What Defines What Are The Best Toys For A Shih Tzu?
To understand what the best toys for a shih tzu are we need to know what a shih tzu actually needs from a toy.
It’s all too easy to build up a collection of toys for your shih tzu where most of them are redundant, totally ignored by your dog. However, you do need to experiment to find out what toys he really likes so it is almost inevitable that this will happen.
The answer to this problem is, once you have found the toys that your shih tzu likes, to have a clearout and pass the ignored ones onto a shelter.
Your shih tzu will need different toys to fulfil different needs and it is best to shop only for toys that will specifically meet these needs rather than randomly purchasing on impulse just because you like the look of something. This will go some way to preventing the build-up of a “toy mountain”.
What Does A Shih Tzu Need From A Toy?
There are a few different reasons why a shih tzu will require a toy and I will go through these one by one.
TOYS TO HELP WITH TEETHING
From the age of 3 to 4 months up to around 7 to 9 months, perhaps a little longer in some cases, a shih tzu puppy has a tough time as the 42 adult teeth push through and displace the 28 baby teeth. During this period he will experience great soreness and discomfort and will instinctively try to chew anything in an attempt to alleviate the pain.
Any toys you can provide to help with this will be most welcomed by your shih tzu and also by you as he will have something to chew on that isn’t your expensive shoe, purse or furniture.
Of course, he is only a puppy and you will, through positive reinforcement, have to teach him what are the correct items to chew and what are not to be chewed.
The most important quality a teething toy must have is durability. It must be able to resist a constant onslaught from strong, sharp teeth and attempts to rip it asunder. It must not fragment into small pieces that could become choking hazards.
Next is size, a teething toy must be the right size for your dog. It must be not so small that it could be swallowed and block the airway and it must not be so large that it cannot be gripped comfortably between the jaws.
Another essential quality of a teething toy is texture. Rather than be smooth all over it helps if there are different shapes and protrusions that can get into all of the crevices inside a dog’s mouth and between the teeth to soothe the gums. Rubber or plastic bones or balls with raised nubs are good for this, as are rope toys.
Some teething toys a flavored or scented with something like chicken or bacon to encourage your shih tzu to actually pick it up and chew it. If you have problems getting your puppy to use teething toys it may be worth a try buying one of these.
Toys that can be chilled or frozen can bring great relief to a puppy’s sore teeth and gums.
Finally, teething toys can become very dirty, coming into contact with doggy saliva and, especially if your puppy is not fully potty trained, urine and excrement, making it a playground for bacteria. So a teething toy needs to be easy to clean, perhaps even machine washable or dishwasher safe.
STRONGER CHEW TOYS FOR ADULT SHIH TZU
Just because your shih tzu has passed the puppy and teething stage, his urge to chew at times during the day does not disappear. This is a good thing as regular chewing keeps your dog’s jaws strong and his teeth and gums healthy, especially if you buy him toys designed for this.
Some dogs will chew out of boredom or stress and at times like this will often chew their paws. Providing and encouraging the use of chew toys rather than the paws can help with this.
Adult chew toys, faced with the prospect of stronger teeth bearing down upon them, need to be even more durable than teething toys but with enough “give” to allow the jaws, teeth and gums a good work out. As with the teething toys, they need to be the right size for your shih tzu’s mouth.
Interactive toys are designed to entertain or give your shih tzu something to think about, something to occupy his mind, keep him busy and prevent boredom especially at times when you are busy or not there with him.
These toys will stimulate a reaction through various means. Perhaps the toys will squeak, produce an animal noise or speak in a voice. Or it may move, either through inertia, i.e. as in a bouncing ball, or by electromechanical means, perhaps it will move along the floor, wiggling as it does so. Or, an interactive toy may keep a shih tzu interested just by having several different textures to explore.
Rubber or plastic balls with nubs protruding make great interactive toys. Some shih tzu learn to roll and chase them themselves, not only keeping them amused but providing good cardiovascular exercise, too.
