Updated: March 1, 2021
Dogs love to play, and they will be happy with almost any dog toy you give them. That being said, not every toy is a winner. Some are just too small or too light, and some don’t make a lot of noise when they are moved around. So, how do you know which toys are best for your dog?
Just like children, dogs need toys to stimulate their minds and to keep them from getting bored. A bored dog becomes a destructive dog. The best toys are those that challenge them, but don't hurt them.
There's no denying dogs love playing. From fetching balls to chewing on a bone, they enjoy exploring new toys that allow them to use their natural instincts and get some exercise.
Some of the best dog toys are the ones that keep them stimulated and focused without having to spend too much energy.
We've put together a list of the best toys for dogs to help you make the best choice for your dog.
Daily Exercise with Dog Toys
When you think of dog toys, you probably think of chew bones and plush squeaky toys—maybe even some rubber balls. But did you know dog toys can also help your furry friend get exercise?
Dog toys can be a great way to stimulate your dog and help her get exercise. Daily exercise is part of helping to have a healthy dog to prevent becoming obese or developing illnesses.
There is an old saying that “a tired dog is a good dog." Dogs without exercise can become obese, disobedient, distractive and impossible to handle without proper mental stimulation and exercise.
Engaging in playtime with their favorite toys is a great way to bond with your dog. Not only do you as an owner benefit, but the dog benefits and helps them understand their place in the home.
Benefits of Rotating your Dog's Toys
Dogs love to play with their toys, but you may not be giving your canine companion the most out of his chew toys. If your dog has played with the same toy for months or even years, it’s time to rotate his belongings.
Squeaky toys are great fun for dogs and they love the challenge of hunting them down, but if they are the only toys you give your dog, they can get bored. Dogs need variety in their toy box, so they continue to be intrigued with their toys.
Rotate your dog's toys weekly by putting only four or five toys out at a time. Keep a range of dog toys on hand to rotate fresh toys. If a dog has a favorite toy, like a stuffed animal, let them have it all the time.
Provide toys you can use for multiple things. One toy to hold, one to kill, one to roll around with, and one to baby.
Dogs love playing hide and seek with their toys. Toys they can find are usually way more fun.
Playing with toys or treats on rainy days is a great way to have fun with your dog while burning a lot of energy. For example, putting your dog's food on the carpet or grass will require him to use his nose to find the food.
Dogs love interactive toys. Interactive time is really important for your dog, since he needs to interact with you.
When you do a specific task, like returning a ball, Kong, or Frisbee, or play hide and seek with treats or toys, your dog can burn off pent-up mental and physical energy in a short amount of time and space.
This reduces stress caused by confined spaces, isolation, and boredom. Interactive play is also a great way for young, high-energy and untrained pets to socialize and learn about appropriate and inappropriate behavior, like jumping up and mouthing.
Choosing the Best Type of Dog Toys
Many factors contribute to the safety or danger of a toy, and size, activity level, and preferences. Another thing to consider is where your dog spends their time.
The things that dogs love are usually the very ones that are dangerous. Remove string, rubber bands, children’s toys, pantyhose and other non-edible items that might be swallowed by your dog.
Be sure to buy toys of the right size for your dog. Too-small toys are easy for dogs to swallow or become lodged in their throat.
Supervise your dog playing with the squeaky toys: they may feel they need to find and destroy the source of the squeaks, which could lead them to ingest it if not watched.
Remove all ribbons, strings, eyes, and any other parts that could be chewed off and ingested. Throw away toys when they fall apart or are torn.
Rotate toys on a weekly basis. Although, if your pet's attached to a certain toy, don't take it away.
- Dog’s who are aggressive chewers will tear toys apart. These parts can become lodged in the mouth or throat. The small pieces can kill a pet if swallowed.
- Aggressive chewers should only have durable, hard rubber or nylon toys.
- Semi-aggressive chewers don't tear toys apart but chew enough to cause wear on a toy.
- Semi-aggressive chewers should have canvas, plush, fleece or rope toys. These toys are softer and don’t come apart.
- Non-aggressive or light chewers are less destructive and can have vinyl or latex toys.
Types of Dog Toys
When giving your pet a new toy, watch your pet with the toy. If he or she destroys the toy, take it away. The toy could come apart, and they could swallow the pieces choking on them.
You’ll want to purchase a toy which is harder and more durable.
- A variety of toys made of vinyl or latex, rubber or nylon, rope, plush or fleece, and canvas are available today.
- Toys made of a variety of material, are more durable than others.
Once you understand your dog's chewing habits and preferences, you can decide what type of toys best suit your dog.
Hard rubber toys like Nylabone® and Kong® come in many shapes and sizes. They're fun for dogs to chew and carry around.
Besides rope and woven toys, dogs often like chewing rope and woven toys that have a bone shape with knotted ends.
Tennis balls are great as a dog toy, but don't hold up to chewing very well. Get rid of chewed through tennis balls because they can become a choking hazard to your pets.
Kong® toys can keep a puppy or dog busy for hours, especially when filled with broken up treats.
The busy box, or "feeder-style" toy, is usually a large rubber cube that you can fill with treats. Your dogs can dig through the cube so they don't eat their food too quickly.
Dogs love soft stuffed toys. But they're not all right for every pup.
Some dogs like to carry around soft toys. If your dog sees their toy as a companion, pick one that’s small enough for your dog to carry.
Some dogs want to “kill” their toys, so make sure they're large enough not to swallow them and sturdy enough to withstand their attacks.
Old t-shirts, pillowcases, towels and blankets can be very comforting to a dog, especially if they smell like you!
Dog Toy Styles
Dogs love to play and chew. Dog toys are essential for all dogs, even those who play and chew more than others. In fact, dogs can develop behavior problems if they're not allowed to express their instincts.
