By Sandy Robins

The gift-giving season starts early this year with eight days of Chanukah kicking off the delight of opening fun presents right at the beginning of the December. And, as more pet parents get on board with the idea of including their pets, this means lots of great new toys and treats for fur kids too.

But if dogs had an opportunity to choose their own toys, what fun stuff would they really, reallywant?

Recently, I did a non-scientific study in trying to determine what different dogs like best for play time. Manufacturers, including Worldwise Inc., who manufacture so many different types of toys, sent over boxes of their most popular ones. The play loot was divided up and presented to different dogs of different sizes and play styles to literally see what caught their attention.

The reason behind this little “experiment” was a discussion I’d had with pet parents who complained they often went and bought new toys and their pooch gave the gift an initial sniff, a half-hearted attempt at play and then it was immediately relegated to the toy box and never looked at again. And to add insult, some pooches even go back to playing with a ragged and worn and chewed favorite.

So, what is it that dogs, and, particularly, your dogreally likes to play with for hours on end? Well, here is the answer in a single sentence. It’s usually not the toy that you liked the most in the store! That cute and cuddly giraffe with a crinkly and squeaky tail that caught your eye, is not necessarily your pooch’s first choice.

To test this theory, I put out a selection of goDog toys for Riley that included a large orange goDog Furballz, a Crazy Tugs monkey that allows interactive play by tugging the legs, a Hear Doggy plush giraffe with an ultrasonic squeaker that only dogs can hear but remains silent as far as pet parents are concerned, and a cute, very colorful plush dragon. All the toys had squeakers and all were constructed with tough Chew Guard Technology™, for really rough and tough play. The selection offered differed degrees of stuffing – some were plump and some were floppy.

My choice was the dragon.  http://godogplush.com/products/dragons-20121030093249

It was colorful and its shape allowed for a dog to grab either the thick tummy section or the thinner part such as the tail. It had nice (annoying) squeakers. What’s not to love? In fact, lots of dogs do and I was convinced after much sniffing and nose-prodding it was going to be the toy of choice for the first game.

Wrong!

The winner was the large orange Furballz. http://godogplush.com/products/furballzShe picked it up and ran off with it in her mouth shaking it and then put it down and proceeded to roll it around, grabbing it again and taking off doing zoomies with it in her mouth.

Why would you choose a ball albeit a fuzzy one over a fun shape? Well, toy choices tap directly into your dog’s DNA – her innate characteristics such as prey drive will determine a favorite play thing. Riley is a mega mutt! She came from a high-kill shelter in Louisiana to San Diego where she was rescued and is now a beloved family member. So, we knew nothing about her.

A DNA test determined that she is in fact 62.5 per cent American Staffordshire terrier, 12.5 per cent Shih Tzu and the rest is undetermined working breeds. But this picture shows a high energy dog with terrier instincts. She loves to shake her “prey toy” and the fact that the ball rolls a short way just encourages her more to engage with it. And, because it was soft and fluffy, it was also a first choice at nap time. It was indeed the winner.

I also discovered that the Hear Doggy http://www.hear-doggy.com   giraffe with the silent squeaker kept her busy and engaged. But because I couldn’t hear and react to the noise, it changed the game a lot and she lost interest quicker because I lacked reactions!

When it came to action toys, again Riley prefers ball shapes over stick shapes and flat discs. The goDog Retrieval  http://www.godogretrieval.comline offers all the shapes in different sizes. Research has shown that dogs can see blue and yellow colors and this toy line has got this covered. So, whatever shape preferences your pooch has, you can be sure she will find a favorite.

If you have a toy gift “fail”, consider a gift exchange with friends with pets. And, if you find a favorite, stock up! Even the toughest toys don’t last forever.

DNA kits are a big trend this year for humans. Consider getting one for your dog or your cat too. Learning more about your fur kid is a great way of improving your relationship and enhancing that wonderful human-animal bond.

Happy howlidays!

About Sandy Robins: As one of the country’s leading multi-media pet lifestyle experts SANDY ROBINS documents the wonderful relationship that we have with our pets highlighting trends and innovative ideas as they happen.

Many dogs and cats have lifestyles that mirror their pet parents’ own lives. Nothing is too good for our fur kids. Consequently, the pet industry is a 60 billion dollar business – bigger than toys, candy and jewelry – and Sandy documents this industry every step of the way.