Ever wonder if your dog really "needs" all those toys, or if maybe it's just a marketing gimmick? Or maybe your dog just doesn't have an interest in toys? Perhaps they destroy them all really quickly and you're frustrated and don't want to keep replacing them. Maybe you're just not sure how many toys to buy for a new puppy or a house with multiple dogs. If any of this sounds like you, PLEASE KEEP READING!
So the first thing to think about is the fact that your dog is a dog. He is genetically programmed for certain things, such as hunting, chasing, chewing and digging. Next, your dog is a certain breed or mix of breeds, which we have selectively bred certain traits into - herding, retrieving, killing rodents, etc. Now think about those generically wired needs that are driving your dog, and think about how he/she spends their days. In the average house at least 2/3 of that day is spent alone while you sleep and work. Then throw in house work, outside activities, meal times, etc, and that dog is left to figure out what to do with themselves for 90% of their day and no longer has a job like their ancestors did. No farm to work, no livestock to herd/guard, no weekly hunting trips to help you bring home food.
Now that you have some perspective we can get to "how many". Honestly, I feel that at least 10 toys per dog is what the average person should plan on. Most importantly, these 10 need to be different types of toys. You need a few of each of the following:
- Toys for chewing (Nylabones, bones, etc)
- Toys for chasing (balls, lasers & frisbees)
- Toys for "killing" (stuff to rip up, UNLESS you have behavior issues such as swallowing the pieces)
- Toys/games for mental stiulation (puzzle toys, burying toys in a sandbox, hiding treats around the house or yard for them to hunt)
Providing this selection will ensure that your dog has a stimulating environment. If you help your dog learn to love their toys (some dogs DO needed to be taught to use toys) and know where to find them, they will actively seek out things they SHOULD play with instead of chewing on your furniture and belongings. If they go to chew something that's not theirs, simply go "ah! Ah!" loud enough to startle them, and then give them a toy and encourage them to chew that instead. Then praise!
And don't forget to buy new toys to rotate in every few months and to replace those that are no longer safe (the edges become sharp, pieces are coming off or they pose a choking hazard) because of damage.
10 toys per dog may sound expensive to some, or unnecessary to others, but the cost of those toys is a lot less expensive than the damage they could do to your home. I own 3 dogs that I raised from puppies and have had multiple foster dogs over the years, and a combination of crate training and toy availability has meant much less chewing damage than most people see. My 7 month old Ridgeback pup, for example, has only done about $50 in damage inside the house since coming home - and those incidents were definitely our fault on supervision slip ups.
Also keep in mind that smart dogs and high energy dogs often need even more toys to keep out of trouble if you're not going to give them a job.