April 19, 2002 -- Children's toys always come with warning and age labels, but dog owners should also be just as careful about the playthings they buy for their pets.
Veterinarian Marty Becker appeared on Good Morning America with some tips for dog owners purchasing toys for their animals. With dogs, size matters when it comes to toys.
"The important thing is the size of the dog, not the age, unlike when you're buying a toy for a child," Becker said. "The size and aggression of the dog will help you determine what to get."
The common thinking is the smaller the dog, the smaller the toy, and that big dogs like big toys. But pet owners should bear in mind that dogs are like children in that they have oral fixations, and everything goes in their mouths, Becker said. Labradors and sheep dogs, especially, have chewing fixations.
Kong toys (kongcompany.com) are a good example of a pet toy that comes in different sizes. The larger toys are good for big dogs, because they are more difficult to chew.
Good Chewing Vs. Bad Chewing
There is no getting around having your pets chew on stuff, but you can guide them toward constructive chewing, Becker said.
"Our job is not to get them to stop chewing, but to stop the destructive chewing, on furniture and shoes," Becker said. "You want to find a good toy and praise them when they chew that."
To even make their toys even more attractive, try marinating them in bouillon, spreading peanut butter on them, or freezing them with Kool-Aid inside, he suggested.
When it comes to dog collars, be careful about choosing them, because some of them can choke your dog, Becker said. Choke collars — which were once popular among pet owners — can literally choke your dog.
"They put direct pressure on the wind pipe and can crush it," Becker said. "They are torture for dogs."
Head collars, which are also called gentle leaders, are a good choice for dogs. They mimic the way the mother dog carries and disciplines her puppy. The mother carries the puppy by the back of the neck and disciplines it by biting down on the nose. The collar has a ring under the lower jaw, so that the pressure points focus on the back of the neck and the top of the muzzle, Becker said.
Don't Give Dog Organic Bones
Dog trainers prefer using Kong toys, which come in different sizes and are made of hard rubber. Plush, chewy toys, made of lamb's wool are also good, Becker said. But there are a lot of toys and chewing items that are bad for dogs, particularly organic bones.
"Rib bones are no-nos," he said. "Cow and beef hooves are bad — they can fracture their teeth chewing on those."
Pig ears can cause pets to get an upset stomach, because they are so greasy. You should also avoid feeding your dog bone marrow.
Some pet owners think that the Nylabone Plaque Attackers are good for aggressive chewers, but they can cause damage, Becker said. Nylabone recently issued a warning on them, because when dogs with sharp teeth chew on them, they may fracture into little shards, which could perforate the intestine, and harm the dog.
Regular Nylabones are fine though, Becker said.
Doing Heimlich On Your Dog
Dog owners with kids around the house should be careful about letting dogs play with children's toys. They can be harmful if the dog swallows them, Becker said.
Squeaky toys — latex toys with bells or noise makers inside — are not bad if you supervise the dog when he is playing with it, but do not leave the dog alone with them, Becker said. The dog will chew the toy and attack it in efforts to get the squeaker out, and if they are successful, they could swallow those noisemakers. If you supervise the dog, you will know when they are at this point.
If your dog does choke on something, you can do two things. One is use your finger to do a sweep through the mouth to try to remove it, using gauze to help get a grip on the dog's tongue. You can also do the Heimlich maneuver on the pooch, Becker said.
To do it, turn the dog into a wheelbarrow of sorts. Get on your knees and pull your dog towards your chest, then place your fist behind the dog's last rib and give a sharp blow between the shoulder blades. If that doesn't work, pull your fist toward you five times, sharply.