Does your pup need a new toy? Here’s our guide to the best dog toys, along with tips to help you choose for your pet.
Playtime can prevent problem behaviors, strengthen your bond, and keep your dog stimulated and happy. Dog toys can also be useful motivators and rewards during training.
There are hundreds of options on the market though – and not all of them are high-quality (or even safe!)
This guide will help you understand the various types of dog toys and how to choose one. I’ve also reviewed 12 of the best toys for dogs, to help you pick a fun option for your pet.
While every dog is an individual, there are certain things you should look for in any dog toy.
There’s no such thing as a truly ‘indestructible’ dog toy, but you want one that will last. It should have a strong exterior and no obvious weak points your dog can target.
High-quality, dense rubber toys tend to be the most durable. Selecting a trusted brand like Kong or West Paw, that are known for their durability, is a good bet. If the toy has been tested by breeds known for their strong jaws and chewing capabilities, this is also a good sign.
Fire hose dog toys have become a popular choice in recent years. Fire hose material isn’t as tough as dense rubber, but provides a softer alternative that’s stronger than a typical plush toy.
The fewer appendages a dog toy has, the less chance of your dog finding a target for aggressive chewing. Soft arms, ropes, and even decorations (such as buttons on a teddy) can all be weak points.
Plush toys are always less durable than rubber chews. Features like reinforced stitching and inner linings can increase durability though.
No dog toy is entirely risk-free, especially if your dog is left unsupervised. However, there are ways to minimize the risk.
Steer clear of plush options with beans for stuffing or hard appendages that can easily be chewed off (like glass eyes). Interior stuffing is never healthy for a dog to eat, even if the toy is non-toxic, so supervise your pet whenever he’s playing.
It’s not just soft dog toys that can be dangerous though. Rubber balls with a single air hole create strong suction that can trap the tongue and stop circulation. Hard plastic could also damage teeth.
If you know your dog is a destroyer, always select tougher options to minimize the chance of them chewing a piece off, creating a choking hazard.
Be aware of the risk of repetitive strain injury with the likes of ball-throwers, and don’t select things like lasers which your dog can become unhealthily fixated on.
Unlike children’s toys, there are minimal regulations relating to the production of dog products. Cheap dog toys, with unknown origins, may even be manufactured with toxic materials.
Dog toys made from malleable plastic, for example, often contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
These vinyl options don’t tend to be very robust, and it can be easy for your dog to break off and eat a piece. More seriously, they commonly contain chemicals that can be toxic to your dog. Things like Phthalates can cause organ damage and have even been shown to increase the chance of developing cancer.
Similarly, some tennis balls often contain traces of lead. This can lead to serious gastrointestinal and nervous system issues.
In 2007, there was a report released by Consumer Affairs which claimed that toxic lead, chromium, arsenic and cadmium were found in Chinese-sourced pet toys sold by WalMart. While some vets argued the quantities present were unlikely to present a serious health risk, selecting a toy with transparent material information makes sense.
Always do your research before buying a dog toy. At a minimum, find out where a toy is manufactured and what material it’s made from. If this information isn’t readily available, in my opinion, it’s best not to risk it.
Some dogs just won’t play with a dog toy if it doesn’t squeak.
This is common in breeds with a high prey drive, as the squeak is highly motivating for them. Other dogs just find the squeaking action to be self-soothing.
If your dog loves a squeaker, be aware that these toys tend to be less durable. You’ll need to supervise carefully, as the squeaker can present a choking hazard.
Squeakers can also cause your dog to become over-aroused, so short play sessions are best – for your sanity too!
Tip: Squeaky dog toys can also be used as a zero-calorie reward during training, although they are best avoided in a class environment.
It’s vital that a dog toy is easy to wash. Slobber or food can gather on rubber or soft materials, and, if they can’t be cleaned properly, can harbour unhygienic germs and bacteria.
Soft dog toys should be machine washable. This makes it easy to kill any bacteria that might be living on the toy.
Hard dog toys should be quick to wipe down or rinse. Those with lots of nooks and crannies can be difficult to clean, which is something to keep in mind when buying. Some rubber is dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning much easier.
Regardless of how durable a dog toy is, supervision is recommended. This allows you to intervene if there is a choking hazard, too much destruction, or your dog is becoming over-aroused. If a toy is showing any signs of damage, it’s best to replace them.
Don’t forget, while dog toys can be a fantastic additional source of stimulation and enrichment, they can’t replace daily exercise and attention.
The right toy for your dog depends on their size, age, preferences, intelligence and activity levels. Some dogs love soft and comforting toys, while others need interactive products to keep them engaged.
Dogs often need different types of toys as they grow up.
