Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys So Much?

Written by Katie Begley
Updated: May 16, 2022
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Canines are natural hunters in the wild. They can track their prey, pounce on them, and ultimately enjoy the rewards of a tasty meal. Pet dogs have the same instincts but their reward is often a squeaker toy, a tasty treat, and a well-deserved pat on the head. Why do dogs love squeaky toys so much? This behavior is rooted in their natural instincts as hunters. Read on to learn more about how to encourage your dog’s development and enrichment with squeaky toys, as well as which ones we love. We also cover alternatives for dogs that just aren’t into the squeakers.

What Are Squeaky Toys?

While a pretty loose definition, a squeaky dog toy is any toy that makes noise when they bite down or chew on it. The noise is often a squeak that sounds when air is pushed through the toy. These squeakers are concealed inside a toy that can be plush, rubber, or a tougher chew item like a rope. The toy should be pliable enough for your dog to bite down and actually depress the squeaker. Otherwise, it won’t make any noise at all! That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good toy, just that it doesn’t serve the same function as a true squeaky toy.

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Your Dog’s Natural Hunter Instinct

Dogs are made to hunt down prey for food and to protect themselves and their pups. When they hunt smaller animals, dogs catch them and use their teeth to get to the meat and organs inside. While gruesome, it is a normal part of a dog’s instincts and is the result of many, many years of life in the wild. When dogs started to become domesticated, the need to hunt decreased. Humans began to care for dogs, providing both food and protection. These instincts never went away, however, and are a part of a dog’s normal behavior no matter how many treats they get from their owners.

Some dogs, such as hounds, terriers, and retrievers are bred to have stronger hunting and retrieval instincts. These dogs are often used in sports and as hunting companions. Remember that hunting safely with a dog requires training for both the dog and the owner.

Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys So Much?

A dog’s natural hunter instincts are not needed to find food in most cases so they have to display this behavior in other ways. That’s where a squeaky toy comes in.

Dogs can pounce on the toy, just like they would a small animal in the wild. Once the toy is “captured,” your dog will likely chew and paw at it in an attempt to get to the squeaky noise inside. This mimics getting to the meat and organs inside a small animal meal in the wild.

The actual squeaking sound is also appealing to dogs. In the wild, animals that have been caught will often make high-pitched sounds of pain and fear. This feedback to the dog tells them that they have caught their prey. The squeaking sound from a squeaky toy does the same thing.

Should I Let My Dog Play With Squeaky Toys?

Yes! Squeaky toys are great for your dog’s development and will often keep their interest longer than other toys. Consider these factors when deciding whether or not to introduce a squeaky toy to your pup.

Safety

If your dog likes squeaky toys, chances are at some point they will get to the squeaker inside the toy. While this is completely normal and healthy behavior, swallowing the squeaker is not. Make sure to watch your dog closely once they start to tear into the toy. If you see stuffing flying or pieces of rubber being torn from the toy, do your best to take it and replace it with one that is intact. The last thing that you want is a costly and scary vet visit because your dog ate the squeaker from inside the toy.

Noise Sensitivity

Squeaky toys make noise. It is part of their appeal to dogs. While not loud or booming, even the small squeaker noise can trigger some dogs. If you know that your dog is sensitive to noises or they have some sort of trauma in their past, keep a close eye on them when you introduce a squeaky toy. Your presence nearby can be reassuring. It will also help them as they get comfortable with their new toy.

Crying

Some dogs start to cry or whimper when playing with squeaky toys. This behavior isn’t a problem. In fact, it likely signals that your dog is protective of the toy. In the wild, dogs may exhibit this behavior to signal to other dogs that this prey is theirs. Signs of distress to watch for include shaking, pacing, hiding, and other visible signs of distress. If your dog is crying and doesn’t want to interact with the toy, it may mean that they are stressed and it’s time to try a different toy or activity.

Do Squeaky Toys Make Dogs Aggressive?

Squeaky toys allow dogs to exercise their natural instincts and engage in healthy canine behavior. While most dogs know and understand the difference between safe playing (chewing squeaky toys) and unsafe behavior (biting or attacking other pets or small children), it can be a good idea to reinforce this when you introduce a squeaky toy.

Squeaky toys will not make an otherwise unaggressive dog into an aggressive hunter. But keeping in mind that all dogs have these instincts, training and reinforcement are the two best tools to make sure that your dog is safe.

If your dog does have aggressive tendencies, you can still use a squeaky toy. It might even help them get some of their aggression out in a safe way. Just make sure that you introduce the toy and set strict boundaries around how they interact with it. Reinforce to your dog that they can chew the toy (safe) but not other animals (unsafe). Watch your dog for any unsafe behavior and intervene immediately. You may even want to keep the toy in a separate area, such as a kennel or outdoor dog pen.

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Which Squeaky Toys Are Good For My Dog?

There is an almost endless supply of great squeaky toys out there for dogs. Because so many dogs love them, new ones are constantly hitting the market.

Basic squeaky toys. These toys are pretty simple but they do the job. Often made of thick rubber or plush animals like squirrels or chipmunks, these toys are cost-effective and a great value for plenty of hours of fun.

Novelty squeaky toys. Need some stocking stuffers for your dog? A holiday-themed squeaky toy is perfect. Ready to hit the beach for summer fun? Get your pup their very own popsicle-shaped squeaker toy. These are often a little bit less durable but can still last for plenty of play through the season.

Durable squeaky toys. If you have a dog who goes to town on squeaky toys (and others), you will likely want something that can withstand some extra enthusiastic chewing. Toys for aggressive chewers have even thicker exteriors and make it that much harder for them to get to the squeaker inside.

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What Should I Do If My Dog Hates Squeaky Toys?

Every dog is different and some just don’t get excited about squeaky toys. This isn’t a sign of concern unless your dog is displaying other signs of distress. Not liking squeaky toys can range from disinterest to aversion. You can still help your dog connect with its inner hunter by trying out other play options.

Treat Toys

Just like many dogs like to chew and paw at the toy to get at the squeaker inside, dogs also love to get treats as a result of their hard work. Toys that have hollow openings for treats or food are a great option.

Tug-of-War Play

In the wild, dogs often had to wrestle or tug to get their prey. Tug-of-war toys such as pull ropes simulate this behavior. It can also be a great way to connect with your dog.

Chasing Toys

Dogs who love to run will be happy to exercise their hunter muscles chasing down wayward “prey.” Dog toys for fetch can be balls or other toys that can be thrown. Just make sure that you have plenty of space for your dog to take off after the toy. Dogs can also be trained to bring the toy back to you, resulting in hours of fun and bonding.

Where Should I Keep A Dog Squeaky Toy?

If you do want to give your dog a squeaky toy, you can keep it around your home if you are confident that your dog will not destroy it and you don’t mind their toys taking up floor space. This is a great way to have the toy available for your dog when they need that kind of stimulation.

Dog toy boxes and dog toy baskets are both great for those who have less space or just want to keep things tidy. Dogs can be trained to return their toys to the toy box as well.

If you are worried that your dog will chew through the outer part of the toy and get to the squeaker inside, it’s best to keep the toy out of reach so that you can keep an eye on them while they play with it. This is also a good idea if the toy is starting to show some wear and your dog can easily get to the parts inside.

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches Creative Writing at Indian Creek School and was awarded an Author Fellowship to Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She also enjoys spending time with her three kids and cat.

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