Have you noticed how obsessive or territorial your dog is with squeaky toys? Sometimes they get so thrilled, you’d think they’re crazy!
But really, why do dogs get excited when they hear a squeaky toy?
Scholars theorize that the sound mimicking a small animal triggers a dog’s genetic predatory instincts to seek and kill.
Others (pedestrians like me) say they simply enjoy it.
Turns out, both are correct.
Whichever is the case for your pet, the toy has its benefits despite its noise. Check them out!
So Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys?
There are several reasons, but all have one thing in common –
They satisfy your dog’s urge to play, chew, and hunt!
Hunting Instincts Kick In
To a dog’s ears, squeaky toys sound a lot like squirrels and other similar small animals in the wild.
“Some dogs think this reminds them of an animal they would have caught”, explains Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinary consultant for DogLab, “These toys help with their ancestry behavior, where they would have to hunt for their food.”
She adds, “Tearing up a toy is your dog’s way of re-enacting them, killing their prey. This is one reason a dog will also rip the stuffing to shreds. This is what they would do in the wild.”
Veterinarian Matthew McCarthy, DVM, founder of Juniper Valley Animal Hospital in Middle Village, New York, agrees: “Lots of breeds have histories that involve chasing and catching such small animals.”
According to the Prey-Drive Theory, since dogs are descended from wolves, the sound of a squeaky toy awakens their dormant nature to track and catch their meal for the day.
“Watching your dog tear into, shake silly, and disembowel a stuffed squeaky toy until it is ‘dead’ certainly is evidence of this theory/mechanism at work”, notes Dr. McCarthy.
While your dog may appear cute while playing with their toy, the real reason they enjoy it may not be.
Why do dogs prefer squeaky toys?
Vets say the sound awakens their desire to catch or kill a little animal.
“Canines are hunters, and when they have caught their prey, it makes a noise. The noises that toys make replicate the noises that a dog’s prey might make when captured, thus sparking the reflex to grab, bite, shake and otherwise overpower”, says Sandy Arledge.
Relieves The Urge To Chew
Growing teeth or gum discomfort will make your dog want to munch on something, and their favorite squeaky toy can provide that relief. Teething puppies with sore gums, in particular, benefit from chewing since it helps alleviate the pain.
On the fun side, a lot of dogs love squeaky toys simply because they are just trying to chew the squeaker out. Once they succeed, they bite it a couple times until it’s punctured and no longer squeaks, then onto the next squeaker.
As Susan Tabell, an animal lover from Fairview Park USA, can attest: “I don’t know why my dog loves squeaky toys but he goes mad when he gets one. That is until he gets a tooth into one and then the squeak is over, usually within fifteen minutes.”
Dogs are self-reinforcing creatures who like doing things that make them happy. According to the “Just Plain Fun” Theory, when your dog hears the squeak, their pleasure center lights up, making them want to hear it again and again.
“Squeaky toys can definitely help some dogs relieve boredom and stress”, agrees Dr. Tory Waxman, VMD.
Because Their Breed Says So
“Playing with squeaky toys simulates chasing and capturing prey, a behavior that exists in all dogs, but is more persistent in terriers, sporting and herding breeds”, explains Alynn Evans, assistant product line manager at Outward Hound.
A 2017 study by Mehrkam et al. looked at the influence of breed on social and solitary play in dogs. They chose adult dogs from working lines (retrievers, herders, and livestock-guarding dogs).
For example, Labradors and Weimaraners were bred as gun dogs, and adorable small dog breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier were once used to chase and kill rodents.
Of the three breed types, they found that overall, retrievers and herders were significantly more likely to engage in solitary play (i.e., with toys) than livestock-guarding dogs.
Are Squeaky Toys Good For Dog?
Dogs get bored easily, but squeaky toys can keep them entertained.
They’re also a great way to strengthen your bond with your pet. According to the Human Reinforcement Theory, playing with your dogs reinforces their love of squeaks. They quickly learn that squeaking a toy gets your attention.
More importantly, chewing on a squeaky toy helps clean your pet’s teeth and relieve their gum inflammation.
Is It Safe?
Squeaky toys from reputable retailers are often tested and should be safe for dogs. They are made to be fun for pets and aren’t toxic.
Just the same, err on the side of caution. Always read labels carefully, and read customer reviews when available, before purchase.