Ball throwers or frisbees are generally not recommended for puppies. As young dogs are still growing, too much intense or high impact exercise can cause damage to their soft bones and joints.
Young dogs also have a higher propensity towards chewing. You want to select materials that are tough, but not so hard they could damage their little teeth. Because their gums can be sore during the teething phase, selecting soothing textures or toys that can be frozen is often a good idea.
Once your dog has fully matured and has adult teeth, their strength could increase. If they continue to be an aggressive chewer, you may need to select something more robust than when they were just a pup. Heavy-duty rubber is nearly always the best option.
Your dog’s preferences may also change. They may not have such a high desire to chew, or could be more motivated by different things. Maybe your dog will develop a passion for playing fetch, or perhaps enjoy a game of tug.
If you have a senior dog with mobility issues, or one on restricted exercise, using brain training toys for your dog can be a great way to provide them with additional stimulation. Enrichment like this could even slow down the progress of cognitive aging.
Tip: If you’re adopting a new dog, you may need to experiment with various toys to find a favourite.
Picking the right size of dog toy is crucial. If it’s too small, the toy could become lodged in your dog’s throat. This is particularly dangerous when playing fetch with a ball. Small dog toys are also easier for the dog to destroy, as they can use the full force of their jaw muscles.
A toy that’s too big could mean your dog struggles to pick it up though. It could also be too heavy and uncomfortable for them to play with.
Don’t underestimate the power of a small dog’s jaws either. Just because they are little, doesn’t mean their teeth can’t cause damage.
Your dog’s natural drives can also influence the types of toys they’ll enjoy. Here are a few examples:
Of course, every dog is different. But you can often guess which toys a certain breed is likely to prefer.
Tip: Some dogs may be wary or even scared of toys. This is particularly common for rescue dogs, elderly dogs, or those that weren’t properly socialised as a puppy. To learn more, read our guide to why some dogs don’t like toys (and what to do about it.)
There are a variety of types of toys available. Here’s an overview of some of the most common examples:
Studies have shown that dogs are prone to ‘neophilia’ – a preference for new things. By having a variety of toys for your dog that you swap out regularly, you can keep your pet entertained and stimulated.
Here are 12 of the best dog toys on the market. Each is highly regarded for their durability, versatility and safety. Which type you select depends on your individual dog’s drives and chewing habits.
Nylabone are non-edible, bone-style toys, designed for dogs that love to chew. They come in a variety of shapes, densities, and textures, making them a favorite toy for many dogs.
The Power Chew has a beef flavouring to hold your dog’s interest, and the shape makes it easier for your dog to get a good grip. It comes in two sizes to suit all breed sizes.
While it isn’t completely indestructible, it’s pretty darn tough, and will generally hold up well against even aggressive chewers. There is minimal risk that your dog will be able to chew a piece off this toy, so it presents a lesser choking hazard than softer dog toys.
Nylabone chews are also easy to clean and can help with dental hygiene. They are also a good alternative to things like rawhide or other edible chews, which are more likely to cause tummy upsets or blockages.
There are a few drawbacks though. For some dogs, the lack of flexibility, bounce or squeaker means they won’t find it interesting.
Some veterinary dental specialists are not fans of these products. As they are made from hard nylon with little ‘give’, there is a small risk that they could cause a tooth fracture or chip. Other vets argue that dogs need chew toys and Nylabones are safer than alternatives, such as rawhide.
Even so, you should always supervise your dog with a Nylabone. If you have a power chewer that does manage to break a piece off, this could present a serious choking hazard. Also, if your dog is visibly damaging the bone in terms of chipping, replace it with a new one.
Note: The toughest Nylabone versions are not recommended for young dogs that still have their puppy teeth. There are puppy-specific versions that may be a better choice for them.‘
The Monster K9 Chew Toy is another option for aggressive chewers. It’s made from industrial-strength rubber material, making it one of the toughest dog toys on the market.
Unlike the Nylabone chew, the Monster K9 can be used for fetch or tug-of-war. This makes it a more versatile option, especially for human-dog playtime.
The ultra durable design means its heavy and doesn’t have much bounce though. This dog toy also has no squeaker and isn’t particularly interactive, so, unless your dog is a big chewer, you may want to opt for something more engaging.
While this is one of the more robust dog toys on the market, it still isn’t completely chew-proof, and power chewers could break pieces off if they’re determined enough. You shouldn’t leave your dog unsupervised with this if they’re an aggressive chewer.
If you have a furry friend who loves playing fetch, selecting a good dog ball is important. The Chuckit Ultra Dog Ball comes in four sizes and is much more durable than a traditional tennis ball, but still has great flexibility and bounce.
Being wipe-clean, you don’t need to worry about it getting clogged with slobber or muck. This makes it more hygienic and better for stuffing in your pocket too.