GO FETCH TOYS
Speaking of cardiovascular exercise, this comes in abundance with toys designed for you to throw for your shih tzu to chase and retrieve. You can play indoors if you have enough space, somewhere like a hallway where your shih tzu can get a decent run, but it you go outside into the yard or the local park it can be good exercise for you as well.
If you are outdoors, perhaps you don’t need a toy, the traditional stick may suffice! Empty plastic bottles with the lid off so that they can collapse are a great favorite because of the noise they make and the change in texture.
Bouncy rubber balls are good, shih tzu love to chase the pitch of the ball and catch it before it lands again.
Frisbee like discs designed with the shape and durability suitable for a dog’s mouth are also good toys to play chase and catch with.
Playing fun fetch games with toys like this for as little as fifteen minutes a day can increase the bond between you and your shih tzu immensely. It also allows your shih tzu to fulfil the need to work off excess energy, something many of the breed will do by running around in an apparently mad, haphazard manner for a few minutes if they don’t get enough exercise.
LEARNING AND REWARD TOYS
Shih tzu are an intelligent breed that sometimes need something to focus their minds on to stop them becoming bored. Hence there is a great variety of learning toys on the market designed to make a dog think of how to solve a puzzle that usually will ultimately lead to a reward as an incentive to complete the puzzle. The reward may be something like a squeaky toy or it may be kibble or other treat. Generally, though this is not always the case, the puzzles that offer toy rewards are for you and your shih tzu to work on together and the treat toys are usually for keeping him amused when his in on his own and you are out for a while.
TIP: To make treat toys extra special, fill them with dry treats or kibble mixed with smooth peanut butter.
Learning toys come in various degrees of difficulty with the better ones having the ability to adjust the difficulty level. If your shih tzu isn’t used to puzzle toys, start him off on easy level 1 or level 2 and, as he gets used to how to complete them, work him up the levels one by one until he is able to complete the most difficult puzzles.
Among things a shih tzu may be called upon to do when playing with learning toys and to progress with the puzzle are to open flaps, reach into openings or crevices, remove covers, press buttons and switch levers.
The best treat toys will only release a part of the treat at a time which will encourage your shih tzu to continue playing with it and keep him occupied for some time. This is good for when you are busy with something else and can also help prevent separation anxiety when you are out of the home.
All toys need to be durable and easy to clean but this is more so with treat toys, especially if you are going to use the peanut butter mix. It also helps if they are dishwasher safe.
Comfort toys are basically soft toys that will help a new puppy through that difficult transition stage from parting the safety and warmth of his mother and litter siblings to moving into the initially strange surroundings of his new home for life. They will also help a shih tzu of any age that is left alone at times to get over any separation anxiety issues.
The better comfort toys will mimic an animal in some way, probably with the ability to make a noise of some sort. Some are really sophisticated and can emit a simulated heartbeat and even simulate body heat.
These toys are usually see a lot of life, will get dragged around the home a lot and perhaps even be used as a humping toy. Once your shih tzu gets attached to a comfort toy, you will never be able to dispose of it. So it is essential to buy the best quality you can for maximum life and durability; it must also be machine washable with the ability to remove any electronic components first.
Size is not such an issue with these toys as with all of the others but they still shouldn’t be so big and heavy that your shih tzu cannot move it around with his teeth.
The Bottom Line
Surveys show that most shih tzu owners buy their dogs rubber and plastic balls, rope toys, squeaky toys, soft toys and synthetic bones. The dogs themselves like toys that taste or smell of food, are chewable and make a noise.
Armed with this information and all of the previous information in this article, you should now have a reasonably good idea of what to shop for to build up your shih tzu’s toy basket and keep him happy.
If you have any thoughts or questions about this article, shih tzu issues in general or about this website, please use the comments box below or contact us.
Happy toy shopping,
Shih Tzu Steve.