it had a squeaker cap you could move to the new bottle and the velcro was very sturdy when closed.

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As you can see, they were of a size, once.

In fact, the only reason Pengu didn’t make it was because I foolishly put a treat he valued more than the toy into the bottle inside.

But the second bottle buddy I bought was destroyed within 48 hours, and had no squeaker cap, and crappy velcro. Caveat emptor, is what I’m saying.  Get this one in store rather than online.

6. Bumi

Awesome toy for fetch and tug.  Not really a chew toy, but it definitely holds up being carried, tossed, and yanked on. I’d be willing to try other things by this designer – they have some treat dispensing toys that look like they have potential.

7. Crinkit, King of Kings

Like everything on this list, Crinkits will vary in their indestructibility.  Our first one died prematurely when an Irish Water Spaniel did the impossible (so I thought) and bit a chunk out of one end.  It took a few months after that, but eventually Edge was able to take more pieces off.  Like the kong, it comes apart in big, easy to spot chunks, so there was little danger of him swallowing any.  I bought a second one immediately.  It feels neat (kind of squishy, which I didn’t expect for its durability), has a nice vanilla smell, has a space for a water bottle like the bottle buddy, floats. It does everything!  It’s great for fetch or tug, but holds up awesome to just hunkering down and gnawing on it.  This is just an awesome toy for the money you spend.

There are a few other we use around the house for various purposes (Dog Tornado, Tricky Treat Ball and Tug-A-Jug to keep him from scarfing his meals, for example, or Himalayan chews and elk antlers), with varying success. Soft toys are mostly a wash – every so often I’ll get him one at the dollar store, let him tear it’s belly open and toss it without too much guilt.

Another way I’ve found to mitigate the cost while finding durable brands or toys is a Bark Box subscription. For a set monthly price, you get a box of goodies delivered right to your home, and the contents typically exceed the subscription fee from anywhere between 5-20 bucks.  Their customer service is also spectacular – when a rawhide treat was one of the items in the box, and I emailed explaining I couldn’t give my dog rawhide, they sent me a $10 dollar gift card the same day to purchase something Edge could eat, and asked me to donate the rawhide to a shelter or other dog. Their items are all high quality treats and toys (even if some of them don’t last, or they’re not Edge’s favourite).  They also have an online shop where you can purchase items from the boxes, sorted by themes. (For ex: you can see a lot of my faves here, though only the football was one I got from a Barkbox.  Still, they know their audience!) Plus, just straight up adorable items that I wouldn’t have thought to buy come in from time to time, like Edge’s super snazzy ugly christmas sweater:

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Handsome nerd

All this to say, if you want tips on how to keep a puppy from completely destroying your life while interacting with it personally as little as possible, I’m your gal.

(I’m only mostly kidding on the last part.)(Really!)

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