Not all dog toys are created equal.
From their country of origin and the materials they’re made of, to the way dogs interact with them, the dog toy market is overflowing with options that range from phenomenal to potentially harmful. And don’t forget about the toys that look like winners to us that our dogs leave ignored in the toy basket. If you’re investing in quality dog toys, choosing the wrong one can be pretty frustrating.
With 18 years of dog training experience and six years as the owner of a dog supply shop, I’ve seen firsthand what works and what doesn’t. Much like the dogs I work with, I have passionate opinions about dog toys!
I care about how the toys stand up to canine abuse, how likely they are to keep pups constructively occupied, and to a lesser degree, how they look scattered on your floor. (The best dog toys marry form and function.)
The following are just some of the USA-made toys that have earned my seal of approval as well as two paws up from my canine customers. I call them “dog-tested, trainer-approved.”
Best Dog Interactive Toys
My favorite dog interactive toys give dogs a job, and for most dogs, the dream occupation is working for dog treats. Dogs need an outlet for their boundless energy, and toys that encourage them to settle down and focus on getting to the goodies help to channel their drive. Plus, busy toys can provide enrichment, which will help to mentally exhaust dogs of all ages.
- KONG Classic: KONG started the canine-enrichment revolution 40 years ago. This simple red rubber toy can be stuffed with a variety of goodies, from dog food kibbles to peanut butter, and will keep dogs of all sizes happily un-stuffing for hours. Monster chewers should enjoy the extra-tough KONG Extreme.
- West Paw Zogoflex Toppl: These creative dog treat toys are made of Zogoflex, a recyclable, BPA- and phthalate-free, FDA-compliant material that can withstand the toughest chewers. The Toppl comes in two sizes that fit together to create an interlocking puzzle toy that’ll confound and delight your canine genius.
- Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff strawberry: This busy toy combines entertainment and durability in an adorable package. The strawberry can be stuffed with kibble or other small treats so that your dog has to kick it around to dislodge the goodies. Larger dogs can get their veg on with the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff eggplant version.
Best Tug Toys
Once considered an outlaw’s game, tug-of-war is now recognized as a healthy way to burn off canine energy. But not all tug toys are created equal; ideal tug toys won’t fray or rip no matter how intense the game gets. Plus, you can’t forget about player comfort—my favorite tug toys are ergonomic and give both you and your pooch a safe spot to grip.
- GoughNuts TuG dog toy: Got a big dog with a big appetite for tug? The natural rubber GoughNuts tug toy stands up to intense rounds of fun and canine chompers that go along with the game. The figure-eight design gives your dog plenty of space to shake and pull while keeping your hand away from the action. Plus, this tough toy comes with a satisfaction guarantee, so it’s a risk-free way to have fun with your pup!
- Squishy Face Studio fleece tug dog toy: Some tug players prefer to bite on something soft, and this braided fleece toy mixes durability and comfort. You will appreciate the round handle end that allows you to hold the toy easily (and also gives you a grip advantage!), and your dog will love the fluttery end of the toy. An added benefit is that the fleece won’t fray.
Best Dog Fetch Toys
All of the toys previously mentioned can work as dog fetch toys, but I love the following options because they represent the traditional game of fetch—playing with a stick or a ball. These toys can withstand moderate to heavy chewers, but since fetching is more about the act of retrieving, durability shouldn’t be a primary concern. And all your dog will care about is how far you can toss it!
- Ruff Dawg Stick dog toy: Playing fetch with a real stick can be dangerous because of choking hazards, but a round of retrieving with a Ruff Dawg Stick (for bigger dogs) or Twig (for the little guys) is a safe and fun way to fetch. These toys are flexible, and they also float, so you can take your game to the beach or lake.
- Jolly Pets Tug-n-Toss dog toy: With an unpredictable bounce and a handle that’s perfect for canine carrying, these dog ball toys are sure to delight jaded tennis ball fetchers. Jolly’s toy balls come in a variety of sizes, which means that there’s one to fit for every dog, from a tiny tenacious terrier to a hulking hound.
No matter how tough a toy seems, remember that dogs can be creative chewers. Always supervise your dog with new toys until you’re confident that she can’t break off pieces.
Image via iStock.com/eldadcarin