How to Choose the Right Toys for Your Dog

Written by Small Door's medical experts

While some may consider toys a luxury, they actually play an important role in maintaining your dog’s well being, providing much needed mental stimulation and helping to regulate behavior. There are hundreds of different types of dog toys on the market and it can be difficult to know which toys are best for your dog. Read on for our top tips to entertain your dog safely.

Why Do Dogs Need Toys?

Just as dogs need physical exercise from walks, they also need mental stimulation to stay fit, healthy and happy. Whether it’s chasing a ball, catching a frisbee, or attempting to get kibble out of a puzzle toy – mental concentration results in a tired, happy dog.

A dog who lacks stimulation (of either the physical or mental type) often ends up letting out their pent-up energy in an undesirable manner, such as chewing their owner’s socks or destroying a piece of furniture. This is why it’s so important to ensure your dog gets plenty of stimulation.

What Toys are Best for My Dog?

The type of toys that suit your dog best will depend greatly on their breed, temperament and habits. What’s fun for one dog may not interest another; and most importantly, certain types of toys may not be safe for some dogs (such as “aggressive chewers” who tend to rip apart and chew their toys to pieces).

We recommend not purchasing too many toys until you’ve learned your dog’s preferences and habits, to avoid wasting money on toys that will collect dust, or be ripped apart in seconds.

Types of Dog Toys to Consider

Chew toys: Dogs have a strong natural instinct to chew, and by giving them appropriate chew toys, you reduce the likelihood of your own items getting destroyed. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, then soft, stuffed toys are best avoided as the stuffing and/or squeaker can pose an obstruction risk if they swallow it and it becomes lodged in their intestines. Hard rubber or reinforced, tough nylon/fabric toys are better suited for these dogs:

Playtime toys: Some dogs love to chase things, so balls and frisbees are a good bet here. (If your dog is also a chewer, make sure you only bring these toys out during active playtime.) Dogs that love to chase and shake things will also often love these stuffing-free toys that are perfect for that ‘prey’ instinct:

Tug toys: If your dog loves to play tug-of-war, consider rope toys. Unless your pup is a big chewer, rope toys can be fairly durable, and some types may be machine washable. However if your dog likes to chew, rope toys are not recommended; your dog may ingest the rope, which can wrap around their intestines and cause serious harm. In this situation, consider a tough rubber tug toy, such as:

Comfort toys: Plush toys, squeaky toys and blankets may help to soothe and bring a sense of security to some dogs, particularly those who suffer from separation anxiety.

Interactive toys: Puzzle toys and feeders can provide great exercise and mental enrichment for dogs while being fun. Some of our recommendations include:

With regard to chews such as rawhide, bully sticks and artificial chews such as Nylabones, there are several points to note. The first is that very hard objects can wear away the tooth enamel over time, exposing sensitive nerve endings and causing discomfort for your animal, as well as a pathway for tooth infection. The second is that many bully sticks and pigs’ ears have been associated with recalls due to Salmonella sp contamination, which poses a health risk for both pets and humans alike. Lastly, there is a danger of pieces breaking off and being swallowed by your pet, posing a choking hazard or a blockage in the digestive tract – a serious health concern.

Alternative chew products we recommend are those that have been vetted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council as not damaging to teeth. Some of our favorites include:

Dogs love new things! Hide some of your dog’s toys in a cupboard for a few days, then bring them out to give your dog something new to play with.

Rotate Your Dog’s Toys

Just like children, dogs like new things. By rotating your dog’s toys, you can make the toys seem much more interesting! Stash some of your dog’s toys in a cupboard for a couple of days, and then swap them over to give your dog something new to play with.

Remove Damaged Toys ASAP

As soon as you notice any sort of damage on your dog’s toys, such as a ripped plush toy or a piece of rubber breaking off, you should take the toy away from your dog and dispose of it. Any size piece can pose a choking hazard, while sharp elements and bits of rope or ribbon can be particularly dangerous when it comes to intestinal punctures or blockages.

Speak to Your Vet for Further Advice

If you have a picky pup on your hands, or you’re concerned about the safety of any of your dog’s toys, speak to your vet for advice. They can provide further recommendations for how to keep your dog stimulated in a safe, healthy way.

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