The Power of Toys

20180601_095959Dawn Harris founded the Benton County, TN nonprofit Tree of Life Education Center (focusing on community outreach and resource alignment for pet owners), Revelation Gardens (a dog and cat sanctuary), and Reset Your Defaults (offering virtual retreats and stress reduction tools for pet owners).

Simple Strategies for Living Life Well: The Power of Toys

By Dawn Harris

Our dog and cat sanctuary is home to rescue-pets from 9- weeks old to 16-years old. We see all kinds of pet behaviors including grief and aggression. Often when a rescue comes to live at the sanctuary, they are afraid but slowly they begin to build trust and become content and playful. It is so rewarding to see a rescue-pet that hid on their first day, learn to play with toys and snuggle up to nap with a new rescue-brother or sister.

Sometimes though, pets show behaviors that can be challenging especially when life is very full and the behaviors are destructive or aggressive. There are really great books and videos available that provide ideas on how to work with difficult behaviors. One simple strategy I found that works really well with my aggressive, dominating puppy dog is the use of toys.

When my rescue-pet puppy began to gnaw on her rescue-brother, I found myself unsure how to stop her. Through trial and error I found toys to be a very effective distraction and method of training. Now I am a firm believer in the power of toys!

It was important to find very durable toys because toys can be harmful if they are torn apart and ingested. Once I found durable toys, I gave both dogs a bunch of toys exclaiming how special they were that they had so many toys. By making a big deal out of the toys and speaking in an upbeat way, they associated the toys with feeling good.

I began to condition the aggressive puppy through consistent use of the key word TOY and the upbeat positive tone in which I spoke it and I provided lavish praise when she played with a toy. This coupled with her experience of comfort the toy provided when she chewed on it instilled in her a very positive experience with toys.

Over time when she became aggressive and began to dominate and gnaw on her rescue-brother, I used the keyword TOY and she would find a toy choosing to chew on it rather than him.

Even though this has been very effective, it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Sometimes even when I do all the right things, the outcome is not what I want or expect. So, what do we do when our best efforts don’t work the way we intend?

Stay tuned for more Simple Strategies for Living Life Well when I talk about letting go of expectations.

Until then, remember to purr often, wag without hesitation, and nap in the sun at every opportunity!


If you would like to use toys as a way to curb difficult pet behaviors but cannot afford them, or if you would like me to answer a pet related question, please email me at dawnharris.22@gmail.com

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If you are a store manager and would like to donate durable toys or if you are a community member interested in providing a donation, please send an email to dawnharris.22@gmail.com.

Our Weekly Paws: videos on a variety of topics related to pets!

Each Sunday at 2pm (CST) we sit down and talk about all things related to pets!


August 15, 2021

~national check the chip day~
The lustre of lost things
book review with angie tucker and joann abuchon-lane

August 8, 2021

~inernational cat day~
How Pets Have Impacted Us
facilitated by angie tucker
with special guests dawn harris and jan overbay

August 1, 2021

~dog-ust shelter birthdays~
kids and pets
Angie Tucker talks about ways kids and pets interact and learn from each other with special guests Daniel Watson and Mary Katherine Watson.

July 11, 2021

~all american pet photo day~
it takes a tribe
This week we discuss the topic It Takes a Tribe with Board Member and Secretary Angie Tucker along with Founder and President Dawn Overbay Harris and special guests Benton County Animal Shelter Board Member Deedra Finch and Director Joelle Costa.

July 4, 2021

~independence day~
who is revelation gardens
What is our impact, what are we doing and where are we going?

June 27, 2021

breed specific considerations
dawn harris facilitates a conversation with angie tucker
about breed specific considerations

June 13, 2021

Book review: The dogs who found me by ken foster
facilitated by angie tucker
with special guest joann aubuchon-lane
mp4 (video)
mp3 (audio)

June 6, 2021

the importance and rewards of fostering
angie tucker and dawn harris talk about the importance and rewards of fostering cats and dogs for revelation gardens
mp3 (audio)
mp4 (video)

May 30, 2021

pet care in the summer
facilitated by angie tucker
with dawn harris, founder & president of revelation gardens
mp4 (video)
mp3 (audio)

May 23, 2021

Ensuring your pet is cared for after you pass away
Facilitated by dawn harris
with special guest marcus noles, attorney
Mp4 (video)
mp3 (audio)

May 16, 2021

Animal welfare with bruce and rebecca griffey facilitated by angie tucker
mp4 (video)
MP3 (audio)

May 9, 2021

~Mother’s day~
what happens to our pet when they pass away?
Facilitated by Angie tucker
with special guest pastor steve whitworth
MP4 (Video)
MP3 (auido)

May 2, 2021

the book Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley will be discussed
If you’ve ever gone through the heartache of losing a pet, this book will share those emotions with you. It deals with grief, doubt, uncertainty, and acceptance.et health
facilitated by angie tucker
with special guest Joann AuBuchon Lane
MP4 (video)
MP3 (Audio)

April 25, 2021


April 18, 2021

~national pet day~
nutritional recipes for pets
WITH SPECIAL GUEST vickie harris

April 11, 2021

positive dog training
facilitated by angie tucker
with special guest kristi may, owner of legend acres
Mp4 (video)
mp3 (audio)

April 4, 2021

~easter sunday~
how volunteers save lives
facilitated by angie tucker
with special guest tabrea faulkner
mp4 (video)
mp3 (audio)

March 28, 2021

~Respect your cat day~
books with pets as a main character
facilitated by dawn harris
with special guest angie tucker
MP4 (video)
MP3 (audio)

March 21, 2021

indoor vs outdoor needs
facilitated by angie tucker
with special guest dr. elizabeth paschall, camden animal clinic
mp4 (video)
Mp3 (audio)

March 14, 2021

what to do if you find an animal in need
FACILITATED BY angie tucker
with SPECIAL GUEST Tracy chapman, director of the benton county animal shelter
MP4 (Video)
MP3 (audio)

March 7, 2021

the importance of spay/neuter and Strategies for introducing a new pet into the home
facilitated by angie tucker
with special guest angela jones, lead writer for The Camden Chronicle and
Dawn Harris, founder and president of revelation gardens
MP4 (video)
MP3 (audio)


August 22, 2021

~national take your cat to the vet day~

August 29, 2021


September 5, 2021

~labor day weekend~
bridging gaps to pet ownership

September 12, 2021

housing issues

September 19, 2021

~national meow like a pirate day~
trash talk

September 26, 2021

~World’s largest pet walk~
Bringing in a new pet to a household that already has pets

October 3, 2021

~National walk your dog week~
Books about pets

October 10, 2021

October 17, 2021

~National fetch day~

October 24, 2021

October 31, 2021


November 7, 2021

Winter temperatures and pets

November 14, 2021


November 21, 2021

Table scraps: dos and don’ts

November 28, 2021

December 5, 2021

~celebrate shelter pets day~
Holiday dangers for pets

December 12, 2021

December 19, 2021

December 26, 2021