How to Choose the Best Toys for Your Dog
Are you in the market for a new dog toy but overwhelmed with all the options out there? We hear you, we do. With so many dog toys available today, it’s easy to find yourself utterly baffled in the aisles of your local pet boutique. Plus, what if you buy something Fido has zero interest in? There’s nothing more disappointing than a dog who prefers to play with a ratty pair of socks over the latest canine gadget you just threw 30 bucks at.
The thing is, different toys suit different dogs. When it comes to dog toys, you’ll need to consider your pup’s age, breed, personality, energy level, and chewing habits.
*****. Chew toys. Peanut butter-filled Kongs. Timeless classics (we’re looking at you, squeaky teddy bear) or trending up-and-comers (have you seen these pet fitness robots? Wild.) Whatever your pup’s preference, we’re here to help you narrow down your hunt for the perfect dog toy.
But first, let’s explore why your dog needs toys in the first place.
How do toys benefit my dog?
Toys are more than just amusing novelties—they provide the stimulation your dog needs to stay mentally sharp and engaged. Without adequate mental stimulation, a frustrated and bored dog may resort to undesirable behaviors like chewing the LazyBoy cushions or yowling non-stop. Nobody wants an unhappy pooch with poor manners. As such, toys are a necessity, not a luxury.
Interactive dog toys alleviate boredom, promote weight management, and relieve stress. They’re also a good way to promote bonding and can help ease separation anxiety.
Sold? Us too. Now that we’re clear on the importance of dog toys, let’s dig into some canine favorites.
***** and Retrieval Toys
Ah, the quintessential dog toy. If your dog is especially fond of fetch, a glow-in-the-dark ball means you can get in a game right before bedtime. Have an eager chewer? Choose a ball that can stand up to the abuse. Kong ***** are durable and should be able to withstand the most aggressive chompers.
Be sure to choose a ball that’s the right size for your pupper. It should be small enough to fit comfortably in your dog’s mouth and large enough that it doesn’t become a choking hazard. Tennis ***** work for most dogs, but keep in mind they aren’t particularly durable.
For the less athletic among us, Chuck-Its are a great way to extend your throw. They’re fun to use, and your dog will be able to clock in more steps.
Frisbee is another canine classic. You can’t go wrong with this sturdy Kong flying disc, which should be able to endure some major chewing.
Not all chew toys are created equal. And since chewing is just a natural part of being a dog, you’ll want to provide your pup with some quality chews that can hold up under pressure.
When it comes to chewies, size matters. Too small, and you’ve got a choking hazard on your hands. Too large, and your dog may find it uncomfortable to chew. Take note of your dog’s chewing style as well. Is she an aggressive chewer or more of a dainty nibbler? The former would benefit from a tough and sturdy chew toy, while the latter could get by with something softer.
What about rawhides? Safe or off-limits? Vetstreet has this to say: “it depends on the individual dog.” Heavy-duty chewers who inhale their food should steer clear, as they can break off choking-size chunks during a chewing frenzy. Contamination is also of concern. If the rawhide was processed under less stringent protocols, it could contain trace amounts of toxic chemicals or be contaminated with Salmonella or E. coli.
Even so, many dog owners think the benefits of rawhides outweigh the risks. As PetMD points out, rawhides help your dog maintain his dental hygiene by removing plaque and tartar buildup. They can also strengthen your dog’s jaw.
Plush Dog Toys
Is there anything cuter than a dog snuggled up to her favorite plushie? We think not. However, adorable though they are, stuffed toys usually have a short lifespan. Since active chewers can tear apart a stuffed teddy in minutes, it’s not a bad idea to supervise your dog with plush toys. You know, to avoid a living room filled with stuffing entrails.
Opt for toys made specifically for dogs without any plastic pieces or ribbons that could be tempting to your undiscerning pooch.
Puzzle Feeders and Treat-Dispensing Dog Toys
Give your dog’s brain a workout with a challenging puzzle toy that will test his wits and determination. Puzzle feeders are a great way to keep your dog’s cognitive skills up to par while channeling his energy in a positive way.
The built-in reward system of treat-dispensing toys makes them a hit with most dogs. As your dog tries to figure out how to access the treats inside, he’ll be flexing his mental muscles—and he’ll have fun doing it!
Rope Toys and Tug-of-War Toys
Maybe your dog is into a little competitive tug-of-war. If so, braided rope toys are sure to please. These popular dog toys are great for chewing, playing fetch, or boisterous games of tug-of-war.
If your dog is a heavyweight, choose a tug toy that can hold up to his strong pulling. It should be comfortable for you to hold in your hands and for your dog to grip with his teeth. Once your dog’s rope has reached the end of its days (ie: it’s a frayed and worn-out pile of threads), it’s time to toss it. Loose strands can wreak havoc on your dog’s digestive system if they’re swallowed.
Some dogs can’t get enough of the water. If this sounds like your pup, he would surely appreciate some floating toys to spice up pool time. Look for toys made specifically for this purpose, to ensure they won’t sink or fill up with water. And always, always rinse them after playtime to prevent mold from developing.
Crush canine boredom with a monthly pet subscription box
Want to take the guesswork out of things? It doesn’t get easier than signing up for a monthly pet subscription box. These popular pet delivery services ship regular parcels to your pooch, filled with high-quality items hand-picked by industry experts. Some offer healthy, organic treats and others donate a portion of their proceeds to dog rescues. And they can save you money too!
Intrigued? Check out the ever-popular BarkBox, which offers customized goody boxes, or Pet Treater, which has a “toys only” option for subscribers.
Additional dog toy tips
Here are a few more tips to keep your dog safe and happy with his new toys.
1. Get the right size
It’s simple: large dogs need larger toys, and small dogs need smaller toys. Toys that are too teeny can become lodged in your dog’s throat, and toys that are too large…well, those are no fun at all.
Your chewy labrador, for instance, should avoid toys with itty-bitty pieces that could break off and be swallowed. A teeny chihuahua, on the other hand, needs a toy that’s small enough for him to carry around with ease.
2. Recognize potential choking hazards
Be careful with damaged toys, or toys with tiny pieces that a strong chewer could break off.
3. Supervise playtime with new toys
If you’ve just gifted your dog a new chew toy, observe how he handles it before leaving him to his own devices. This way you can determine whether or not the toy is safe for your dog—or if you need to find an alternative.
4. Discard old, broken toys
Damaged toys are dangerous toys, as they can cause choking or other intestinal complications. Dog toys aren’t meant to last forever. When they begin to break down after heavy use, it’s time to say goodbye.
5. Rotate your dog’s toy once a week
To boost the longevity of your dog’s toys, The Humane Society of The United States recommends rotating them on a weekly basis. This has the added benefit of keeping things fresh and exciting for your furry friend.
A dog just isn’t the same without his toys. Does your four-legged pal have a favorite? We want to hear all about it!