I learned that I will give a dog a toy and show him, foreign as it may seem, how to enjoy it.
I learned that some of the smallest dogs can cause significant damage to my most chew-proof big dog toys.
I learned that toys don't even have to be "dog toys" purchased from a pet store (mine love cardboard boxes).
I learned that there is no such thing as an indestructible toy.
I learned that it's not the amount or type of toys you give your dog, it's the time you spend with him playing with that toy.
Here are the types of toys that I have for my dogs and for client dogs:
Somewhat indestructible hard nylon or rubber toys like those made by Nylabone, Kong, and Goughnuts.
Purpose: Satisfy dog's chewing needs, relieve boredom, mental stimulation
Pros: Great for puppies and dogs who like to chew. Can leave dog alone with toy if it is of appropriate size.
Cons: Putting a piece of hard plastic or rubber in one's mouth does not come naturally to all dogs and can be pretty off-putting for some. A common human reaction is, "He doesn't like it." My dogs hardly have a chance not to like it! I remove all other toys when introducing a chew toy and spend a lot of time interacting with the dog and toy. I might even put it on a rope and drag it around.
Usually a rope, braided fleece, or some sort of fuzzy toy that a dog can grasp well. Only for interaction and not to be left out and available to dog.
Purpose: Playtime with owner or other dog, use for reward when training
Pros: Tugging comes pretty natural to most dogs and is a fabulous distraction when raising a sharp-toothed, mouthy puppy. Because it only comes out for short periods of time, dogs can get very excited about their special toy making it a valuable reward or reinforcer in training.
Cons: Humans tend to push the toy in a dog's face to get it to play. For many dogs this is taken offensively. Drag the toy away from the dog to get him to chase it. Over-exuberant dogs will need to be taught to settle down and not to grab human body parts during tug sessions. No matter the material, tug toys eventually start to shred.
Balls, bumpers, dumbbells
Notice how I didn't say "chase" toys? I'm talking about fetch here. If you want your dog to fetch (go after item and return it to you without making you play chase or tug) then use a specific fetch toy. Put that toy away when you are done with your play session. So much more I could write on fetching here but I won't.
STUFFED PLUSH TOYS
People pleaser toys in all sorts of fun shapes and sizes and internal sounds that make us smile. Usually found overflowing in a basket in some corner of the house.
Any toy that makes a human happy will probably make his dog happy if said human spends time with dog and that toy.
Cons: These things shred. If dog chews on toy in attempt to chew a piece off, take it away from him for a few moments and then give it back. Repeat. Do this each and every time he shreds the toy. He'll learn. Do not let him have toy unsupervised.
And finally, a picture of a Lab with expensive, indestructible toys. He has since chewed the ears off the white sheep.
Hugs and love to you and your dogs,