Chase toys are toys that move freely so your pet can chase after them in an open space. Herding breeds particularly enjoy playing with these toys as they have the natural instinct to chase. These toys form an additional method of exercising your dog. This can be useful should you not have enough time to take them for long enough walks or provide exercise of the correct intensity. If, for example, you became injured and couldn’t walk as far as normal, these toys can provide a great alternative.
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Are there any materials for toys that I should avoid?
Ideally, you should avoid asking your dog to chase toys with fine strings or braided and frayable ropes attached to them. This is because chewing rope and strings can cause loose small bits of thread to become lodged within your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Swallowed bits of string can be extremely hard to find for your vet. This is because they do not show up clearly on X-rays but can cause sickness and diarrhoea for a prolonged period of time. Should this piece of string or rope remain in the intestine for a prolonged period of time, it can cause intussusception. This is where the intestine scrunches up in a specific area and requires surgery to correct.
You should avoid buying products with any loops on the rope. This is because it could cause your pet to become tangled (and potentially even strangle themselves) accidentally whilst playing. Equally, these loops could get hooked onto items causing your pet to get caught. This could lead to panic and yet again, lead to a disastrous situation.
Any spikes on the toy can be very dangerous. This is because whilst your pet is racing around, their ability to stop moving suddenly is reduced and they may spike their mouths.
Can any dog use a chase toy?
Whilst your dog does not need to be a herding breed in order to learn how to chase these toys, your pet should be physically fit. Many dogs can get carried away whilst playing with these toys which can lead to exhaustion.
Exhaustion is reached sooner in warmer weather so controlled exercise throughout the summer is vital. Equally, if the floor is slippy, please do not encourage your pet to suddenly change direction or race around as this is likely to cause soft tissue damage.
Other things to watch out for include general health. If your dog has a heart or lung problem, or seems to pant excessively, check with your vet. Also, do not exercise your pets vigorously if they are showing any signs of allergy; for example, runny eyes, sneezing, itching or redness. When pets suffer from allergies, they release histamine which commonly causes constriction of the airways.
If your pet suffers from osteoarthritis or any other musculoskeletal disease, please seek advice from your vet regarding exactly how much exercise they should be doing. For many animals with underlying disease, short and frequent, controlled exercise is key; which is different to the intense exercise commonly provided by chase toys.
How big should the chase toy be?
The toy should be large enough so that your pet can not swallow it. It should be at least twice the size of your pet’s mouth. So, if they jumped onto the toy whilst running at high speed, the toy would not be able to get lodged into their throat.
You should make sure the handle is long enough so that your pet will not accidentally bite your hand whilst trying to play with the toy.
Where should my pet use the chase toys?
Chase toys are best used in large, open spaces with enclosed boundaries.
If you are in a public space, you should be aware of other dogs in the area as they could be aggressive or possessive over their toys or owners. You should be aware of the traffic in the area. This is because if your pet gets carried away chasing their toy, they may lose awareness of traffic and danger.
Choosing a high quality toy is the most important point!
The toy needs to be robust and not break down into small pieces. The truth is, there are many different toys that work perfectly; you just need to know what you are looking for. You should perform regular checks on your pet’s toys to make sure they are not showing any signs of wear and tear. The slightest crack could become a sharp edge leading to injury.
We strongly advise that no matter how safe you feel your toy is and how fit your pet is, that you remain aware and supervise your pet whilst they play. Playful situations can become stressful and complex very quickly. But the sooner you are there to intervene and seek help, the better.