Dogs today can lead tough lives if their owners are busy dealing with new school schedules, work projects or the hectic holiday season. Sometimes giving them just a chew or a toy doesn't quite cure their loneliness or boredom when you're too busy juggling other things to spend quality time. That's when an interactive toy that "talks" to your dog can be a wonderful form of mental and physical enrichment.
Bored Dogs Home Alone
It's not unusual for some dogs to be alone for eight hours or more each day during the work week. Some dogs find it easy to simply sleep the time away, with the occasional snack and drink from the water bowl, or by playing with their toys. For other dogs, the experience is much more stressful and they can become so anxious that they engage in less than desirable behaviors when left home alone. Other dogs can become extremely bored, especially if they're younger and come from active breeds that need more outlets for their energy. Problems can range from mere nuisance barking to house soiling to destructive chewing.
Why Typical Toys and Chews Aren't Enough
While the average dog toy or chew bone may keep some of these unhappy pets occupied for a while, depending on the level of anxiety or boredom of the dog, they may simply be not enough to keep them preoccupied. If your dog has separation anxiety, you should contact a professional behavioral consultant to help them overcome their fears and one element common to behavior modification plans includes more mental and physical enrichment. Likewise for dogs that may not be anxious but are just overly energetic and bored out of their canine minds, upping the ante in their toy box can be very helpful.
Talking Dog Toys
A talking dog toy is one of the next generation of interactive dog toys. Think of it as picking up where the humble squeaker leaves off. These toys contain inner voice modules that activate when your pet begins chewing them or moving them around. The noises the toys make are more interesting than the typical squeaky and can provide more variety to a dog which keeps their minds focused on play time and not on being scared or bored. Some toys even allow you to have two-way communication with your dog. There are several types that you can choose from.
Multipet Look Who's Talking® Dog Toys
Multipet makes a line of talking toys that can give your dog a lot of variety to peek his interest during the day. They come in fun plush shapes like a dog, cat, pig, frog, chimp, cow, goldfish and lobster. They sell for about $6 to $7 each. The sounds that come from each toy is unique such as the cow moos, the frog croaks, and the koala giggles. These are good choices for dogs who are medium-level chewers. You'll also need to remember to regularly change the batteries on these toys or your dog will miss hearing from them.
This line of toys by Pet Qwerks can really stimulate a dog's attention. The balls make a noise that is triggered by even the slightest movement, including your dog's breathing. They come in three different sizes and the Talking Babble Ball has 20 phrases and sounds so your dog will hear funny noises along with a human voice when playing with it. They also have an Animal Sounds version that makes 20 different animal noises like howls, birds chirping, cat meowing and more. Finally for a really interactive treat, the Blinky Babble Ball not only makes noises but also flashes a light when activated by motion. The balls are made of heavy duty material so they'll hold up well to an active chewer although the company recommends you put the ball inside of a sock and give to your dog if he or she is really tough on toys. You will also need to replace the batteries every so often. The Babble Balls sell for between $5 and $8 depending on size and the sound line.
Wobble Wag Giggle Ball
Similar in concept to the Babble Ball, this toy makes a lot of noises that are activated by motion. The more your dog plays with it, the more he or she is rewarded with more "talking" from the toy which leads to more play and fun times for your dog. The sound that emanates from the toy is a high pitched, silly giggling that is music to many bored dogs' ears. Unlike the other toys, this one does not require batteries and the sound is actually created by a series of tubes inside the ball. The ball is made from heavy plastic and may not hold up well to extreme chewers so it's best for dogs that enjoy chasing and pouncing on toys rather than settling down to chew on them. It sells for about $11.
Wickedbone Smart Bone
This unique toy doesn't "talk" to your dog but it does communicate with them in a way by changing it's mode of play based on how your dog interacts with it. You control the toy's play mode with an app on your smartphone or you can use your app as a "joystick" and control the dog while you're watching your dog. The toy responds differently to types of movement like chasing, backing away, and pouncing. For example if your dog tries to chase it, the bone will move away from your dog, stimulating more chase behavior. This makes it a great way to entertain a dog that's alone because it will feel like he's playing with something that is responding to him in real time. The toy is fairly durable although it won't like hold up to a heavy chewer, and its battery requires regular charging with a USB cable. It sells for about $110 and comes in a few different colors.
Furbo Dog Camera
Some toys will even allow you to interact with your pet when you're not home, either through dispensing treats or even letting you speak to your pet via a microphone and a wifi hookup. For example, the Furbo Dog Camera has a sensor that will alert you through an app on your smartphone to your dog barking. You can then "talk" to your dog through your phone to the device and dispense treats remotely as well. This is a great way to soothe a dog that may be upset at being alone and reward him for remaining calm. You can also use the camera feature to check in your dog on the phone. The Furbo sells for about $200.
Making the Most of These Dog Toys
If you want to make the most of an interactive talking toy, you should acclimate your dog to the toy first. Some shyer dogs might become startled if introduced to these toys too quickly.
- Try giving your dogs some treats around the toys while you hold them so that they do not make any noises.
- Allow your dogs to sniff around the toys while getting treats, and then toss them in the other direction so that they make a noise further away from your dog.
- At the same time you can toss your dog a treat so he'll pair treats and the noise together as two great things.
- Slowly work on tossing the toy closer to your dog so the noise becomes louder while pairing it with treats and talk to your dog in a happy tone of voice.
- Always work at your dog's own pace. If he seems nervous around the toy, put it away and try it again later and train in small sessions of no more than five minutes each.
- Of course, some dogs will pounce on these toys right away and love them immediately. For these dogs, and all dogs, supervise their play with the toy at first so you can be sure this is a toy that won't get chewed up while you're not home.
Now that your dog is acclimated to his new toy, you can try offering it to him the next time you leave home. These toys, paired with a behavior modification program and daily dedicated exercise like a walk should lead eventually to a much happier pet during times when you're gone from the house.
Give Your Dog a Talking Toy
Giving your pet a talking toy can be a great way to amuse him when you need to leave him home alone. While anxious or bored dogs may find these toys especially beneficial, almost any dog will enjoy a toy that interacts with them more for more interesting play sessions. If it makes you feel a little easier about leaving your pet behind for the day, so much the better!