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Toys

Choosing the Best Toys for a Chihuahua

Overview

If only buying toys for a Chihuahua was so easy! If you're reading this, you might be among the many owners who stocked up on tons of toys for your puppy or dog, but your Chi ignores most of them… or they don't seem to hold his interest very long or provide what you were looking for.

There are tons of cheap dollar type stores that sell dog toys in bulk, but you'd be better off buying nothing. And while a great toy doesn't need to break the bank, no one wants to waste money on something that just sits there unused.

Since toys are a super important part of proper care for a Chihuahua, this section will cover everything you need to know.

We'll go over:
  • The 3 types of toys and why each one is important
  • What to look for in order to satisfy your Chihuahua's needs
  • Suggestions for the most popular toys that actually do what they are supposed to
  • Top 3 toy tips
The 3 Types of Toys for Chihuahuas

If you lump all types of dog toys together, you might end up with a lot, but within that big pile you might not have what your Chihuahua actually needs. So, it's better to have less, but ones that actually do their job.

Let's look at what a typical Chihuahua requires:

1) Teething & Chewing Toys - Puppies need to have the right toys when they are teething and the urge to chew does not stop when teething is done. Adult Chihuahuas and even some seniors enjoy and often have a canine instinct to chew.   
Collection of teething toys for Chihuahua
Why these are important - Chihuahuas start to teeth at about 4 months old and as soon as it begins, their gums become exceedingly itchy due to teeth loosening and adult teeth slowly erupting. This lasts for several months. Many will be done by the 8 month mark; though late bloomers can go until the 9 or 10 month mark.

During this time, having the best teething toys possible is important to both ease your puppy's discomfort and protect your home from destruction. Without toys that are actually sized appropriately and offer the texture that is needed to sooth soreness and relieve itch, a puppy will mouth and chew anything he can access.

Aside from this, essential chewing toys are needed for every Chihuahua of any age, with the one exception of seniors that may or may not have interest in toys.
Dogs do not just chew for teething needs, they also mouth objects to find out what they are and then chew as a form of entertainment. When a dog finds that something is pleasurable, he will repeat the action as much as possible. So if you have great toys, using them will become habit. If, however, your Chihuahua's toy collection is lacking and he has to resort to other things (furniture legs, your shoes, etc.) then going for those things may become habit. 

The qualities of a great teething or chewing toy - There are 4 elements that you'll want to look for when it comes to chew toys for your Chihuahua:

1. Textures. What pleases a dog of any age and what helps puppies whose gums are itching like mad, is a toy that has certain textures that feel good on the gums and feel good when his jaws chomp up and down. If the toy is boring or brings little pleasure, the dog has no motivation to use it. You'll want to look for toys that have various textures of different sizes so that a Chihuahua can choose which parts he'd like to. If the toy is made of just one material, it needs to be the right consistency to feel good in the dog's mouth. Cheap plastic toys can often be too hard, which doesn't feel good and are then often disregarded.

2. Cooling. While certain fabrics, material and textures are needed, another element that makes a teething toy great is temperature. Toys that can be frozen to send out soothing coolness to sore gums should be part of a teething Chihuahua puppy's toy collection. 

3. Size. Being the smallest dog in the world, a Chihuahua's mouth is the smallest too! Many dog toys are made generically, which means that the manufacturers make one for both a large German Shepherd and a small toy dog. If a Chihuahua becomes frustrated trying to get a toy into his mouth or finds it too uncomfortable to play with it or chew it, he will disregard it and it will end up in the pile of toys that he doesn't care for. So, making sure that it is appropriately sized for toy breed dogs (often an extra small or small, depending on the actual toy itself) is a must. 

4. Durability. If you find a toy that your Chihuahua simply loves but it only lasts a week, it'll be hard to judge who will be more upset, you or your dog! Dogs become attached to favorite toys super quick, so if one is torn apart or can no longer be used, this can present a problem. It's much better to spend a bit more for a quality toy than to have to buy a cheap one 10 times. 
2) Toys to Relieve Boredom - These are also referred to as fundamental or 'basic' toys, but they need to be far from basic, if you want your Chi to actually like them. A dog's life is rather uncomplicated and they do not have much to keep themselves busy. They are walked, they play with you, they eat, they sleep… and they only real possessions that they have are their toys. Having the right ones is an essential part of proper care.   
Why these are important- When there is not much going on at home, a Chihuahua will do 1 of 3 things: Rest, become restless (pacing, barking, etc.) or stay busy (playing with a toy or chew, paw, scratch or otherwise 'play' with objects in the house if the right toys are not accessible). 

Since the only 2 forms of entertainment that your dog has are you and toys, he'll thank you for making sure he has an excellent toy collection.

Dogs that spend the day in what seems like an endless loop of boredom can become depressed, sullen and then act out when they finally have the chance. Toys will fill his day with 'something to do' and in a way, a dog's toys are his hobby (both what he collects and what he does to stay occupied). 
Qualities of a good toy for Chihuahua
The qualities of a great fundamental toy - There are 3 main elements that make a toy a great one for a Chihuahua:

1. It calls for attention. In order for a toy to cure boredom, it first has to gain a dog's attention. If a dog fails to notice a toy or has no motivation to even check it out, it will do little good.  

Long ago, it was thought that canines only saw in black and white; however you are probably aware that dogs see color. It is a bit different than how we see and can be compared to how things look at technicolor time (when the sun is getting ready to set). So, it is important that a Chihuahua has toys that draw him in with color. If you take a look around at cheap $1 toys, these are often faded grays and browns or pastels or do not have enough contrasting color... so they don't do much. And if they do look bright, sadly that may be inexpensive dyes that fade fast. So, color is definitely one factor in choosing toys; having some in a variety of hues will help keep things interesting.  

