Why Are Dogs Obsessed With Squeaky Toys?

Squeakers are annoying for you but fun for them 📣

dog with a lot of squeaky toys

A dog and his favorite toy is a love affair for the ages, and many dogs have an especially close bond with their squeaky toys.

But why do dogs like squeaky toys so much and why are they obsessed with those noisy little squeakers (especially when the sound probably drives you crazy)?

We spoke to Lauren Novack, a dog behavior consultant and trainer with NYC Behavior Vets, to find out why dogs are so obsessed with squeaky toys.

Why do dogs play?

In order to understand why your dog loves her squeaky toy, it’s important to know why dogs play in the first place — and what kind of play really gets them going.

“To understand why dogs like certain types of play, let's look at the predatory sequence,” Novack told The Dodo. “When wild canids hunt for food, their behavior looks something like this: orient, freeze, stalk, pounce, grab, bite, kill, dissect, consume … Stalking and pouncing on toys is similar to stalking and pouncing on prey.”

In other words, dogs like toys and games that help them use their natural instincts for hunting (playing also helps direct that energy into a productive activity — rather than destroying your shoes or furniture).

“We do know that many animals, including dogs, engage in parts of the predatory sequence when playing, and that play can alleviate stress and increase welfare,” Novack said. “Play makes dogs happy. So play is very important and should be a designated activity [during] any dog's day.”

Why do dogs like squeaky toys?

Simply put, that annoying squeaking sound actually activates a dog’s predatory instincts.

“Squeaky toys sound like squealing animals,” Novack said.

This is also why dogs like toys that move — it reminds them of their hunting instincts. “Dogs have fun when we animate their toys for them,” Novack added. “They are interested in the movement of the toy as well as the sound.”

If you’re looking for a squeaky toy that will really engage your pup’s instincts, lots of dogs love this hide-a-squirrel squeaky toy, which lets your dog “hunt” for squirrels without even leaving the house (best of both worlds). You can find it on Amazon for $12.

Why does my dog tear his squeaky toy apart?

Do you often buy your dog a new squeaky toy, only to have it torn to shreds within an hour? There’s also a reason for that!

According to Novack, “tearing the squeaker or stuffing out of a toy is like dissecting a kill.”

It might be a little hard to imagine your pampered house pup as a wild hunter, but even the tamest of dogs have that wild instinct buried deep down (maybe deeper in some than in others).

However, remember to keep a close eye on dogs who like to tear their squeaky toys apart because they can swallow squeakers or pieces of the toy, which can cause choking or potentially fatal intestinal blockages.

You might also want to try out a toy made specifically for aggressive chewers, like this durable squeaky toy from Amazon for $6, so you don’t have to buy a new toy every week.

What should I do if my dog gets too excited or aggressive with squeaky toys?

While most dogs will just have fun with their squeaky toys, some pups can get really carried away — and it’s good to know how to handle things if your dog gets overexcited during playtime.

“I like to have boundaries around playtime so things don't get out of hand. Pups should be taught to ask for the toy by sitting, lying down or standing calmly,” Novack said. “They also need to drop the toy when asked. Playtime is a great time to teach and reinforce these polite behaviors.”

Some dogs also participate in resource guarding — which is when they get so excited around a special toy (or food or anything else they love — including you!) that they become aggressive towards other people or dogs around them. Watch out for a lowered head, stiff body, exposed teeth and growling when you or another dog tries to play.

Pups who resource guard need to be taught that you’re there to play, and that you aren’t trying to take their toys. In many cases, a veterinary behaviorist or trainer will be your best resource to stop the behavior before it gets worse.

“Given that this behavior can lead to consumption [of the toy, which is] medically dangerous for the dog, or an escalation of aggressive behavior, you will need the guidance of a certified dog behavior consultant to work on this issue,” Novack said.

Are squeaky toys good for my dog?

“Squeaking, tugging and fetching are all super fun ways to engage with your dog, providing a safe outlet for species-typical behavior as well as stress relief and bonding time for both you and your pet,” Novack said.

So as long as your dog doesn’t get too aggressive, squeaky toys are a great way to channel his energy and natural predatory instincts — and have some fun while doing it!

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