If your Labrador Retriever is like ours here at Ruffwood Labs, they love to play. And they play hard! Labradors are a very active bunch, they love to chew, run, dig and fetch. They all have favorite toys and games, but those may not be the same for every dog. Labs have different personalities and traits and interest, just like humans. Some labs love to snuggle up with their toys, carry them around, or hide them; while others may love to shake them vigorously until the stuffing goes flying. This trait is what most of our dogs exhibit, except one. We recommend a variety of toys for all dogs, change them out regularly to prevent loss of interest. A bored Labrador is a destructive Labrador. We allow our dogs to play with all sorts of toys, but we never leave them unsupervised with a new toy, we remove all soft or small toys from their area that have the potential to become a choking hazard. We never leave our labs inside our home unsupervised, that has the
potential for disaster. I'm sure you have all heard a horror story about dogs eating furniture, scratching holes in carpets or sheetrock, chewing wiring or other household items. Believe me, a bored labrador can be costly. Our big boy Leroy ate the screen wire off our screened-in porch, I thought he would be fine unsupervised on the porch while I ran to the store. Boy, was I wrong? Our dogs are crate trained and that is where they sleep when inside our home, for their safety and our peace of mind.
Labradors think of everything as a potential toy. With that being said, let's move on and talk about some of our favorite toys. We are in no way endorsing one brand over another, these are just a few of the items we have found to be enjoyed by our labs. You want to choose a toy that keeps your dogs' interest and they enjoy getting their paws, jaws, and claws into.
Tug toys- Rope toys are good for light to moderate chewers and will give their teeth a bit of flossing. Labs love to carry things in their mouths and many of them love a good Tug-of-war game with either you or their companions. Our labs all love rope toys but we never leave them alone with this type of toy. Rope toys fray and pieces break off, the strings could be swallowed and cause choking or intestinal blockage. Always throw away a damaged toy.
Nylabones- These toys come in a variety of sizes and styles, are good for power chewers and keep your pup occupied. The textures on the toy pique curiosity and offer a little dental health.
Plush Toys- These toys are good for young pups, they encourage play and are great for pup/human interaction. Some older dogs also enjoy plush toys for snuggles and comfort. These toys often have noisemakers inside that squeak or crinkle, something many dogs love. Here again, great toy, but don't leave your dog unsupervised with these types of toys. These are not good toys for power chewers are dogs that like to shake and destroy toys.
Indestructible Toys- Sounds great right, but I haven't met a toy yet that a labrador didn't at least leave a few chew marks on. Most labs are tougher than the toy. A few I would put in this category:
Kong Toys- They are sturdy, well made and entertaining items that
keep your pup occupied for hours. We highly recommend the Kong brand, they have toys good for all stages and they come in appropriate sizes for your dog. They come in a range of materials and some even hold treats in paste, kibble or frozen form. Our labs love these for fetch or just to bounce and toss around the yard on their own.
Kong also makes the Extreme Ball, which is great for teaching diving in shallow water. These balls have a little weight to them so they sink instead of float. They are also a hit with our chewers.
The Kong Jumbler stimulates the curios pup, it is a ball-like toy with handles, a noisemaker and tennis ball inside, they love to shake this think about.
Zogoflex Hurley Toy Bones- Great for tough chewers that go the distance with a long chew session. These come in a variety of sizes and the company will replace if the dog destroys it.
Fetch- A seemingly favorite by all of our labs. We use a variety of toys to play fetch at different stages in our dogs' development. With young pups, we often use plush toys or soft toys with squeakers that grab their attention. As the pups get a little older we transition to Wiffle balls, these are a good size and the pups enjoy pawing and nosing them around or snatching them up and toting them around.
Chuckit balls with the Launcher- We highly recommend this toy for your very athletic and energetic fetch player. The launcher device will save you a sore arm when you have an exuberant dog that doesn't know when it's time to quit. They even have a glow in the dark version for those late afternoon sessions. If you lose the ball, don't worry you can just buy a replacement.
Frisbee Disc- Zisc makes a good dog-friendly version, it is made from durable material that will withstand frequent use by your lab. It is made from a softer material than the traditional frisbee, so it's easier on your dog cathing it in his/her mouth, while it still flys through the air. It is also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
Holle-Roller Honeycomb ball- These are loved by all of our dogs. They come in different
sizes and colors. The dogs can easily grab them up to carry around, fling them, fetch, or play tug-of-war. We have even hung them from a rope for younger pups to tug and play with.
Balls- Our dogs love the soccer/kickball, they can nudge or wrestle them around the yard. The traditional tennis ball is also a favorite, they love to chase, fetch and chew on this bright-colored sphere. They are cheap and readily available.
Puzzle Toys- While Labradors are physically active, they also love a mental challenge. Labs love a mental challenge, treat dispensers, maze bowls and puzzles are all designed to require the dog to learn how to access the treat or reward. Not all dogs are a fan of these, but some need extra stimulation. Maze bowls are just that, you place a treat in the bowl and the dog has to figure out how to work the treat from the bowl. Treat dispensers have a good and bad side; they have to work for the treat. But, after they figure it out, they have access to a treat whenever they want one, and I have never met a Labrador with self-control. Tricks are another great mental stimulator, dogs love to learn a new trick. If you want to teach your dog a few tricks, start with an easy one like shaking hands. Treats and praise are good motivators for learning new tricks.
Digging is another loved pass time, especially in the sand. I have no idea what treasure they are searching for, but they always have a happy silly grin on their faces while doing it. This is even a tag team event at times. My husband keeps a shovel and wheelbarrow on hand to overcome such antics until the next treasure hunt takes place.
A good game of chase or tag has also been a favorite for our labs, they love to chase each other, run from their humans or some imaginary friend. They love to run and hide, ducking in and out of places having a great time.
Pools- Most labradors love the water. So in order to keep them happy hear at Ruffwood labs, we have kiddie pools for the younger dogs to splash around in and a larger pool for the adult dogs to swim. We change the water out often to prevent disease and mosquitos. We also keep a check on the dogs' ears, we don't want infection from to
much water. We often use Swim Ear solution to cut down on a problem. We always have clients tell us how much their dog loves their pool, time spent at the lake, river or beach and how much the dogs love water activities. If you and your dog spend a lot of time in the water, make sure your dogs' ears are clean and dry and invest in a life jacket for your dog if they are in deep water.
A labrador retriever can make a toy or game out of anything. Switching out toys often will prevent boredom and loss of interest, bring back an old favorite or introduce a new toy. There are lots of good toys out there, choose one appropriate to the dog's age and size. Observe your dog while they are interacting with new toys, to prevent injury. Introduce them to new experiences, new friends and new places and allow them to explore and be curious. The only real concern we have is loving our pets and making sure they are safe while playing and they are spending quality time with their pack!