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 it be said 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 counselor 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.
"They 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, "lower-pitched noises and growls are more likely to indicate something like 'Stop that!' or 'Get off my territory!'," she adds.
3. Senior dogs can still play.
"When dogs lose their hearing, they often lose the ability to hear lower sounds first. So a toy with high noises can still appeal to them, even if the dog is older," Becker says. Squeaky dog toys might also register with dogs who are hearing impaired.
So Dogs Like Squeaky Toys—But Are They Safe?
Generally, squeaky dog toys are safe for most pets, as long as they're not so little that they 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:
Many search and rescue dogs are adept at not only nose work but also trained to react or not react to certain sounds. You can do this with your hesitant doggo, too, with positive reinforcement clicker training.