When you welcome a new puppy to your family, you want them to feel safe, comfortable and at home. But it’s an adjustment for the little guy or girl, particularly if they spent the first few weeks of their life sleeping next to their mom and littermates. They may miss her smell and the sound of her heartbeat, something they were able to do in the womb, too.
To help their pet adjust, some pet parents may look into heartbeat toys.
“They are designed to feel like a heartbeat, so the puppy feels like they are close to mom or their littermates,” says Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, the in-house vet for DoggieDesigner.com.
But there haven’t been studies that say they actually help, and Dr. Woodnutt has some concerns that heartbeat toys may cause more harm than good. She shared the pros and cons of heartbeat toys for dogs and other ways to help your new pup feel at home more quickly.
What are the benefits of heartbeat toys for puppies?
Though there’s no scientific proof that heartbeat toys work for pups, anecdotally, they may.
“Puppies have been in the same house since they were born,” Dr. Woodnutt says. “They’ve been taken from their siblings, moms and the place they know all in the same day. The idea is…to give them some consistency.”
There are perks for pet parents, too: If the puppy isn’t crying at night, their parents will likely get more sleep, too.
Are there downsides to buying a heartbeat toy for your dog?
Dr. Woodnutt tends to steer clear of recommending heartbeat toys to pets, mainly because it’s a temporary solution.
“If you give the dog a toy and take it away, does it make separation anxiety worse?” Dr. Woodnutt wonders.
And not all of them are safe to leave with an unsupervised pup.
“Some contain batteries or heat packs,” Dr. Woodnutt says. “They aren’t suitable for chewing.”
Check the label to see if there are any safety warnings, and avoid leaving your puppy alone with battery-operated toys.
Other ways to make your new puppy feel safe
Dr. Woodnutt thinks one of the best ways to help your pet feel safe is to crate train properly.
“One thing I’ve always advocated is finding a breeder that is willing to try crate training before you bring them home…so when they get to the house, they are already used to it,” she says.
If you’re rescuing, that may not be an option. Start by putting the dog in the crate for short periods and giving them a treat so they associate it with a positive experience. Gradually increase the amount of time you leave them in the crate. At night, consider putting the crate in your room.
“That way, they can see and hear you, and you can hear them,” Dr. Woodnutt says.
How to wean your puppy from a heartbeat toy
If your pup is already using a heartbeat toy, it’s possible to wean from it.
“Do it slowly and help them become less dependent on it,” Dr. Woodnutt says.
Dr. Woodnutt suggests starting by taking it away during the day while you’re home (potentially on a weekend).
“Over time, take it away at night but still let them have it while you are away,” she says. “Build up to having them not having it at all.”