Tag Archives: dog toys

How to clean dog toys

Dogs’ favorite toys are usually the most disgusting ones in the house. The clean toys are never as good, in the dogs’ opinion, as the one that got dragged out into the yard and through the mud. So how do you clean dog toys?

Of course it depends what the toy is made of, and how disreputable it is. All played-with dog toys reach a point where they can’t be salvaged and the best thing to do is replace them. Until that juncture, we can keep the gross factor to a minimum.

Depends on the dog, too

Some dogs, we’ve heard tell, are very gentle with their toys and cherish their puppy toys throughout their lives. We’ve never had a dog like that. Toys are enjoyed thoroughly and discarded when they get to the irreparable/uncleanable stage. 

Bin of clean dog toys

Most dogs we know have more toys than they need, or know what to do with. When a new toy comes into the house, it’s played with and then, when the dog moves on, it’s left to sit in the corner, ignored and neglected. 

A good way of keeping the toy collection fresh is to have a rotation of dog toys. Decide on a number of toys that will be available to your dog. Include a couple current favorites and a few overlooked “oldies.” Remove all the others. If you are active in playing training games with your dog, you may want to reserve a special “reward” toy.

Now’s your chance to clean

If your dog’s been watching you “stealing his stuff,” just put them in a box or bag and remove them from sight until he/she forgets about them. That will probably happen the next day. To speed the process, play with one of the available toys, so your dog knows he/she still has great stuff.

Latex/rubber/plastic toys:

These toys can be cleaned with gentle soap and water, and left to air-dry. It’s impossible to get all the nooks, crannies, and tooth marks dry, so don’t even try to dry with a cloth. We highly recommend a food-safe, natural dish soap.

We’re actually too lazy to wash the dog toys by hand, so we put them in the top rack of the dishwasher and run them in a cycle by themselves. We use a “green” dishwasher detergent and rinse aid, and certainly recommend it. 

We know using the dishwasher shortens the life of the toys because of the high heat, but it’s a trade-off we’re willing to make.

Soft toy cleaning

We admit that our laziness extends to machine use here, too. First we mend any toys that have burst seams and/or holes. Our dogs don’t seem to care if their toys are funny-looking, which is a good thing. We’re terrible tailors.

All the soft toys go in their own load, on gentle cycle, in the washing machine. Depending on the toys, we may put some in a loosely-knotted pillow case or lingerie bag to protect them. This is saved for the truly special, favorite toys our dogs love and we want to preserve.

We’ve found a low-heat dryer cycle works fine for dog toys. If they’re still not dry, especially the stuffed toys, just run them through again.

Everything old is new again

The best part of cleaning dog toys is your dog’s joy at the “new” toys that show up on a regular basis. 

Whenever we give the dogs a clean toy, we pick up one of the “floor toys,” and put it aside for the next toy cleaning day. The dogs get a regular rotation of toys, and never seem to care if it’s a “recycled” toy, or a really new one we just couldn’t resist getting.

Dog tip – Everything old is new again


Teddy and pile of toys

New toys are best – unless you fake out your dog!

