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Karen Wild, animal behaviour expert, gives advice on buying a new toy for pets

Lots of my clients despair at the tons of dog and cat toys they have that lay in a box, untouched, after the initial burst, says Karen Wild, and animal behaviour expert.

Did you want to re-activate their interest?

Place the toy box out of reach for a week, just keeping down a few favourites. Each week, rotate the toys so that your dog or cat gets something that feels new and different?

Karen Wild
Karen Wild

Try to build a relationship with a toy (bear with me, I will explain)! If your pet learns that a specific toy leads to a really fun game, they will always respond when that toy appears. Keep it special and don’t leave it lying around. Produce it at playtime.

Smart dog owners will save a toy like this for a training reward, and for on walks so that their dog finds the item irresistible - and comes back every time for a special game.

If you are determined to buy new, why not get something that actually benefits your pet’s welfare in a more general sense? Pet cams for the home include remote control treat dispensers with microphones so that you can talk to your pet, so you can share all the office gossip… dogs and cats are great at keeping secrets.

Activity trackers can give you a clear idea of exactly what your pet is up to. These are a little large for cats, but some people find tiny ones for smaller dogs and cats too. Some of these will link to a phone app so you can see what needs to be worked on. Are they sleeping to a routine? Are they actually moving around enough (especially if they are a bit on the chubby side, or unfit generally).

Invest in their food. Good nutrition is a fundamental right, so don’t be stingy when it comes to what they eat. If you can afford a takeaway once a week, you can afford to spend on your pet’s food. I am certainly not going to tell you what to buy (this is a minefield of misinformation and commercial pressure) but your vet can definitely advise you. You need someone properly qualified in animal nutrition, not just someone who has ‘done their research’, so contact your vet for advice on who to talk to.

Enjoy the new ideas, and remember that all our pets are still animals that have a right to behave and be treated like the species that they are. Rest, food and water, exercise, social contact, safety, shelter… and to this I would add training dogs with rewards, not fear or yanking on their lead… we can always work harder to help them in all these areas.

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