Rotating dog toys (or, living with dogs and staying sane)

You people know: Having dogs is not the best strategy for making it onto the cover of Good Housekeeping or House Beautiful. Our furniture and our floors are covered in an almost constant coating of fur (GermanĀ shedders). The floor is almost always muddy and/or slick with the sheen of slobber or dribbled water from the bowl. We’ve basically given up on finding all of the stray bits of kibble that are hidden under crevices after nightly feedings from the puzzle toys. You get my drift.

But the one thing we do to help keep our home life reasonably sane is keeping the dog toys to a minimum.


Like your beloved dogs, I imagine, Pyrrha has more toys than she actually needs. But we keep them all in this basket in a utility closet. This means that Pyrrha can’t see her stock of playthings and she can’t go and pick one out at will.

Our strategy is to rotate her toys on a regular basis. She usually has one or two toys out to play with at any given time. That’s it. This accomplishes two things for us:

1. Our tiny house isn’t strewn with dog toys, which are often walking hazards.

2. Pyrrha gets SUPER-EXCITED about being reintroduced to old toys! Just like a little kid with toys: If they’re out of sight, they’re out of mind. This also means that we don’t have to keep buying her toys to keep her interested and engaged; we just “recycle” the old ones.


What are some of your strategies for keeping your dog-friendly house a people-friendly zone?

Working on her relationship with Guion

Playing with Guion

Pyrrha and Guion are still working on their relationship, but they’ve been having fairly successful play time together in the evenings. These photos are from a few weeks ago, but you get the idea.

Guion has reported to me that she will never initiate play or respond to play invitations from him if I’m not home. When I’m at work, he says, Pyrrha usually sulks around the house and just coexists with him.

Playing with Guion

Part of this is due to the fact that she’s a very mellow dog by nature, especially during the first half of the day. At night, however, she starts to get frisky and wants to romp, wrestle, bark, and gnaw on human limbs. We’ve tried to capitalize on this by having Guion play with her during those bursts of energy (hence these dark, blurry photos on my old camera).

The one issue I can’t seem to solve is this: Pyrrha refuses to go outside if I’m not there. Even if she has to go, she will wait for hours until I come home. If Guion opens the door for her to the yard, she literally runs away from him in the opposite direction (often retreating to the safety of her crate). He has been good about never forcing her, but we’re kind of at a loss as how to fix this. If I’m home, she will go outside with him, but only if I’m nearby and even then, her body language is very hesitant.
If he absolutely has to get her outside, he has to put her on her leash and walk her around the outside of the house to the fence! It is very weird and getting a little ridiculous.

All of you are way more experienced than I am, so I’m seeking your dog wisdom here! What do you think is going on? How can we help Pyrrha overcome her fear of Guion opening the back door? I’m all ears!

Pyrrha falls in love with the Cuz

Play time before bed
Playing with the Cuz ball before bed.

Pyrrha isn’t very familiar with toys and hasn’t shown an overwhelming interest in them. She has a squeaky octo-fuzzy-thing (a gift from Bo and his mama!) that she sleeps with in her crate; she is fond of a tug toy I made of some of Guion’s old T-shirts, but she still is warming up to the whole concept of playing with humans.

I’ve heard a lot of good press about the Cuz ball, and so I bought one before we brought her home. She wasn’t very interested in it when I first introduced it to her, but last Thursday night? Girl was ALL ABOUT that ball. It was so much fun to see her play and seem genuinely delighted in a toy!

Cuz ball love
Gnawing on the Cuz.

I think the brilliance of the Cuz is how unpredictable it is. Those little feet make it bounce in strange ways–and its size is just big enough that she can’t get the whole thing in her mouth perfectly, which makes the chewing challenge even more enticing.

Falling in love with the cuz ball
Cuz love! Sorry for the dark photo.

We played for a good half hour before bed, which might not have been the best timing on my part, because then she was pretty riled up when we put her in her crate and started to cry about it a bit. She seems most playful at night, though. Evenings have been our most successful times to entice her to play with us/toys. I wonder if this will change. I’m not sure what it is about nights that make her more willing to play, but I hope that willingness to romp will extend throughout the day as time passes and she continues to gain confidence.

If you have a dog who wasn’t initially interested in toys, what was it that got him or her excited to play? Any other recommendations for games or toys to entice a shy dog?

Pup links!

Actress Donna Drake and her cocker spaniel. Source: LIFE Magazine Archives.

