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CHOOSING FUN TOYS FOR YOUR OLDER DOG

Your dog can enjoy hours of fun playing with high-quality toys - and playtime can help him stay active as he ages. The right toys can even help clean your pet's teeth. So spice up your dog's life with plenty of play, and consider these issues as you fill his toy box.

Play Toys

Look for toys your dog can carry in his mouth easily, including rubber balls, nylon chew toys and noisemakers. Make sure each plaything isn't small enough for your dog to swallow or inhale. Also check for any rough edges that could cut his mouth during play.

Tasty Toys

Many dogs consider rawhide, pig ears, and cow hooves great delicacies. And while most dogs' tummies can tolerate these treats, some dogs who chew these snacks can end up with an upset stomach.

Keep an eye on your pet to be sure he's not swallowing large chunks of these treats. Or offer him newer, cornstarch-based edible chew toys instead. Dogs love them and they are completely digestible, which may make them a safer alternative if the others upset your dog's tummy.

Teeth-Cleaning Toys

Your best bets for tartar-fighting toys are hard-rubber chew toys with grooves or ridges. Although your pet still needs regular dental cleanings to prevent dental disease, such toys can help prevent plaque buildup.

Outdoor Toys

If you're a sports lover, a nylon Frisbee might make a great choice for you. The disc's flat edge makes an easy target and fits well in most dogs' mouths. Just remember that as your dog ages, he may not be able to jump and catch the disc as he used to. Be on the lookout for signs of fatigue as you play, and take plenty of breaks.

Your dog can also retrieve rubber balls, fleece toys, squeakers, or other noisemakers. But again, make sure your old pal doesn't get too worn out.

If your dog has hip dysplasia or arthritis, the jumping and running involved in playing Frisbee and fetch may be too strenuous or painful for him. Choose low-impact toys and exercises instead.

A playful game of tug can be a fun. Just don't play too rough - your dog's aging mouth may not tolerate hard pulls. Look for rubber tug toys and leather straps without rough edges. (You don't want the straps to snag on your pet's teeth.)

Keep in mind that you should only play tug-of-war with your dog if he has learned to release his toys on command. If your dog shows any aggressive tendencies, you may want to avoid playing tug-of-war with him as this may encourage his aggressive behavior.

Indoor Toys

Balls and tug toys make good playthings inside as well. And many fetch and tug games can be played in open spaces such as your living room or kitchen.

Try keeping your dogs toys in a basket or bin in a familiar location. Your furry friend will get used to looking in his toy box for things to chew and chase.

When to Toss the Toys

Over time, your pet's toys may come to resemble carnage from a horror film. Besides being unpleasant to touch, seriously worn-out toys can harbor germs. It's a good idea to replace worn out toys regularly, especially if they have been staying outdoors in the yard.

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