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posted: 12/2/2012 6:18 AM

Think safety when toy shopping for your dogs

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By Ellaine Kiriluk
The Buddy Beat

I'm making my list and checking it twice. In this case, it's my shopping list for the Christmas presents I'm going to buy this year.

I missed Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so I'll start my shopping now. At the top of my shopping list are the toys to buy for all the dogs in the family. We can all shop for Christmas presents for our dogs in the stores, from catalogs and online.

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The choices of what to buy for our canines for Christmas are seemingly endless. We can choose from collars, leashes, dog beds, clothing, treats and a huge variety of toys. There are pull toys made of fabric, rubber, and leather. Toys that float in the water and that talk.

There are stuffed animals from small to giant, with or without squeakers. And fuzzy stuffed animals and organic stuffed animals. There are round balls, oval balls, and balls you can stuff with food.

We buy our dogs toys to keep them happy, busy and healthy. The Humane Society of the United States notes toys are not a luxury but a necessity, because dogs will often play with anything available. I have a pair of flip flops with teeth marks that prove it.

Toys help keep dogs from getting bored when they are left alone and can help prevent problem behaviors from developing. We all want our dogs to be safe, so purchasing safe dog toys makes sense. When deciding what toys to buy your dog for the holidays, you may want to consider the HSUS guidelines when making your choices.

• Toys should be appropriate for your dog's size. Balls and other toys that are too small can be swallowed or lodged in your dog's throat.

• Toys with squeakers should be played with under supervision, as squeakers can be ingested.

• Toys should be "dog proofed" by removing ribbons, strings, eyes or other parts that could be chewed or ingested, or avoid these toys altogether. Discard toys that start to break into pieces or have pieces torn off.

Ask your veterinarian which rawhide toys are safe and which ones aren't.

Unless your veterinarian says otherwise, chewies like hooves, pig's ears and rawhides should only be played with under your supervision. Very hard rubber toys are safer and last longer.

Stuffed toys are always a popular dog toy. During this time of year, they come in all kinds of holiday shapes and sizes. Look for stuffed toys that are labeled safe for children younger than 3 and don't contain any dangerous fillings, including nutshells and polystyrene beads. Even safe stuffings are not truly digestible.

The HSUS divides its recommended toys into active toys, distraction toys and comfort toys. The active toys include very hard rubber toys such as Nylabone-type products and Kong-type products.

The HSUS list of distraction toys include Kong-type toys. The Kong-type toy should be an appropriate size for your dog. Common practice is to fill these toys with broken-up treats or a mixture of broken up treats and peanut butter, which, according to the HSUS, will keep a puppy or dog busy for hours. The HSUS recommends checking with your vet about giving peanut butter to your dog.

Comfort toys are soft stuffed toys, which for some dogs should be small enough to carry around. A towel or blanket, an old T-shirt or a pillowcase can be very comforting to your dog, especially if the item smells like you.

Since interactive play is very important for your dog, and such play enhances the bond between you and your pet, the HSUS suggests many of your dog's toys should be interactive.

By repeatedly retrieving a Frisbee or a ball, or playing hide and seek with treats or toys, dogs can use up pent-up mental and physical energy, reducing stress due to confinement, isolation and boredom.

Toys are important to our dogs, and so is the time we spend with them. So go play with your dog. It'll be fun for both of you.

Holiday Bazaar and Bake Sale

The Buddy Foundation is holding its Holiday Bazaar and Bake Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15, at The Buddy Foundation Shelter 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights. There will be gifts for pets, family and friends. Santa and Mrs. Claws will also be in attendance for family photos.

Adoptables

Flipps is a male cattle dog mix. He's around 7 years old and weighs about 59 pounds.

Lexi is a female cocker spaniel/Bichon Frise mix. She's about 10 years old and weighs about 29 pounds.

• Contact The Buddy Foundation at (847) 290-5806; visit us at 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights; or online at thebuddyfoundation.org.

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