Dog-related links from around the Web this past week:

The Furry Ties That Bind. A beautiful post that reflects on what it is that makes us dog people, tracing the deep connection that children often feel with dogs. (City Dog/Country Dog)

You Don’t Have To… This post by trainer Tena is a great reminder that there are multiple alternatives to any given technique or method. It’s relieving to read. I’ve had lots of people tell me that I HAVE to use a prong/choke collar if I get a German shepherd, that I have to use physical punishments, etc. As Tena would say, “You don’t have to.” There are other alternatives. Don’t do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy when it comes to training your dog. (Success Just Clicks)

Hierarchy: These Are a Few of Her Favorite Things. A ranked list of Elli’s favorite toys! This was fun to read, and a nice place to start for good ideas among the overwhelming cornucopia of dog toys. (Identity: V+E)

Conflicting Gestures of Affection. Why declaring a “National Hug Your Dog Day” might not be the best idea. (The Bark blog)

DIY: Liver and Potato Grain-Free Dog Treats. This sounds like a (fairly) easy recipe to make homemade treats. (The Hydrant)

AKC’s Top 11 Dog Breeds by City. This is an interesting report: Do certain cities prefer different breeds? It seems so! What breeds do you think are most popular in your city? And what does that say about your city? I think Charlottesville probably has a higher proportion of setters and spaniels than most cities; they seem to complement the landed gentry image that is somewhat prevalent around here. Here’s the more complete 2011 AKC breed report by city. (Woof Report)

Run, Doggy, Run. Laura Benn shares some great pointers on how to prepare yourself and your dog to run together. (iRun)

New dog shopping list

Lab in a built-in dog bed. Click for source.

My serious type-A self has, of course, already made a detailed shopping list and budget for our future dog. Here’s my preliminary list. What do think? What’s missing?


  • Martingale collar.
  • 6′ leash.
  • ID tag.
  • Clean-up bag dispenser for leash.


  • Crate.
  • Bed.
  • Nature’s Miracle carpet cleaner.
  • Old towels.


  • High-quality, grain-free kibble/whatever the dog was eating previously to ease the transition.
  • Stainless steel bowls in a raised feeder.
  • Healthy treats.
  • Furminator.
  • Nail clippers.
  • Shampoo.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.


  • Car harness or other form of restraint.


  • Standard Kong, or assorted chew toys.
  • Rope toy.
  • Tennis balls.

Now, to figure out how to budget for this!

Gallery of toys and terriers

I’ll admit that the toy group and the terrier group are my least favorite groups in the AKC system. Not that I have any personal vendetta against these dogs–I just can’t imagine myself ever living with one of them. That said, I have met some very pleasant terriers and some very enjoyable toy breeds. And my time at the SPCA has convinced me that pit bulls are totally wonderful. (Of all these dogs, I’d be most likely to take a pit home.) And you can’t deny that they are adorable. Look at those faces! That said, here are some toys and terriers I could possibly coexist with.

(Click on an image to be taken to its source.)

Airedale terrier

Airedale puppy

Border terrier

Border terrier puppy

Cairn terriers

Cairn terrier puppy

Cavalier King Charles spaniel puppy

Cavalier King Charles spaniel


Papillon puppy

Pit bull

Pit puppies


Pomeranian puppy

Interactive dog toys

I like the idea of leaving my future dog with some interactive toys when we’re out of the home. I’ve heard many trainers suggest these as a fun alternative to condition a dog out of separation anxiety.

Here are a few of the many toys available that we’ll probably be investing in at some point in the near future:

The Kong

Classic Kongs.

A time-honored classic! I think the Kong may have invented the market for the interactive dog toy and I think few dog owners these days live without them. They’re indispensable to us at the shelter; we fill them with peanut butter or treats for anxious or reactive dogs. Kongs come in a variety of sizes and strengths and can be bought practically anywhere you buy pet supplies. $5.99 to $19.99 at PetsMart.

Olive Green Dog has a wide selection of high-quality interactive dog toys. Here are a few from their site that caught my eye:

Beba Toy

Beba Toy.

So adorable and so squeaky! And 20% of the proceeds go to four charitable causes. What’s not to love? $5.99 at Olive Green Dog.

Nina Ottosson Tornado Game

Nina Ottosson Tornado Game.

This is for the very serious dog with a very serious mind! Nina Ottosson makes a wide range of top-of-the-line interactive dog toys in Sweden. $57.99 from Olive Green Dog.

Tug Zogoflex Dog Toy

Tug Zogoflex Dog Toy.

These spunky toys can also be filled with treats. The Tug Zogoflex toy is nontoxic and recyclable, plus they’re bouncy and durable. They come in the three colors shown above. $15.50 at Olive Green Dog.

The Holee Roller Dog Ball

Holee Roller Dog Ball, 5".

This is a great, flexible ball that dogs seem to naturally love. It’s well-suited for filling with larger treats. On sale for $4.79 now at DogSupplies.

WARE Dog-E-Logic Interactive Game

WARE Dog-E-Logic Interactive Game.

Another fun puzzle for a dog to play with. (Even though this one looks quite complicated. I’m not sure if I could figure it out!) On sale for $23.99 now at PetCo.

Occupi Treat Dispensing Chew Toy

Petstages Occupi Treat Dispensing Chew Toy

This looks like a fun variation on the Kong. $5.99 to $16.99 at PetsMart.

Do you use any interactive toys to keep your dog busy? Any that you’d especially recommend?

Wish list: Shell dog toy

Squeaky shell-shaped dog toys from Petprojekt.

I don’t want a house filled with cheesy or cheap dog toys. No rubber chickens for me. These glamorous–and quite realistic-looking!–squeaky toys would be perfect for the summer-loving pooch. We’re about to go the beach ourselves, and so these cute but classy toys attracted my attention. The shell squeaky toys sell at Petprojekt from $11 to $14. Check them out here!