I happened across this article, which reviews supposedly indestructible dog toys. They reviewed five, and the cheapest of the lot was $10.49 (and, that one got torn apart by the test dog).
Bailey, the great dog. Note how she's supervising the snack in my son's hand, ensuring no invading gnomes will snatch it from him. She also gets just as annoyed as I do that my slipcover won't stay in its proper place.
Well, I have a dog. A great dog. A golden retriever, who is 80 pounds of love and energy and fun and goofiness and cunning and man does she love her toys. We have been through many, many, many toys in our day. And we have found that she can tear the hell out of nearly any toy labelled “indestructible” – the notable exception being just about anything with the Kong name on it…. except she doesn’t like to play with them unless we put treats in them.
However, in our eight years of dog ownership, we’ve made a discovery or two. A couple of her best, favorite toys aren’t really for dogs… and maybe wouldn’t even be considered toys. Behold:
1) Frisbees from Old Navy. They are soft and rubbery, making them very durable and easy on the dog’s mouth when she catches them. Last time I bought one it was $3.50. They don’t always have them, but you can usually score them in the late spring or early summer. They aren’t completely indestructible, but they’re close, and price-wise they beat the hell out of the $10 and $12 frisbees in the dog toy aisle.
2) Plain old racquetballs. My dog can bust a tennis ball in about 15 minutes if she puts her mind to it, but I’ve never ever seen her bust a racquetball. They are the same size as a tennis ball, not fuzzy so you can wipe them dry, and they literally will last forever. You can get a tube of 2 for about $3.
I took the kids for a walk/jog today in our double jogging stroller. Near the end of our jaunt we encountered an older couple with a beautiful black Labrador Retriever. Lane, as she does, asked to pet the dog, so we asked the couple and they were happy to oblige. We chatted for a few minutes and they shared that the dog is in training to be a guide dog for the blind, and is currently in the process of going through all the training and socialization and whatnot. The dog is learning really well and is extremely obedient, except for one thing: they cannot get her to stop jumping on people. They’ve tried everything and are at their wits’ end.
Ahh, that sounded so familiar! Bailey, our golden retriever, love that she is, was an avid jumper. We tried EVERYTHING to get her to stop. Her puppy trainer at PetSmart suggested rewarding her when she was calm… but when was she calm?!? The ol’ bring up your knee advice had no effect, she thought it was a game. No punishment was ever severe enough to deter her or to knock some sense into her — even the couple times I got so incredibly frustrated I actually punched her in the head. (I hate to admit that, but it’s the truth. She thought I was playing and jumped on me again. Blockhead dog!)
Then, our epiphany.
Maybe someone told it to us, maybe I read it online somewhere — I cannot remember. But wherever I got the idea, I am eternally grateful. Bailey is a dog who craves attention. Needs it, loves it, can’t live without it. She loves people and wants to play. She wants to be petted and loved. She wants acknowledgment and acceptance. So, we just started ignoring her when she jumped. More than that, we stood crossed our arms and looked up and away from her, effectively withdrawing any semblance of attention. It took a couple days of consistency, but the jumping abated. We were amazed, we were thankful, we were in heaven! We’d finally found the “punishment” that worked for our dog.
And it continues to work! If she gets a little too exuberant with someone, we have them cross their arms and look up at the sky. Bailey almost immediately will leave them alone.
I told these very nice people about our secret, and I think the light bulb went on for them too — it just might work. I hope it does, their dog was otherwise beautiful and obedient and smart and well-behaved.