SQUEAK! Why Do Dogs Like Squeaky Toys So Darn Much?

Dog with rubber chicken in its mouth

Sometimes it’s cute. Sometimes it’s mildly annoying. Sometimes it’s nothing short of migraine-inducing.

Squeak… squeak… squeak…

Not every dog likes squeaky toys, but the ones that do, seem to love them. In fact, some dogs will chew on a squeaky toy with single-minded determination until the squeaker gives out, only then losing interest. At that point, the owner has to decide whether to find a replacement squeaky toy insert, or just enjoy some peace and quiet.

So, why do (some) dogs like squeaky toys so much? Well, when it comes to dog behavior, there’s no such thing as an ironclad explanation. However, there are a few theories that stand above the others.

They Squeak Because of Instinct

The most popular notion is that dogs like squeaky toys because they appeal to a wild instinct to catch and kill small prey. A Jack Russell Terrier or Chihuahua may not bear much resemblance to a wolf, but they still harbor at least a hint of the so-called “prey drive” of their ancestors.

This explains why dogs tend to lose interest when the squeaker goes – the critter is dead, time to move on. Of course, some dogs are never satisfied until the toy is completely destroyed.

They Squeak Because They Can

A simpler explanation is that dogs like squeaky toys because, well, they squeak. In other words, they like the feedback of a sound coming from the toy when they bite on it. After all, isn’t a toy that does something better than a toy that does nothing?

The best support for this matter-of-fact interpretation is that plenty of dogs like toys that make noises other than high-pitched squeaks – they’re stimulated by the auditory feedback, even if it sounds nothing like a real prey animal.

They Squeak For Us

Finally, a dog’s predilection for squeaky toys could be – like many canine behaviors – something they develop through interactions with humans.

When you think about it, a squeaky toy is a powerful tool for getting something that dogs crave – the attention of a human. It may not always be good attention, but in the dog’s mind, that’s still better than no attention at all.

Try this experiment: Give your dog a toy with no squeaker, and lavish attention on her every time she picks it up. Bet that toy quickly becomes her favorite.

Seeing a dog go nuts on a squeaky toy is one of the pleasures of dog ownership. However, when a dog becomes obsessed with “killing” a squeaker or tearing up the toy itself, it might be time to take it away. It’s not unusual for dogs to swallow squeakers, which is something that could land Fido on the vet’s operating table.

Fortunately, most dogs don’t go to such extremes. For them, chewing on a squeaky toy is just a fun diversion – even if humans never understand why.