Other ways of gaining a dog's attention is that the toy makes noise or moves when nosed or pawed.  Once something calls out to a Chihuahua, half the battle is already won!

2. It provides incentive. A dog has no reason to play with or chew a toy if he receives nothing in exchange for doing so. Trying to buy as many toys as possible but without carefully choosing which ones will actually interest a dog is the #1 mistake that owners make when buying toys. You'll end up with a huge pile of toys that are ignored and that only takes up room in your house and leaves your Chihuahua with nothing to do. It's better to have 8 to 10 excellent toys that are put to use than 20 of ones that are ignored or do little to keep your Chihuahua busy. 

Therefore, when you look for a toy that gives the dog something, it should be one or more of the following: noise, a treat, movement. As long as some sort of satisfaction is gained, playing offers the dog 'reward' and that toy will be treasured among the others. 

3. Quality. As with teething toys, making sure that fundamental toys are durable and last for a good amount of time is crucial. When a dog latches on to 'favorites' it can be heartbreaking if the toy breaks, falls apart or otherwise becomes so worn out that it can no longer be used. If the manufacturer isn't making it anymore or it can't be found in the same color, this can be upsetting to a dog. In fact, once you obtain some excellent toys and find that your Chihuahua simply loves them, you may want to order doubles so that you always have one on standby should the first become lost or eventually wear out (since no toy can last forever). 
3) Comfort toys - There are 2 situations when a Chihuahua will need some extra comfort and the right toy can provide this for him/her:

1. Puppies at night. Until a new puppy becomes completely used to his new environment and is able to sleep through the night, he may cry, whine or whimper for hours. Owners can become confused, not sure what to do. You want to teach a puppy to learn self-soothing techniques but at the same time, it's awfully hard to just let a puppy cry himself to sleep. Therefore, one of the best toys that you can obtain for a puppy is a comfort/companion toy that can help a Chi have a sense of wellbeing when he is not near his owners. This in turn, also helps prepare him for times during the day when he may be alone as well. 
Best toys for a Chihuahua home alone
2. When home alone. There are many things that you can do to help your Chihuahua if he is suffering from separation anxiety. Having the right setup (a properly sized indoor canine playpen or gated off area), making sure that lights are kept on (in case it becomes stormy or you get home after dark), leaving on pleasant noises, experimenting with a window view vs non-window and more. And which toys are available to a Chihuahua when the dog is home alone is a crucial part of helping him cope. 

There are 2 types of toys for Chihuahuas that need help with home alone: 1) Those that keep him busy & 2) Those that provide comfort. 

The qualities of the best 'stay busy' toys:
These will be toys that offer a reason to work at them for long periods of time. 
This reduces the amount of time that the dog realizes that he is alone as he focuses on the toy. Toys that hold food that dispenses slowly are best. While you can simply add kibble, a more effective alternative is to add a blend of foods that have a consistency that is thick and emits a strong and tempting aroma. Peanut butter (creamy not chunky) with can be mixed with kibble pieces and always works well. You can also try a blend of: mushed banana, small kibble pieces and even some crumbled, crisply cooked bacon. 

You will also want to obtain a quality toy brush that can appropriately clean the inside of these types of toys, as old caked on food can go bad.  

The qualities of the best comfort/companion toys: When you get right down to the basics of why dogs struggle when alone, it is because they are actually alone. They are isolated from contact with anyone. So, the answer to this is to help the dog feel that he is with someone (or something) and that being with this other entity provides a feeling of safely, security and companionship. Touching or being near this other entity must provide warmth, comfort and be physically pleasing. It may sound like we are explaining another dog, but there is no reason to bring another pet into the house when there are effective toys that do this task. 

The best companion toys will be soft stuffed animals that are appropriately sized that do 2 things: Provide soothing warmth and emit a soothing heartbeat. These are super effective toys that can really help Chihuahuas with separation anxiety and to relax and sleep well at night. 
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Top 3 Toy Tips

1) Have more than 1 toy bin. Have at least 2 separate bins of toys and if you bring your Chihuahua into the car a lot, have 3. The minimum of 2 is to be able to switch out the bins, essentially offering 'new' toys every 2 to 3 weeks. While you will always want to let a Chihuahua keep his favorites at all times, tucking one bin away and bringing out the other can give a dog the excitement of having a new collection and can bring about renewed interest.  

If your dog is in the car with you a lot, having a small supply in the car that is only used when driving can help a dog look forward to car trips and stay busy with 'new' toys when on the road. Raised canine car seats are best for this breed, so that they can be high enough to look out of the window (which cuts back on motion sickness) while staying safe and additionally, these have plenty of room for toys. 

2) Perform a 'keep and don’t keep' every so often. Things accumulate; it's a fact of life. One problem with dog toys is that if you have too many, the good ones can get lost in a pile of worthless ones, making it more difficult for a Chihuahua to see and find the ones that will do their job the best. Throw away or donate the ones that your dog has no interest in (or that don't even do their job in the first place) and only keep the ones that actually are beneficial. Also be sure to get rid of any toys that are worn out or ripped, as small pieces can present choking hazards. 

3) Don't buy for you, buy for your Chihuahua. Sometimes dog toys can look very fun to us humans… we see something cute and assume that our dog will love it too… and then we are taken back a bit when the dog doesn't seem to like it at all.  

When you are buying toys for your Chihuahua ask yourself "what is the purpose?" (to help with teething, for chewing, to fix boredom, a fundamental toy, to stay busy or to provide comfort) and then keeping in mind the elements discussed here, ask "Does this fulfill that purpose?"
*** To check out all recommended toys for a Chihuahua, look to 'Toys' in the Chihuahua Specialty Shoppe! 
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