A professional dog trainer is using her experience to warn owners against these three common things that could cause more harm than good and suggests some alternatives to help keep playful pooches safer.
A keen dog trainer since childhood, Colorado-born Jennifer Worswick, 26, founded Top Paw K9 Academy in 2018 after serving two deployments in the military and has found her bliss helping dogs and their owners cement happy, life-long relationships. She has four dogs of her own: a German shepherd named Riley, a Dutch shepherd named Athena, a Belgian Malinois named Dexter, and a Yorkie puppy named Raisin.
According to Ms. Worswick, who shares her tips on social media, contrary to popular belief, three of the most dangerous dog toys are three of the most common: tennis balls, rope toys, and cooked bones.
Tennis balls, or any ball that is "smaller than your dog's esophagus," can pose a threat if the dog jumps up to catch it. If the ball is slippery, it could get stuck in the dog's throat and cause an obstruction. Instead, Ms.Worswick recommends larger balls, preferably balls with holes in, and balls with texture on the outside that can also serve as chew toys and are less likely to slip down their throat.
"There's these balls with ropes attached to them. The ball has to be big enough for the dog's mouth, but that's a good one because it has the rope so you can play tug with it," Ms. Worswick told The Epoch Times.
The second common toy that Ms. Worswick considers to be dangerous is rope toys.
"When my German Shepherd was a puppy ... I was in the military, so she was at my friend's house when I would go to work. She got a hold of a rope toy. When they bite the rope pieces, they fall apart. She ingested it, and I had to take her to the emergency vet and pay $3,000 to cut her open and get it removed," Ms. Worswick said.
As an alternative to rope toys, Ms. Worswick instead recommends tug toys that are made of jute material, which is durable.
However, the most surprising and probably the biggest choking hazard of all, Ms. Worswick says, is ubiquitous cooked bone.
"When you cook a bone it makes them brittle, so they break when the dog chews them," the dog trainer said. "It can crack teeth. They can swallow big pieces whole, and it can cut the insides of their stomach, their intestines. ... Not only can it cause destruction, but it can cause a blockage in the intestines, which now requires multiple $1,000 surgeries."
The fix is simple: provide raw bones or bully sticks instead, she said.
"There is still the potential of cracking teeth if the dog is going really hard on the bone, so they should always be given one of these things under supervision," Ms. Worswick said.
To avoid providing the above most common items, she suggests alternatives instead. Some of the good toys include balls with ropes attached to them, but the balls, she insists, have to be big enough for the dog's mouth. Additionally, she also adds that really good toys are hard in texture but not so hard that they break their teeth.
"For the most part, really good play with the owner is important, whether that's with a ball, whether that's playing tug, whether that's using a tug toys, or whether that is just roughhousing with the owner [which] has to be done in a proper way where the dog enjoys it," Ms. Worswick said.
Through sharing her ideas, Ms. Worswick has an important message for owners: "My biggest thing is to be able to allow owners to get and keep dogs because we have so many people that get dogs and then realize they didn't know what they were in for," she said. "Then the dog ends up abandoned, or at a shelter, or sold, or in a home that it shouldn't be in."
She uses bespoke training schedules to help owners understand their dog's body language, biological needs, and likes and dislikes in order to strengthen their relationship and prevent surrender. Most challenging is "training the owner and getting the owner on board," but owners can help the process by researching the breed of their dog before committing to adopt.
Above all, for Ms. Worswick, Top Paw K9 Academy's success stories make her efforts worthwhile.
"I think the most rewarding aspect is being able to see where the dogs were, and where they got to with me, and seeing how happy the owners are when they see the progress," she said.
Here are some things you can consider giving your dog: