Tag Archives: playing with dogs

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.

Do you play with your dog?

I (Hope) teach the first level of competition obedience for our dog club every Tuesday night. This past Tuesday I realized something that kind of freaked me out and made me sad. Most of my students don’t know how to play with their dogs.

It’s not that they don’t love their dogs. Or that they don’t spend time with their dogs. But some of them have the mindset that every interaction with their dog has to have purpose – and that purpose isn’t just fun.

Pet dogs play!

In this instance I think it’s clear that “pet people” have the advantage. They know how to just “hang out,” and spend time with their dogs. Without any guilt about what they “should” be working on to achieve their training goals.

Their dogs get to play – with toys or without. Tug. Fetch. Chew. Zoomies. All those things are important for dogs – and for us. They remind us of the Henry Ward Beecher quote: “The dog is the god of frolic.”

And play is important – for both of you. Studies have shown that dogs that play with their people are happier, healthier, and better-behaved than those that don’t.

Make them play!

We all need a bread from serious stuff. Including dogs. So after a few minutes of training, I told everyone “Exercise finished! Play with your dog.” And got almost a whole roomful of blank stares. Fran and her puppy Simon are in the class. So Fran served as an example for the class – getting on her knees right away and wrestling with her little Boston boy.

woman plays with dog

One of Simon’s latest favorite games is one we call “Throw the puppy away!” When Simon comes up, Fran gives a little push against his chest, backing him up a step or so. He pounces back, ready to get “thrown away” again.

The others in class just kind of stood around. One said her dog likes a ball. He doesn’t actually fetch it, or chase it. He just carries it around. Another said her dog likes stuffed toys, but wouldn’t carry one. A couple others just looked at us blankly.

Lightening things up

So I made them play with their dogs. You don’t need toys, or balls, or anything but yourself and your dog. I told everyone to give their dogs a little shove in the side. And say something happy and excited – “Wanna play?” “How about it?” “Watcha gonna do?” Questions keep everyone engaged – even the dogs.

Most were reluctant – including the dogs. They looked at their owners like they’d lost their minds. “You want me to what?”

So I went around the room and got everyone play-wrestling with their dogs. Only for a couple of minutes. And nothing over the top. Just a little gentle horsing around.

Back to business

Everybody needs to play – dogs and people. Especially when we’re learning. Remember your favorite teachers? Weren’t they always the ones who made class fun?

And then we began another heeling exercise. And everybody – dogs and people – did better. More animated. Better attention. Faster pace. Much more fun.

Keep it fun! Play with your dog!

Play with your dog! He’s a perpetual toddler

When was the last time you played a game? It wasn’t today? Are you sure you have a dog? You really should play with your dog.

Dogs are pretty much perpetual kids. Think of all the things toddlers like to do and compare them to dogs. Just about the same, aren’t they? They’re self-absorbed, exploring the world around them, interested in all kinds of things they shouldn’t be, into all kinds of stuff they shouldn’t get into, put everything in their mouths, don’t listen until we insist, and are so adorable you just want to squeeze them.

When adults interact with toddlers, our voices go up in pitch, we get more lilt in our voices, and we’re ready to play all kinds of silly games and talk utter nonsense – just because it’s fun.

Dignity isn’t much fun

When was the last time you got silly with your dog?

You should! Every evening when we get home from the shop, we have “Chaos & Mayhem Time.” We don’t invite over the demons from Disney’s Hercules, we have our own set of four that live with us. It’s loud and crazy, and sometimes a little bit painful as the dogs jump over us, on us, and forget that they’re supposed to be grabbing the toy, not our hands.

And it’s fun. After a full day of adulting, our dogs are ready to help us let go. You can’t help but laugh as you look into their little faces “yelling” at you. And yes, your dog really is smiling as she waits for you to throw the toy.

Teddy playing tug

Teddy’s particular about toys – he likes the ones that crunch instead of squeak.

Our dogs are responsibilities. No doubt of it. They’re also our companions and can be tremendous sources of comfort and joy. They’re also our playmates, reminding us it’s okay to just have some fun, let go of what we’re “supposed” to do and just play for a while. The housework will still be there. All of the “stuff” that makes life complicated will still be there. For the next five minutes, we’re just going to play.

Loosen up!

Some of my students in Novice class (the first level of obedience competition) seem to have forgotten. Just last night the class seemed puzzled when I asked why they’re training their dogs. I had to remind them that we do it for fun. There’s no other reason to be involved in Obedience competition. You can’t earn a living at it, it’s expensive to enter trials and go to class, and it takes a chunk of time. Like any hobby – we do it for fun. The fact that we get to do it with our best friend makes it even better.

One of my students has to be reminded to talk to her dog, reward her dog, loosen up and have some fun. Play with your dog.

Are you so busy doing stuff you “have to” do that you’ve forgotten to have some fun? When you look at your dog, do you think “oh, crap – he/she wants something again” or do you smile and think “I get to play with my dog now!”

It doesn’t have to take long and you don’t have to train anything. Just start rubbing your dog. Toss a toy, or wiggle it on the floor to play tug. Or get down on all fours and start laughing, just to see what your dog will do.

You need to play, too!

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!