Your local pet supply store presents you with literally hundreds of choices of toys that will entertain your dog—and probably you too. A look through any of the pet catalogs will give you even more options. But before you make your purchase decision based on the cuteness scale, take a few things into consideration to avoid some potentially serious problems.

• Don’t buy anything that will by itself fit inside your dog’s mouth. This includes tennis balls or other rubber balls which, astonishingly, dogs seem to swallow fairly easily. In fact, avoid any toy that has small parts. For the same reasons that you don’t give small children toys with buttons or plastic eyes, for example, assume your dog will pull those pieces off and swallow them.

• Avoid toys made of vinyl. A Newf can tear them apart easily, and the pieces that result are fairly large, still, and edible. Also, if the puppy chews on any hard plastic item, that can break resulting in injury to the mouth or soft palate.

• Remember that your puppy doesn’t understand the distinction between your old sneakers and the new athletic shoes you just paid $80.00 for. A shoe is a shoe to him. If you are going to give him shoes of any kind, make certain that the ones you care about are safely behind the closet door.

• You might also want to avoid toys that are the same or similar to objects that you might later use if you plan to do formal training with your dog. These include boat bumpers and dumbbells. Your dog should come to recognize these as working objects. You don’t want your dog lying down in the obedience ring and chewing his dumbbell!

What is safe? With the above caveat about small parts in mind, the larger plush toys are fine. Generally, latex toys, which often have cool squeakers, are easy for puppy to carry around pull on. Tug toys and Kongs are also popular and safe. Larger (than their mouths) balls will provide lots of enjoyment. And rubber toys, while they too can be demolished by adult Newfs with strong bites, are great for teething puppies to gnaw on.

Watch, too, for “toys” that your puppy chooses for himself: tree twigs and small branches that have fallen in your yard; flowers from your garden; and even stones from your driveway. Rocks and sticks are among the many items that have been surgically removed from puppies. Different puppies will respond to and play with toys differently. Keeping an eye on safety, just as you would with your children, is the key to having fun without problems.

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