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Are Dog Toys Designed to Break So We Keep Buying More?

Is Big Dog Toy swindling us?

Dog toys can sometimes feel like a colossal sham. We spend large sums expecting them to provide our precious pups with endless entertainment, but they’re often shredded to pieces in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. Are we being bamboozled? Is Big Dog Toy dispensing products that are designed to crumble so we’re forced to buy more and more of them?

While there might be a few unethical manufacturers out there, certified dog behaviorist and trainer Russell Hartstein tells me that this problem is more likely the result of uninformed consumers. “A lot of parents are buying inappropriate toys for their dogs,” he says. (Luckily for you, I wrote about choosing the right toys for your pooch here.)

In many cases, nailing down which playthings won’t immediately collapse in the jaws of your hound is a matter of experimentation. As a rule of thumb, Hartstein says a dog’s chewing strength is directly correlated to their head size, but some big-domed pups are gentle chewers, and some small-noggined furballs could chomp through cement. “It really depends on the individual dog,” he emphasizes.

That’s why you should pay close attention to how your dog plays with toys. For example, if they’re quick to decapitate plush dog toys, they may require stronger ones like KONGs, Nylabones or Benebones. However, if your pup is an extremely destructive chewer, Hartstein warns that super-durable nylon toys like Nylabones and Benebones could chip their teeth (and that there will always be dogs that can destroy even the strongest toys).

This is the fine line that manufacturers walk, and it’s one of the main reasons why indestructible dog toys don’t exist — they can’t be so sturdy that our shaggy friends are constantly breaking their fangs while they’re just trying to have a good time. “We can’t expect these toys to last forever,” says Hartstein.

In fact, we should be washing our dog’s toys (plush ones can go in the washing machine, and rubber, plastic or nylon toys should be scrubbed in the sink) a few times a week — according to the National Science Foundation, they’re one of the top 10 germiest places in our households. While we’re at it, we should also be checking them for damage; if they’re on the verge of falling apart, that could pose a choking hazard, meaning it’s time for another trip to Petco.

So, are there dog toy manufacturers that deliberately develop products which are quick to break? “Most likely,” Hartstein says. “A lot of manufacturers make items that aren’t made to last.” But is Big Dog Toy participating in a large-scale conspiracy to make us buy more? Not quite — it’s just that almost anything will break if a dog chews on it for long enough.