And if you’re wondering, “Do squeaky toys hurt dogs ears?”
No, they do not.
What Should You Do?
While dog toys are generally safe for your pet, you’ll still want to maintain a close eye on them.
Make sure that you inspect toys regularly. If your dog has a favorite, it will get impaired or dirty over time.
If so, remove or repair damaged toys. Get rid of the irreparable ones as soon as possible to avoid injuries or choking hazards.
Finally, always supervise playtime with squeaky toys! You never know what may happen. A small component may break off on rare occasions. It’s best to let your pet play with toys only when you can see them.
Potential Dangers Of Squeaky Toys
Not all squeaky toys are created equal, so choose wisely. Some could easily snap when your pet bites on it. Fragments can get stuck in their throat or windpipe and become an obstruction to their breathing.
If this happens, provide first aid immediately until you can get help.
The squeaker, which might be made of plastic or rubber, could be a problem if it gets dislodged and swallowed by your dog.
Consequently, it may cause complications in their gastrointestinal tract if it does not pass through their system naturally within a few days.
How To Use Squeaky Toys For Training
Squeaky toys are great tools for teaching your dog to fetch.
Squeak it to get their attention, say “Fetch!” and then toss it across the room. Make sure to reward your pet once they bring the toy back to you!
You can also use these toys to call them. Most dogs will come running when they hear their favorite toy, and you can take advantage of that when you need to divert their attention from something else.
High-Pitched Vs. Low-Pitched Squeaker Toys
“Squeaky toys make a very high-pitched noise that sounds like prey that’s dying or injured, which appeals to dogs’ hunting instincts”, shares dog behavior consultant Mikkel Becker.
That being said, high-pitched squeakers are more likely to annoy you than your dog, as they might play with their squeaky toys endlessly and at any time. If you can’t stand the sound, opt for the low-pitched ones.
There are even toys made with sounds that only your dog can hear. Those are great for avoiding disturbing your neighbors if you live in an apartment or condo unit.
How To Choose The Best Squeaky Toy For Your Dog
Consider your dog’s mouth size and shape when picking a squeaky toy, and look for one that isn’t too rough or too soft to bite down on.
Look for BPA-free, food-grade toys because they are more resistant to dog saliva and don’t need to be cleaned too often.
Durable materials like rubber or plastic can reduce the risk of choking.
Alternatively, you can choose rope toys to keep your pet safe from choking concerns. They’re quieter but still provide hours of fun.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is Your Dog Afraid of Squeaky Toys?
For those of you asking, “Why does my dog not like squeaky toys?”
Some dogs fear the unknown, and because they naturally hate pain and discomfort, they will avoid it.
Do Squeaky Toys Make Dogs Aggressive?
It depends on your dog’s temperament.
Some breeds may be triggered by the sound and get set to attack due to their natural instincts.
Do All Dogs Like Toys With Squeakers?
No, some dogs may find it either scary or annoying.
I have one dog who has caught and killed a couple of mice that the cats brought in alive. He likes to kill squeaky toys, too.
Meanwhile, I have another dog who apparently has no wish to kill anything at all. She doesn’t care if her toys squeak or not, never “kills” her toys, and in fact when she was young, it took quite a while to teach her that the toy was not in distress and it was okay to make it squeak.
One day another dog came in, grabbed her toy, and made it squeak a lot. My dog looked on with a very concerned look on her face. She was worried about her toy squeaking.
Are Squeaky Toys OK For Aggressive Chewers?
Yes! There are squeaky toys, like those made of rubber or plastic, which are tested to withstand even the nastiest chewers.
They bring benefits like mental stimulation, gum pain relief, and preventing boredom.
Which Squeaky Toys Are Good For My Dog?
Get the ones that match your pet’s aggressiveness level. If they’re a softie, they will enjoy plush toys with squeakers.
But for dogs that aggressively chew on everything, those made of more durable materials would be suitable.
Do Dogs Think Squeaky Toys Are Alive?
They know it’s not alive, but the sound stimulates their prey drive and makes them want to put it down (kill it).
I hope this article has helped you understand the potential benefits and dangers of your dog’s favorite toy. As always, I encourage you to take care of your pet and ensure they are safe. Share this article with other dog owners so they, too, can understand “Why do dogs like squeaky toys?”