Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys?
If playing with a squeaky toy is your dog's favorite pastime, you're not alone. But why do they love them so much? An expert weighs in.
If your dog's toy basket looks anything like most, it's bursting to the brim with a variety of squeaky toys—typically plush stuffies like bunnies, dog catchers, and dragons as well as squeaky tennis balls, noisy plastic newspapers, and squawking hot dogs. Finding a quiet dog toy is like looking for a dog who doesn't bark at the mail carrier. Dogs love squeaky toys, but why?
Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys?
"While we might not always think of our little pups as predators, they certainly are and the instincts of their wild ancestors are still alive in them today," says Dr. Georgina Ushi Phillips, a Florida-based veterinarian who blogs at Not a Bully, a resource dispelling myths about bully breeds.
Dr. Phillips says the squeaky sound of a toy taps into these instincts as it resembles the high-pitched noises that a wounded, scared, or injured prey animal would make.
You might not realize it but your precious little pooch likes squeaky toys because they satisfy their prey drive, which is the instinct to hunt and capture prey.
Many dogs also enjoy the instant gratification they get from repeatedly gnawing on that squeaker. Every time they press down with their mouth, they're rewarded with that um, loud, sometimes obnoxious little squeak.
Why Do Dogs Chew the Squeaker Out of Toys?
If your dog can really tear up a plush squeaky toy and even remove the plastic squeaker, he's not alone. Many dogs find tearing up their stuffies a welcome pastime, despite their owners who know these toys aren't cheap.
"For most dogs, the obsession with removing the squeaker is tied to prey drive. Dogs not only want to capture their prey, but they also want to kill it," says Dr. Phillips. If the prey (or squeaker toy in this case) is still squawking, then it's still alive.
Some dogs are driven to remove the squeaker to kill the prey, to stop the noise, or even to end the hunting process. "This also explains why some dogs completely lose interest in the toy when the squeaker is gone," says Dr. Phillips. Once the noise stops, the hunt is over.
Supervise Squeaky Toy Play
Many dogs can shred squeaky toys and rip out the squeaker without swallowing any of the stuffing or the squeaker. However, "playtime with squeaker toys should always be supervised as many dogs get so caught up in "the hunt" that they may swallow parts of the toy," says Dr. Phillips. Intervene if they get too excited or start chewing on pieces of the squeaker, stuffing, or plastic.
Dr. Phillips adds, "If your dog has any history of ingesting foreign objects, then stuffed squeaky toys are not the best option and instead go with a sturdier toy like a Kong."
What's more, regularly give your dog's toys an inspection and remove or replace any that are damaged, torn up, or spilling their stuffing.
Why is My Dog is Afraid of Squeaky Toys? What Can I Do?
If your dog runs the other way when you introduce a squeaky dog, don't worry. Some dogs with a weaker prey drive or less desire to play with these types of toys may find the loud noise frightening.
You can try to look for a toy with a softer squeak to see if that might appeal more. You can also set the toy among the dog's others to see if he'd explore it on his own or try showing him that the toy is fun by tossing it to him or tugging on it without making the noise. He may end up coming around. If not, go with other types of toys, like crinkly toys, balls, and tugging toys.
Squeaky toys aren't a fit for every pup, and that's all right. Plus, those pet parents may even enjoy a peaceful home–sans squeaking.