The flexible rubber is also much better for your dog’s teeth than the abrasive material of a traditional tennis ball. Dogs that regularly play with balls can suffer from blunting of their teeth, as a result of the tennis ball scouring them down, so this is a big advantage of the Chuckit.
Make sure you pick an appropriate size for your dog. If you go too small, there is a greater chance of your dog accidentally swallowing the ball or it getting stuck in their throat.
While these are very tough, they’re not designed to be chewed. If you have an aggressive chewer, it’s best not to leave them on their own with these balls unsupervised. For fetch, however, the Chuckit is a brilliant dog toy.
Note: If you’re playing fetch with a ball launcher, be careful not to overtire your pet. Games of fetch can be exciting for a dog, so they may continue beyond the point of safety. Some dogs also become obsessive when playing fetch
Kong are synonymous with high-quality and durable dog toys. The Kong Flyer, a frisbee for dogs, is no exception.
There are two rubber density options. Both are highly durable, but the red is more flexible and slightly softer. The black version is heavier, but stronger and designed to withstand attention from the most powerful jaws.
The Flyers are also available in two sizes and are wipe-clean. While they are primarily designed for fetch, they can make a strong dog toy for tug-of-war.
Because Kong Frisbees still have flex in them, they are less likely to cause teeth damage if caught mid-flight. The flex also means you can fold the frisbee into a pocket, so you don’t have to carry between play sessions.
Unlike Classic Kongs or the Goodie Bone, the Kong Flyer is not a chew toy. So, if you have an aggressive chewer, always supervise play with this toy.
These multi-knot dog rope toys from Mammoth come in several sizes and are made from a cotton blend. They are strong, durable, and the knots make it easy for your dog to grip.
Providing you teach your dog a release command and don’t allow the game to become too rough, playing tug with Mammoth ropes can be a great way to work on impulse control and bonding with your dog. Many dogs love tug-of-war – especially with toys that are easy to hold.
Another benefit is that the cotton blend provides a teeth-flossing effect during play. They are also heavy-duty and tightly woven, so will stand up to rough ragging.
Although cheaper than many rubber alternatives, rope dog toys aren’t as robust or suitable for power chewers. Keep an eye on your dog whenever he’s playing with rope, as cotton string can be dangerous if ingested.
When puppies go through the teething stage, it’s important to provide safe and suitable outlets for chewing. This can relieve discomfort caused by incoming new teeth, while satisfying a puppy’s natural urge to explore the environment using their mouth. Dog toys can also save your slippers or table legs!
This Petstages teething stick isn’t designed for aggressive chewers, but it’s great for puppies. It’s multi-textured, with knotted streamers, flags and ribbons attached to it, to hold your pup’s interest. It’s also flexible enough to prevent damage to your pup’s delicate teeth.
The toy can also be soaked and frozen. The cold temperature is great for soothing your puppy’s inflamed and sore gums.
It isn’t the biggest toy though, so it might not be the best choice for large breeds. Being made from a cotton and polyester fabric, it also isn’t the toughest. You’ll need to supervise your pup to make sure they don’t chew off and ingest any of the fabric appendages.
Tip: Want to learn more about toys for puppies? Click here to read our guide to the best puppy toys.
Soft dog toys are never going to withstand aggressive chewers. If, however, your dog enjoys soft squeakers, or just likes to carry a comforter, the goDog range is considerably tougher than the average soft dog toy.
The goDog Dragon, which is available in multiple sizes, has a tough liner and reinforced stitching to maximize the longevity of the toy. It has a squeaker to find, plus crinkly wings for additional enrichment.
You can also use it to play tug-of-war, provided your pet isn’t too rough. It’s machine washable for quick cleaning.
At the end of the day, however, this is still a soft toy. If your dog is determined to destroy it, they will – and quickly, if they’re a power chewer. The wings, tails and legs all make easy targets. These are best suited to dogs that prefer to ‘baby’ their toys rather than destroy them.
Dogs may try to eat clumps of stuffing if they manage to rip a hole in a toy. This can cause serious gastric issues that require veterinary intervention.
The Zippypaws Skinny Peltz is a great example of a soft toy that doesn’t contain any stuffing. This makes it safer for chewers. It comes in two sizes and has three squeakers to keep your dog entertained.
They are also surprisingly strong for a soft toy. Mild chewers probably won’t do much harm and they provide great value for money.
Unstuffed soft dog toys are not designed for power chewers though. The squeakers could still be dangerous if eaten, so it’s important to supervise your pet.
If you’re looking for a durable puzzle toy that can give your dog a mental challenge, then the Kong Wobbler is one of the best choices. It’s similar to an IQ treat ball, but with a “wobbling” design.
