• Dog Toys

What to look for (and avoid) in a dog toy

Plus the best chew toy, fetch toy and tug toy for your dog

Written by Dr. Steph Wenban

July 28, 2019

Shopping for dog toys is something of a lottery. 

As you stare at the selection of stuffed animals and bouncy balls, you have no way of knowing which ones your dog will love, which ones they’ll snub, and how long they’ll even last.

Here are some considerations to help you strike playtime gold.

1. Function

Dogs toys aren’t just colourful accessories designed to pass the time. A good toy will also serve a function - be it mental stimulation, physical exercise or the expression of natural behaviours. When picking out a toy for your best bud, stop to consider what kind of benefit it will have for them beyond simply providing a brief distraction.

2. Quality

Always opt for toys that are:

  • Non-toxic

  • Easily washable

  • Durable or, in the case of stuffed toys, double stitched

If you’re ever in doubt about the quality of a toy, check the packaging or on the manufacturer's website.

3. Your dog’s personal playing style

Just like they do with food, dogs have preferences when it comes to fun. Most of the time, they’ll skew towards one of the following play styles:

  • Chewing

  • Fetching

  • Tugging

Once you’ve worked out which playtime activity floats your pup’s boat, you can start curating their toy box to suit. But first, let’s bring you up to speed on what to look for, and what to avoid when shopping for your dog’s dream toy.

Chewers

Look for toys that are:

  • Made from rubber

  • Soft enough to dent with your thumbnail

  • Large enough not to be swallowed whole

  • Durable

  • Have no dangling appendages that could be choked on or chewed off and swallowed

Avoid toys that are:

  • Hard enough to cause tooth chips or fractures (like bones and antlers)

  • Filled with squeakers or stuffing that can leak out and accidentally be swallowed

  • Likely to reduce in size over time and end up becoming a choking hazard (like rawhide bones)

My top chew toy recommendation:

The KONG Classic.

There's a reason why these things are so popular. Or rather, several. Firstly, they're ultra durable, so the chance of your best bud tearing their way through one is next to naught. They're also made from soft, all natural rubber that won't damage your pup's teeth.

But the best bit of all... they dispense treats! Which means if you ever need to keep your dog occupied for long stretches at a time, the KONG Classic is your toy.

Quick tip: If you find that your dog is emptying their treat dispenser too quickly, try sealing the holes closed with a smear of peanut butter or cream cheese. 

 

Fetchers

Look for toys that are:

  • Made from soft rubber, foam or plastic that won’t damage your dog’s teeth

  • Designed to bounce. (This way, your pup will have a few more chances to catch it if they miss the initial throw).

Avoid toys that are:

  • So hard they could chip or fracture your dog’s teeth (like cricket balls or stones)

  • Coated in tennis ball material*

*Tennis balls should only be avoided if dog has a tendency to chew everything in sight. This is because the outer coating of tennis balls can be abrasive on teeth and wear enamel down over time. For non-chewers, tennis balls are perfectly fair game.

My top fetch toy recommendation:

The Chuckit Fetch Medley!

With the Chuckit Medley you get 3 of the my favourite fetch ball rolled into the one pack. You've got the Whistler (which whistles and sings whenever it's in flight), the Rebounce Ball (made from ultra buoyant recycled rubber), and the Max Glow (which glows in the dark at night time).

But my favourite thing about this trio is the fact that it pairs perfectly with one of my other go-to fetch toys: the Chuckit Ball Launcher. If you ever want to get some extra speed or distance on your throw, look no further than this lean mean chucking machine.

Tuggers

Look for toys that are:

  • Comfortable for both you and your dog to play with

  • Durable

If you notice your dog’s tug toys wearing away, be sure to replace them immediately. Any loose bits (especially loose bits of rope) can pose a choking hazard.

Avoid:

  • Rough play

When playing tug of war with your dog, avoid twisting actions or lifting them dog off the floor entirely, as this can lead to neck and spinal injuries. And if you have a puppy, keep things extra gentle. Tugging too hard can cause their baby teeth to snap or come out. 

My top tug toy recommendation

The Beco Hoop on a Rope.

Like all the toys in the Beco range, this one is made from all natural, non-toxic materials so if your pup every manages to swallow anything, they won't be at risk of getting sick.

That is a very big 'if' though. Like the Beco Chew Bone, the Hoop on a Rope is so sturdy that it comes backed by a lifetime guarantee.

The takeaway

Toys that enrich play and support mental, physical and wellbeing are essential for every dog’s development. But more important than anything is their safety. When you notice a toy has broken or begun to whittle away, always throw it out and replace it immediately.

Keeping your home clear of choking hazards means you can rest easy, while your pup plays hard.

There’s more…