If you haven’t owned a Labrador Retriever previously, then you haven’t had the pleasure of knowing one of these intelligent, loveable, durable pets. My old girl Dixie’s favorite place to sleep is with her snoot lying across my collarbone. Our little Lucy loves to “sing” and dance on her hind legs. And our old boy Rommel knows what a “doggie massage” is and will give you a huge stretch to ask for one! So how can it be that these sweet, funny, and gentle animals, when left to their own devices, can rip the appendages off of poor Mr. Stuffy Duck in less than 5 minutes and devour his squeaker like a fruit snack? As far as toys go, Labs are not gentle! Not only is there the cost to consider if your Lab destroys all toys in his path, but there can also be safety and health concerns involved in the toys you choose to give him.
For these reasons, we’d like to offer you our top picks for toys for Labs:
- White Sterilized Beef Bones: These aren’t rawhide and they’re not your average dog bone either! These hard-as-steel bones are amazingly durable and long-lasting. As a matter of fact, I haven’t had one perish yet to our dogs’ jaws. I eventually toss them out when they begin to look nasty from months of gnawing and filling and refilling with treats (like a little peanut butter). You can get them plain (http://www.whitedogbone.com/redbarn-white-femur-bone-3-inch) or pre-filled with a yummy center of cheese flavor, bacon, or peanut butter (http://www.petsmart.com/featured-shops/dentley-s/dentley-s-trade-nature-s-chew-filled-bone-dog-treat-zid36-18631/cat-36-catid-800017?var_id=36-18631&_t=pfm%3Dcategory%26pfmvalue%3Dfaceted) The prefilled are pricier, but I swear our dogs, even my old girl Dixie, go ga-ga for these. These bones are ideal as the dogs don’t digest any bone (or other parts), it works wonders on tartar, and they can be refilled and reused for months.
- The Bumper (Training Dummy): Tried and true, a training bumper really is a Lab’s best friend. You don’t have to be actively “training” your dog to hunt to enjoy them. More visible, durable, and waterproof than a tennis ball, your Lab will enjoy chasing after a bumper in the lake or on land until you finally make him quit. Browning Pet Products has come out with a very cool signature line of pet products, including these Browning logo’d bumpers: http://spgoutdoors.com/pets.html Bumpers do come in different sizes, so be sure to pick the one that will be most comfortable for your dog’s mouth. Unlike the sterilized beef bones, while bumpers are durable, they are not Our Labs like to try and chew the ends off if no one’s watching, so make sure these are put well out of reach when done playing together!
- Firehose Toys: I don’t know what the human fascination is with loving to give our dogs adorable little toy creatures to chew on, but we all do it. The trouble is, cute little hedgehog-plush-guy will last less than 5 minutes before he is legless and the Lab is dissecting his squeaker. Labs will eat furry little toy appendages and squeakers and will get very ill, possibly to the point of needing surgery. We’ve found that the only cute toy creatures that stand any chance with our Labs are those made of the “firehose” material. The dog toy market now has tons of choices of shapes ranging from multi-jointed snakes to plain bumper-style solid one piece designs. Check out http://outwardhound.com/shop/dog-toys/fire-hose for some fun examples. Keep in mind, while these guys are tough, they’re not indestructible, so be sure to supervise playtime with these toys. Our stud Pickett has successfully shortened Mr. Snake by a few inches!
- Antlers: Yup, plain and simple, Labs love deer antlers, synthetic or real. A pleasant substitute for the everyday bone, an antler offers your Lab all kinds of fun textures and a different way to release energy while simultaneously cleaning his teeth. Segments of elk and deer antlers are available for purchase if a shed hunt to find your own isn’t in your future. Synthetic ones are also available from companies like Browning Pet Products (http://spgoutdoors.com/pets/antler-chew-toy.html). Whether you opt for real or synthetic, do supervise your Lab while he chews on these. Real antlers can splinter and crack as they dry out with time (and from constant assault from your dog) and the tines from a synthetic antler can also snap off.
We aren’t going to criticize any particular toy, but we do recommend staying away from plastic/ rubber toys with squeakers or stuffed plush toys with squeakers. Labs can destroy these in a matter of minutes, in the process choking on the squeaker or binding up their guts with the stuffing.
These are our suggestions for toys for your Lab, based upon our years of watching our Labs and seeing what they destroy the fastest/ slowest, what they choose most often to play with on their own, and what poses the least safety concerns. Check out these toys in comparison to what you’re using now, and consider adding something new to your Lab’s toy repertoire!
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