Tips & Training
Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys and Balls?
Is your dog obsessed with high-pitched squeaky toys? If you've ever wondered why, these reasons might surprise you!
Copy: Katy & Shell
Photography: Barc London
There’s no better feeling than treating your pup to a new toy, don’t you think? Seeing the excitement on their face is one of those wonderful simple joys of being a pet parent.
Dog toys, such as chew toys, squeaker toys, dog puzzles and boredom busters for dogs, form such an important part of our fur baby’s lives – providing them with the mental and physical stimulation they need to feel happy and content.
While watching your pup during playtime, have you ever wondered why it is that dogs like squeaky toys so much? Despite making a loud, high-pitched and ever so slightly irritating squeak, the joy dogs find in chomping down on squeakers is enough to melt your heart (and test your ear drums!)
But is there any science behind this widespread canine phenomenon…?
Let’s find out!
Why does my dog love squeaky toys so much?
First things first. If your pup is borderline obsessed with squeaker toys, don’t worry – they are certainly not alone!
In fact, most dogs enjoy playing with toys that make a loud noise when chewed. While there are some breeds that have a higher affinity for playing with squeaky toys, generally speaking, the majority of all dogs get satisfaction from this type of play.
Like us, dogs enjoy both social play and solitary play. ‘Solitary play’ includes time dogs spend with toys. As for the squeak, there are a number of theories that help to explain why dogs just can’t get enough of that sweet squeaky sound…
Reasons why dogs enjoy playing with squeaky toys:
1. PREY DRIVE
The most popular theory is linked to the idea that dogs are descended from wolves (canis lupus) and have somewhat retained their natural instincts to hunt, kill and tear up prey. To a large extent, squeaky dog toys provide a way for dogs to fulfil this inclination, with squeaks mimicking sounds made by small animals.
These toys help to replicate sensations of ‘Prey Drive’, a theory which describes the instinctive inclination for dogs to find, pursue and capture prey. In 2017, Mehrkam et al. analysed the influences of dog breed on social and solitary play. For the research, retrievers, herders and livestock-guarding dogs were chosen.
The studies found that retrievers and herders were significantly more likely to engage in solitary play than livestock-guarding dogs. However, levels of social play did not differ across breeds.
Why does this matter? Well, it indicates that there may be some truth in the belief that dogs’ love of squeakers could be related to their animalistic, hunting instincts.
2. REINFORCED BEHAVIOUR
A second theory is that humans reinforce their dogs’ love of play with squeaky toys.
If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that dogs love to find ways to get our attention! Pups will often drop their squeaker right in front of their human owners in a bid to initiate play.
From throwing squeaky tennis balls, to initiating a game of tug of war, by engaging with our dog’s play we increase their interest in the toy itself. And, it’s unsurprising that dogs that are introduced to this type of interaction from a young age are more likely to find joy and satisfaction in this.
3. SOUNDS & RESPONSES
A third theory considers the fact that squeaky toys are the only type of toy that react to a dog’s efforts to engage in play.
The squeaky ‘response’ can help to provide similar mental and emotional benefits which young children experience when playing with interactive toys that respond to their actions.
What’s more, certain sounds and sensations also help to trigger parts of the brain that are able to release feel-good chemicals, such as dopamine. It is believed that when dogs chew down on squeakers, the auditory sounds released help to provide a gratifying sense of happiness that makes them want to squeak again and again!
Are squeaky toys bad for dogs?
On the whole, no, squeaky toys are not ‘bad’ for dogs! Though most canines share a common love of squeakers, it’s important to remember that every dog is different and you should monitor how your dog responds to these toys during playtime.
Over time, you will be able to better understand your dog’s chewing habits. Keep an eye out for any increasing signs of aggression, as toys have the potential to lead to destructive behaviour.
With that being said, in many ways, dog toys are actually good for pups! We’ve already mentioned the mental simulation squeaky dog toys provide, but there are physical benefits too. These toys are believed to improve dental health, and it has been noted that dogs that actively chew are less likely to build up plaque than those who don’t.
As with anything in life, it’s important to ensure dogs don’t overdo playtime with their squeakers. These toys can be dangerous if left with your pup unsupervised for long periods, so be aware of the safety precautions you should take before letting your dog engage in play.
How to ensure squeaky dog toy safety
There is a huge range of squeaky dog toys out there for your pup to enjoy. However, it’s vital to choose toys that are safe and non-toxic for pets. Whenever purchasing a new toy, be sure to buy from a reputable seller that provides information on materials, as well as which breeds / dog sizes the toy is suitable for.
Despite their abilities to bring high levels of satisfaction and keep dogs entertained for hours on end, these squeakers also have the potential to become choking hazards – so make sure you take the time to clean and inspect them for damage after each use. Over time, squeaker toys can get worn down, and you need to keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t get completely destroyed.
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Copy: Katy & Shell
Photography: Barc London