What are the best toys for my German Shepherd?
Toys are a necessity with any dog. They need to be able to play and it certainly helps to save the furniture when a dog, especially a puppy, has his own toys when he gets the urge to chew. There are literally thousands of different dog toys on the market, but many of these are impractical and even dangerous for some dogs. German Shepherd Dogs, especially working ones, are powerful chewers. For this reason, most of the "cute" dog toys that are made of fabric or light plastic, often with squeakers inside, should be avoided. These are fine for some dogs to play with when supervised, but the dog should never be left alone with them. German Shepherds have extremely powerful jaws and can easily tear pieces off of such toys and either choke on the pieces or swallow them causing a potentially fatal intestinal blockage.
We have found that the best toys for dogs are Kongs and Nylabone products. Kongs are fantastic. They are soft and chewy and their shape allows them bounce all over the place making them great fetch toys. They can be stuffed with a variety of treats from cream cheese to peanut butter to dog kibble and will keep a dog occupied for hours trying to get it out. They are made of a very strong rubber and their shape makes it next to impossible for a dog to get a good enough hold of it to tear off a piece. At our kennel we use Kongs extensively. We greatly prefer them to tennis balls for playing fetch. Tennis balls can be dangerous to dogs as a strong chewer can tear one apart in just minutes, possibly choking or swallowing the pieces. Another problem with tennis balls is that dirt gets trapped by the fuzz covering the ball, which can act as sandpaper on the enamel of a dog's teeth.
Even with Kongs, we recommend not leaving a dog alone with them when unsupervised. While it would be very hard to do, tearing a piece off could still be possible for a really strong and tenacious chewer. When dogs are going to be left alone for a period of time, whether in a crate, kennel or lose in the house, they should still be provided with something to occupy their time. Nylabone products are great for this. They come in both hard plastic for strong chewers, and a softer Gumabone product for more moderate chewers. They are also available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. The best advantage to Nylabones is that, provided the dog has a toy of an appropriate shape and size, it is all but impossible for the dog to bite off a large piece. Instead they shave off smaller pieces of nylon as they chew. These slivers are too small to be a choking hazard, and if swallowed will pass right on through with no ill effects. The material they are made out of is also not conducive to the growth of bacteria, making them a more sanitary chewing object than many other products.
Many dog owners like to give their dogs the large rawhide bones for long-term chewing. We do not recommend this. Not only do they get gooey, smelly and nasty once the dog has had a hold of them for a while, they can be dangerous. It is relatively easy for a dog to tear off a large piece of rawhide, especially if he's been working on it for a while, and when they do this they will usually eat it. Rawhide tends to swell up when it gets wet, and even a small hunk of rawhide can turn into a large one in the dog's stomach causing a blockage.
Regardless of the type of toy chosen, it is of utmost importance that it be appropriately sized for the dog. Even a Kong or Nylabone can be dangerous if it is small enough to be swallowed or get caught in the dog's throat. The general rule of thumb is to buy the biggest, strongest toy available. If the dog can still get his mouth around it, it isn't too big. Dog owners should also inspect the dog's toys from time to time for signs of wear and replace them if necessary. Not even Nylabones and Kongs will last forever.