Dogs seem to have ESP for new toys. We can walk in the house with a dozen bags of groceries, clothes, sundries. They don’t care. (Unless the grocery bags have cheese, of course.)
But one bag with a dog toy – they know! And they’re jumping around, trying to see, sniff, and get their grubby little paws on the loot.
And if your dogs are like ours – they have tons of toys. And they walk right by the toys they adored last week to get to the new ones.
This week’s tip is a plan to reignite the love they lost for all those old toys.
The first step is to sort through all the old toys. Just touching the toys, or gathering them in one spot, might rekindle your dog’s interest, but be insistent. We use a laundry basket and just go through the house gathering toys as we go.
Sort the toys next. Anything that’s got irreparable holes in it, toss. Be ruthless. Phydeaux may be staring at you with those big puppy-dog eyes, insisting he loves that particular toy more than breathing. Don’t be swayed. If the toy isn’t worth fixing, and Phydeaux hasn’t looked at it since the havoc was wrought, out it goes.
During our toy sweeps of the house, about a fourth go into the trash. Don’t feel bad about it – the toy did its job and met a fun end. Your dog enjoyed it thoroughly.
The next step is cleaning. We cheat. Soft toys (stuffies, plush, ropey toys) go in the washing machine and dryer (air fluff mode – no heat). Yes, the squeakers (those that still work) may fill with water and stop working temporarily. As you move them from the washer to the dryer, give them a squeeze to eject as much water as you can. Don’t worry about the rest – it’ll evaporate.
Latex, vinyl, and rubber toys go in the dishwasher. Delicate, or low heat settings, and top rack so you don’t melt the toys. Again, when they come out, give them a squeeze to rid squeakers of excess water.
Then comes the fun part. Pick about half a dozen of the toys to keep out and put the rest away in a covered storage bin. You can even put the new toys in a plastic bag and bring them into the house again, as if they’re coming home for the first time. Have a great play session with your dog. Every single toy is brand new again!
Rotate through the toys whenever your dog seems to be losing interest. Have another storage bin for the “used” toys – take away one toy for each one you take out, and throw away any toys that can’t be fixed. As the “new” bin empties and the “used” bin fills, schedule another cleaning day.
Which is not to say that our dogs never get new toys! There’s always something new and fun coming into our house – but we get full value from every dog toy we buy!



Teddy hates toys, loves trash

As part of our training, we’re encouraged, strongly, to get our dogs to play tug with us. I know teddys_bottlethat a few years ago there was some nonsense about playing tug with your dog being a bad thing, but it’s not. Playing tug is terrific on many levels – it’s good exercise for the dog, it encourages interaction with you, you’re the source of the fun, and your dog learns to listen to you even when he’s all excited in the middle of a game.

That’s the theory, anyway. And I’ve wrestled with it with Teddy since the day I got him. Teddy has no interest, whatsoever, in toys. Never has picked up a dog toy of his own volition. Never.

I’ve dealt with this before – Dax, my first French Bulldog, wasn’t a fan of toys when we started training in agility. She certainly wouldn’t play tug, and if she did, it was never in public. But she was very, very, highly, incredibly food-motivated and she loved vegetables. So I started tugging with her with a limp celery stalk. It was messy, we went through a lot of celery, but it worked. Eventually Dax was a tugging machine and loved to play tug with anything, anywhere.

Teddy, not so much. Couldn’t care less about celery. It’s been a struggle. The compromise I’ve found is to stick a tiny bit of cheese in the toe of a sock. He’ll destroy the sock to get to the cheese, so we call it play.

The only thing I’ve ever found that he absolutely adores, and actually considers a toy is the empty bottles from my contact lens solutions. There’s something about the texture of those particular bottles that floats his boat. They’re practically impossible to tug with, he destroys them after five minutes, and if I do throw them, Teddy will chase the bottle. He just won’t bring it back.

Dog training is constantly a matter of improvising, adapting, and re-jiggering what works. Teddy is a puzzler I’ll keep working on.

Different as night and day

torqueandtedTorque, at 10 months old, is bigger than Teddy now. They weigh about the same, but Torque’s a little bit taller, a little bit longer, and not as wide – yet.

And Torque’s big-boy personality is settling in. He’s a happy, goofy, friendly, silly, clownish French Bulldog – pretty much all the descriptions of the breed that you read. He loves people and dogs, loves going places and doing “stuff.” He gets a little bit over-enthusiastic, but he listens well and calms down beautifully.

Torque loves toys and playing fetch. He loves chewing on his chewie toys, but he can also put them aside, relax and take a nap – even on the days he’s with me here at the shop.

And his easy-going personality could not be more different from Teddy.

Teddy is intense. He worries. He has no interest in toys. He occasionally chews on something – and when he does, it’s not released until destroyed, or taken away.teddys_toy1

How we train our dogs changes based on what works for each one. We have to adapt our methods for the dog we’re working with. Torque thinks a toy and a game of tug is marvelous. Teddy think food is the only payment worth working for.

The one exception to Teddy’s “don’t care” attitude about toys is plastic of a very particular texture. He loves the bottles that my contact lens solution comes in. I don’t even remember how I discovered this weird little factoid. But some days it’s the only toy he’ll play with. We’re dog trainers – we go with whatever works.