Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys? An Animal Behaviorist Explains What Your Pup Is Hoping to Achieve
Most dog owners know this scene well: a fluffy pup at our feet, chomping endlessly on a noisy toy nestled between their paws. Squeeeeeky-squeaky-squeaky!
In full pet parent confession, we might have even—dare we say it out loud?—secretly removed the squeaker a time or two.
Why do dogs like squeaky toys anyway? We asked Mikkel Becker, KPA CTP, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CDBC, a dog behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free, about how our canine pals respond to certain stimuli.
3 Reasons Why Dogs Like Squeaky Toys
Just as your pooch has an amazing sniffer (100–300 million scent receptors compared to a human's 5–6 million), his hearing is exceptional as well. According to First Vet:
- Dogs have 18 muscles in their ears, which gives them the ability to reposition their ears in various ways to triangulate sounds. We only have six … and ours barely move at all!
- They also "hear independently with each ear." We, um, can't do that, either.
- Canines possess the ability to concentrate on something specific by filtering out other sounds. Yeah, also not an option for humans without earbuds.
- Our pups detect frequencies with a maximum sensitivity of 8,000 Hz, while humans only pick up on 2,000 Hz. Which is often why they know someone's at the door before we do!
Becker says it's only natural for many of our furry four-legged friends to be attracted to squeaky dog toys. Why? She provides three reasons.
1. Responding to squeaky toy sounds is instinctual.
"[Squeaky toys] make a very high-pitched noise that sounds like prey that's dying or injured, which appeals to dogs' hunting instincts," Becker says. Wolves and wild dogs had to find dinner somehow, and their acute hearing alerted them to the shrills and cheeps of rodents scurrying about.
2. Squeaky equals happy.
Becker says higher-pitched sounds are usually more pleasant and friendly, and these sounds invite the dog to come close. On the other hand, she says that "lower-pitched noises and growls are more likely to indicate something like 'Stop that!' or 'Get off my territory!'"
3. Dogs of any age find certain noises appealing.
Many dogs gradually lose their hearing as they age, typically starting with sounds at moderate to high frequencies, but that doesn't mean squeaky toys have to lose their appeal. Since high-pitched tones may be harder for older dogs to hear, try toys with different sounds to see which interest your aging dog the most. The good news is that some squeaky dog toys can even register with dogs who have hearing issues!
So Dogs Like Squeaky Toys—But Are They Safe?
Generally, squeaky dog toys are safe for most pets, as long as the toys aren't so little that the pet can ingest them. "If they're tearing them up, make sure you intervene before the pieces are small enough to swallow," Becker says.
And yes, she adds, some dogs do destroy these playthings to try to 'kill' the squeaker. "It can be anxiety-provoking for some dogs if they can't kill the squeak. They become frustrated and keep trying over and over again," she says. "[For example], a terrier, which is bred to chase and take down other animals, might be more likely to try to tear up these toys."
Since dogs have different personalities and play styles, Becker recommends that you take note of your dog's body language and what they're communicating to you during play about how they're feeling.
"Understanding and assessing their emotional wellbeing is important. Make sure you're not punishing them for acting on their natural doggy instincts and tearing up or throwing around the squeaky toy," she says. "If it becomes disruptive, give a different toy instead."
Is Your Dog Afraid of Squeaky Toys?
While some dogs love squeaky toys, others are annoyed or even frightened by them. They might even cry or howl at the slightest peep. Becker says the solutions are simple.
"The easiest thing would be to not buy squeaky toys if they scare one of your dogs," she says. "You can certainly try pairing a squeaker with treats to try easing the fear, but there are so many other options for toys to entertain your furry friends!" Additionally, if you have a puppy, she suggests socializing them with various toys starting at an early age so they become accustomed to all kinds, including squeaky ones. Even if you have multiple dogs, you can certainly make sure each has a toy box of their specific favorites. (Buy more doggie goodies? Totally not a problem.)
Here are some of Becker's recommendations:
- Kong Wobbler "gives them a puzzle to solve for food and provides enrichment." Here are some Kong snack hacks that make every pooch happy. Also a winner? A snuffle mat!
- Snuggle Puppy "helps dogs with fear and anxiety." It has a heating pad and a 'real feel' heartbeat.
- Kong Jumbler Ball "for dogs that really like to chew, this one is harder for them to destroy."
- Hush Plush On/Off Squeaker Shark Toy "is a real help for human companions who get tired of the constant squeaking." Whew!
Every dog is an individual. The best way to find out what works for your dog is to get a variety of toys and see what makes your dog happy. The list above is a great place to start!