New dog toys are always coming out, so it can be especially hard to choose. Some dogs end up with a pile of toys collecting dust because the toys owners chose do not interest their dogs.
How do you make sure your dog actually like the toys you pick?
Dogs like different toys based on how they play and chew. Try a few different toys and see what your dog likes to play with.
If your dog has too many toys out, put some away for a while, and then reintroduce them in the future. They'll think they're brand new months from now.
This list will help you choose the best toys for your dog.
Balls for Dogs
Balls are a must-have for any dog who loves to fetch. Ball’s come in lots of varieties, from the basic tennis ball to a rubber ball or glow-in-the-dark and flashing-light balls.
Many balls have squeakers inside. Others have holes to stuff with treats. Some balls are soft bouncers made to be retrieved when thrown.
When picking a ball for your dog, pick one that's large enough for him to carry, but small enough that his mouth can comfortably fit it. Tennis-ball size works for most dogs, but there are also extra-large balls for giant dogs and mini balls for little dogs.
However, don’t let your dog chew on tennis balls. Tennis balls can cause your dog’s teeth to wear down. Furthermore, chewed-off pieces can cause choking or gastrointestinal obstruction if swallowed.
Tip: Try the Chuckit to throw the ball farther and handle it without slobber.
Frisbee’s, and Other Retrieving Toys
Ball-loving dogs also love a frisbee and other flying type toys.
Frisbees are more versatile than balls for fetching because you can vary the speed of them and cause them to change direction. This variety will challenge your dog and prevent boredom.
Other retriever dogs, like the Hurley, give your dog a unique toy to fetch. Rubber, plastic, rope, or other materials for alternative fetch toys.
Plush Dog Toys
Plush toys are a big deal with dogs. They'll treat them like babies or tear them apart like prey.
Stuffed dog toys typically come with squeakers and stuffing. Dogs tear into them and stuffing gets all over the place.
Many dogs destroy the squeaker to “kill” their prey. Even after the toy is “dead,” they sometimes carry it around and shake it.
Keep your dog from swallowing stuffing or squeakers when playing with plush toys; it can lead to GI obstructions. These are stuffed toys, but they don't have any stuffing in them.
Plush toys won't last long with aggressive chewers, but they can still be fun. Plush toys can be extra tough, like Kong Ballistic.
Squeaky Dog Toys
There are tons of different squeaky toys. They're usually made of vinyl, rubber, or plastic. Durability varies, so choose wisely according to your dog’s chewing habits.
- Thick rubber is better for chewers.
- Thinner vinyl or plastic toys are best for mild chewers, or if you'll be supervising play.
The benefit of thinner, squeaky toys is that they're often cheap. The downside is that they rarely last very long.
Rope toys are made from braided rope and sometimes have rubber or plastic parts. They're great for fetch, tug-of-war, and just chewing. Rope toys aren't for every dog.
Be aware that some dogs can easily shred rope toys and may ingest pieces. This can cause serious digestive problems.
Never leave your dog playing with rope toys unattended. When your rope toy unravels, it's time to throw it out.
Many dogs like to play tug-of-war. It's good mental and physical exercise, plus it shows the dog's predatory side.
There are a bunch of tug toys on the market in various shapes, sizes, and materials. They make a lot of tug toys of rope and/or rubber.
Choose a tug toy that's comfortable for you to hold and tug on, and easy for your dog to chew and pull on. Tug toys should be tough enough to handle your dog's pull.
Replace worn or fraying tug toys before they break in the middle of a game of tug-of-war and hurt someone.
Dogs who love swimming love floating toys.
Floating balls, rings and other toys are usually made of a foam rubber or plastic material, making them very easy for your dog to find in the water.
It's normal for your dog to want to chew, even after teething. Chew toys for dogs make sure he chews on something safe and not your sofa or bed.
They come in a variety of shapes: sticks, ropes, bones, animal shapes, rings. Some dogs chew a lot, while others don't. These toys have different levels of durability to match your d’s chewing power.
These treat dispensing toys have treats in them. Fill them with your dog's favorite treat and watch him figure out how to get it. He'll spend hours getting to his kibble as he chews and twists the toy.
Puzzle toys challenge your dog's brain and help stimulate it. Toys can be physical or electronic, and they teach the dog coordination and help to develop his instincts.
Vinyl and Latex Toys
- Latex dog toys are good for non-aggressive light chewers.
- They come in all shapes and colors.
- Often available for seasonal themes.
- Many of these toys make a squeaking noise, which adds interest to the toy.
Rubber and Nylon Toys
Dental Health is crucial for a dog's overall health.
A good way to improve dental health is to invest in toys designed to help keep your dog's teeth clean while they are chewing and playing.
Poor dental health can lead to bad breath, abscesses, and even malnutrition. In addition to dental health, these are also best for more aggressive chewers.
They are durable, and some come with a hole in them, which adds interest for the dog when a treat inserted in the hole.
Semi-Aggressive Chewers Will Appreciate Rope Toys
- Toys made with either a nylon or cotton rope material are ideal for semi-aggressive chewers.
- These are good for dogs who love to play tug-of-war.
- They also have the added benefit of providing a flossing action helps with dental care.
Plush and Fleece Toys
- These soft toys are favorites for the dog likes to carry a toy around.
- Aggressive Chewers should avoid soft toys because of the stuffing inside, they often contain a "squeaker."
- If there are any tears in the toy, discard and replace with a new one.
- Toys made with canvas are washable and durable for even semi-aggressive chewers.
Final Thoughts on Dog Toys
My dog would choose every toy in the store or online if I left it up to her.
You know your dog's tendencies for chewing. Would your dog prefer a ball or a nylabone?
If you keep your dog's favorite toys in mind when picking out new ones, you can't go wrong.