How to Play Safely with your Dog or Cat

    Do you throw sticks for your dog? Many owners do and think nothing of it. After all it is just a bit of harmless fun isn’t it? If you were to ask your vet the same question their answer might well surprise you! This week we look at how to play safely with your pet and how to avoid toys that could be dangerous.

    The Importance of Play

    Dogs are social animals and one of the ways they build and learn about relationships and communication is through play. Playing with your dog regularly will teach you about your dog’s personality and strengthen the bond between you. By preventing boredom, providing exercise and giving an outlet for your dog’s natural instincts, play can ensure inappropriate behaviour does not develop.

    Most cats really enjoy interacting with their owner and playing is a great way to develop the bond between you and your cat. Play for a kitten, like any other young animal, is essential for its development to maturity.

    How should I play with my dog?

    This very much depends on your dog’s personality. Spend a bit of time watching how your dog likes to play. Do they chase, grab, or pounce on things? Experiment with a few different toys and try to mimic your dog’s natural play behaviour. Have a selection of toys and swap them every few days to keep your dog interested. However, remember never to force your dog to play and make sure that play-time with children is closely supervised at all times. For some top play tips click here.

    Why is throwing sticks for my dog dangerous?

    Many dogs pick up sticks and play with them during a walk. It is best to discourage this because splinters can become lodged between teeth and in the soft tissues of the mouth. However, it is even more important to resist the temptation to throw a stick for your dog. This is because accidents, although quite rare, can result in life-threatening injuries to the face, mouth, neck and chest. It is particularly risky when the ground is wet because sticks can sometimes land upright in mud and there is then a very real risk that an excited dog will then run onto the stick, impaling themselves. So it is better to be safe and play with a dog toy designed specifically for being thrown around the park.

    Are there any other toys for dogs that I should avoid?

    Here are some top tips to bear in mind when you are buying a new toy for your dog.

    • Avoid toys made of soft plastics that you can easily compress into a ball. These can be easily swallowed by overly eager pets.

    • Avoid heavily dyed toys, and toys treated with fire retardants or stain guard.

    • Choose toys that fit your dog’s size and avoid those that can easily be worked towards the back of the mouth. If you dog can fit the entire toy inside their mouth then it is probably too small for them.

    • Choose toys that match your dog’s play style.

    • Make sure that you buy your toys from a reputable online retailer, pet shop or veterinary surgery.

    • You pay for what you get. Avoid really cheap toys from market stalls or online marketplaces if you are not sure what you are buying. There are loads of well-made toys from reputable pet companies out there.

    Don’t Forget

    • Always supervise play, particularly when kids are involved.

    • Never allow your dog to play with sticks and stones.

    • Check toys regularly to ensure there are no small parts that could be chewed off and swallowed.

    How do I play with my cat?

    Cats vary in their motivation to play but all cats, if provided with the right opportunity, will play and benefit from the opportunity to do so, no matter what age. Understanding the specific likes and dislikes of your own individual cat will enable you to provide the best possible opportunities for play. Find out what type of toy stimulates your cat to play. It may be movement, or a gentle noise like a bell. Some cats love anything containing Catnip, while others prefer the sensation of different fabrics on their paws.

    Once you have identified your cat’s favourite type of toy look out for behavioural clues that indicate ‘playtime’ like:

    • Spontaneous play with objects

    • Sudden staccato movements

    • Dilated pupils, ears flattened laterally

    • Frozen postures, with crouched legs

    • ‘Mad half hour’

    • Vocalisation

    It is usually best to mimic your cat’s natural play behaviour as closely as possible so play in short bursts of activity before feeding times and always end the game on a positive note when you cat catches the toy. Cats respond best to novelty so all toys should be rotated randomly and are best kept in a sealed bag when not in use.

    What are the best toys for cats?

    Here are some suggestions:

    • Toys containing high quality dried catnip.

    • Fishing rod toys with feathers on the end.

    • Small objects on wire that move erratically.

    • Small, furry mice.

    • A ping-pong ball.

    And some toys to avoid?

    Cats seem to be less likely to swallow their toys but it is always important to supervise play at all times. Don’t allow your cat to play with plants or cut-flowers as many of these can be poisonous to cats. Keep all needles and thread out of reach and ensure that unsuitable novelty ‘toys’ like coffee pods, dishwasher capsules, small pieces of lego, and small shiny lithium batteries are kept well away from your cat.

    By | 2018-07-30T12:09:48+00:00 August 4th, 2016|General|