Have you ever been home alone with nothing to do? Oh sure it’s great once in a while. We can all appreciate a little me time, but too much can be lonely. Most of us have to work out of the house and leave our dogs alone for some period of time every week. Should we not have dogs because we have to go to work? Of course not. It can be difficult to teach your dog to knit, read or do housework to keep them occupied, but hey, how about some great toys!! Sticks, ropes, bones and homemade balls have been toys for dogs for as long as they have been our companions, but the evolution of store bought toys began nearly 200 years ago with the popularity of “song birds” in the parlor. Toys to entertain birds were born out of the obvious boredom frustration exhibited by our tiny feathered friends when confined to small spaces.
Birth of the Dog Toy Market
- 1840s: The first Bird Stores appeared. In the Victorian era, caged “Song Birds” were popular. The first commercially produced pet toys were for birds not dogs. And so our little feathered friends paved the way.
- 1890s: Pet stores began to open. They sold a variety of pets and the basic equipment required to take care of them.
- 1920s: Department Stores began selling pets, pet supplies and equipment, and “gifts for pets” (Toys).
- 1950s: Post WW2 there were advancements in the production of rubber and an increase in the average household disposable income. This opened an opportunity for companies that made squeaky toys for children, you guessed it, to begin making squeaky dog toys.
- 1960: Introducing the first pet store franchise and the growth of the dog toy commercial industry.
- 1986: The founding of the first big box pet store, Pet Smart (then called Petfood Warehouse).
(Dates from: Pets in America: A History, by Katherine C. Grier, P.h.D. 2006)
And so with the evolution of the business of pets, came opportunity to invent and develop more complex and interesting dog toys. The advent of the two income family spawned another situation. For the newly home alone, dog toys helped beat the boredom. Since the 1800s we have recognized other benefits of toys for dogs and this awareness has propelled innovation in design and functionality.
4 Benefits of Toys for Dogs
- Toys are Fun: Dogs play to amuse themselves, pass the time and beat the boredom of being home alone. The spinoff is exercise supporting your pooches health and well-being (might well be that if they are chewing on toy they might just leave your slippers alone as well.)
- Toys help us Bond: Playing games, like tug of war or fetch with your dog help build the bond between you and your furry best friend.
- Toys can comfort: Dogs will often bond with some toys and sleep with them. These toys can help reduce their anxiety in stressful situations and help them relax: for example when traveling. (It is best to travel with your dog as it makes some people nervous on planes or buses sitting next to a dog without the owner around).
- Toys can dispense treats: These toys can provide mental stimulation for your dog. They can actually promote the production of neurotrophin, which is like food for the neurons in a dogs brain. Dogs are genetically programmed to have to work for their food. They enjoy the challenge of chasing and hunting, or (if we must live in towns and be domestic) working their food out of a toy.
A New Era in Dog Toys
Today’s dog toys address the new way in which dogs have become part of our lives. Dogs are no longer merely used in a utilitarian way to retrieve fowl on a hunt, or pull a sled, or clean up table scraps or dissuade intruders (these things are all wonderful for dogs to do given the opportunity!) Our relationship with our canine counterparts is now more complex and intricate. They are considered companions, friends and even family members. We recognize their emotional depth, loyalty, intelligence and need to bond and interact with humans. A bone and a piece of rope won’t necessarily cut it today (although they can be pretty amazing in a pinch).
A new era in our relationship with dogs and their toys began in 1976, at least in part be attributed to a German Shepard named Fritz, a VW bus and a guy named Joe. Fritz liked to chew on some stuff that concerned his owner Joe Markham. Rocks were on the menu and Fritz’s teeth were actually wearing down because of the behavior. One day while working on the VW Joe removed a hard rubber part called a bump stop. Fritz decided that the bump stop would make a great toy. The tough durable rubber and the unique shape which caused an erratic bounce inspired Joe Markham to solve Fritz’s problem. The KONG was born! The KONG was the first stuffable dog toy brought to market. That is, food can be stuffed into the KONG and retrieved by your fury friend. As discussed earlier in this post, there are several health benefits to this type of toy and it spurred a burst of innovation that resulted in the amazing variety of ingenious toys available today.
The Petcube Play is a multipurpose pet care device, which includes a remotely operated laser toy! Place the Petcube Play in your home, preferably in an area frequented by your dog or dogs and you can see them from anywhere in the world via an app which can be easily downloaded onto your phone. Not only can you see your pet, you can hear them and talk to them. With the controls on the app you can manipulate a laser dot for your dog to chase around the room, have some fun and get some exercise. Imagine, a toy that will allow you to play with your dog from thousands of miles away!! With the Petcube Plays brother, the Petcube Bites, you can dispense treats to your dog from work or a foreign country.
Dog toys are more than just fun. They are an important piece of the “quality of life puzzle” for our barking brothers and sisters. If your dog is home alone, dog toys can help beat the boredom, but the benefits extend well beyond that to helping us bond, comforting them and providing neurological stimulation. The technological explosion of the last decade has embraced the world of dog toys and the options are now endless and amazing!