This large toy is weighted at the base, and it can be opened to put treats or kibble inside. Your dog then must learn to tip it over to allow the goodies to be released from a small treat hole. It comes in two sizes, meaning it’s suited to most breed types, except the tiniest toy breeds.
The Wobbler can also be used as a slow feeding option. If you have a dog who gobbles their dinner, the Wobbler will make mealtimes a more drawn-out affair.
As you would expect from Kong, it’s a durable and high-quality toy. Made from a heavy-weight food-grade polymer plastic, it can be separated and popped in the dishwasher to make cleaning easy. It’s also a simple toy, so there’s nothing for your dog to break off and swallow.
The Kong Wobbler might not be the perfect choice for nervous dogs though. It’s noisy when rolling around the floor or hitting furniture, plus it “wobbles” back towards the dog. While very tough, it isn’t indestructible and is best suited to supervised play.
Some dogs will need a bit of guidance to show them how it works, although it’s easier than some of the more complicated puzzle feeders. It’s also only suitable for dry kibble or treats. A Classic Kong is a better option for moist, home-cooked or raw food.
The PAW5 Snuffle Mat is the perfect way to encourage natural foraging behaviors in your dog. Harnessing a dog’s powerful sense of smell can really tire them out, so snuffle mats are great for mental enrichment. Studies have also shown that allowing your dog to put their nose to work can help them feel more optimistic.
The PAW5 mat contains lots of tightly-woven fabric lengths, designed to mimic long grass. Food or treats can be scattered throughout the mat, and your dog has to sniff them out.
This mat is a great option for slowing mealtimes. It’s suitable for dogs of all ages, sizes and mobility levels, making it one of the most versatile dog toys on the market. It’s also easy to wash, as you can just pop it in the washing machine.
The PAW5 isn’t a chew-proof toy for your though. You may need to supervise your dog to prevent them from getting too over-enthusiastic or pulling out the “grass.” It’s also relatively expensive, although I still think it’s worth the money.
The West Paw Zogoflex Rumpus is designed for power chewers. It’s made using non-toxic, FDA-compliant, recyclable and dishwasher safe material, and put through a rigorous testing process with tough canine product samplers.
The Rumpus is a solid, very durable and lobed toy that floats. It has a great bounce and can stand up to some pretty harsh treatment. It also comes in two sizes, so it works for most breed-types.
While it’s really durable, it isn’t completely indestructible when it comes to the most extreme chewers. It’s more than a match for most dogs though.
The downside is that it isn’t particularly interactive and you can’t stuff it with treats. For aggressive chewers, however, it’s one of the best dog toys.
The black Extreme range is the toughest in the Kong product line. It doesn’t have as much flex as their Classic red range, but for power chewers, it’s the most sensible choice.
The Extreme Goodie Bone, which is available in two sizes, has hollow ends on either side of the bone. These can be used to stuff chew sticks and appropriately-sized biscuits into.
Coming up with inventive and healthy stuffing can keep your dog more interested in the toy. You can even freeze moist food, such as peanut butter or banana, to increase the challenge.
This makes it a great option for keeping your dog more stimulated when they’re around the home. You can use it for crate training, for dogs on restricted exercise, or just to give your dog a bit of an extra mental stimulation.
It has a decent bounce too, although, unlike the Rumpus from West Paw, it doesn’t float.
Although the Kong Extreme range are widely regarded as some of the toughest on the market, as already mentioned, no toy is truly indestructible. If you have a super aggressive chewer, even this toy may bite the dust before too long. Most dogs are unlikely to break this toy though.
Toys may initially seem like a luxury, but they are essential for a dog’s well-being. Some of the main benefits include:
The key is to have a variety of toys that are rotated to keep them “fresh.” It’s also important to regularly inspect your dog’s toys for any signs of damage
Many dogs love playing, but others need a more sensitive approach – particularly rescue dogs with unknown backgrounds.
Dogs aren’t born knowing that a dog toy is fun and interactive. Many have no prior experience of toys, so might seem disinterested in playing. Some could even be worried by toys, particularly if the person is trying to vigorously play.
For dogs that seem unsure of toys or play (see our signs of stress article for signals to watch out for), here are some tips:
Note: If you have a blind or visually impaired dog, take a look at our guide to toys for canines with this disability.
Playtime is essential for a dog’s health and mental enrichment. Having a selection of toys for supervised play is a wonderful way to bond with your dog and improve his well-being.
The type of toy you choose for your dog will depend on his size, natural drives and chewing ability. You may need to experiment with a variety of toys to find the right option for your pet.
Do you have any questions about choosing the best dog toys? Or have I missed a toy that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments section below.