Which dog toys are the best?
We are frequently asked this question in the shop. You could change the word best for other adjectives like strongest, most durable, toughest, indestructible etc. The qualities of the toy are certainly a factor in determining ‘the best’ dog toy. However they are not the only factor. It is important to consider the dog you are buying the toy for. Their physical size. Jaw strength. Tenacity and temperament. In addition, different dogs will have their own preferences when it comes to toys. You can buy the fanciest nylon chew bone for them but if they prefer a rope toy, you may have wasted your money! You, as the dog’s owner or long term care giver will know the dog best. Keep this in mind when looking at the myriad of dog toys available.
Choices, Choices, Choices….
We normally stock over 700 dog toys in the shop. That’s enough to keep any dog happy for a long time, whatever their preference! The fact is though, you don’t live in a pet shop. Moreover, you probably don’t want to be spending thousands of pounds on dog toys! Therefore I thought it may help to give some general guidance on the different types of dog toys available. I think dog toys can be loosely divided into the following categories:
- Rubber toys
- Nylon toys
- Soft toys
- Rope toys
- Latex toys
- Board games
- Fetch toys
Rubber Dog Toys
When most people think of rubber toys, there is one name that I think sits above the rest in terms of popularity. That name is KONG. Easily recognisable from their rounded, cone/snowman shaped red toy – the Classic Kong. Launched in the 1970s, the Classic Kong is based on a suspension part from a Volkswagen Bus. The founder of KONG was working on the bus and his dog got a hold of that part to play with. The rest as they say is history! 45 years later and it is now widely regarded as the best known dog toy in the world!
Rubber toys are popular for dogs that like to chew. The rubber can move with their jaw motion and absorb some of the chewing energy whilst staying intact, to a point. Some dogs are more powerful chewers than others. With this in mind, KONG launched their Extreme range, made of black rubber. Extreme KONGs, whilst not indestructible do tend to be more durable then the Classic red KONG. Many rubber toys can be stuffed with food, treats or paste like peanut butter. This can encourage chewing. To prolong their entertainment these toys can then be frozen. In the case of young dogs or puppies, the frozen treats can help soothe dental pain from teething. The chewing action on rubber can also help with dental hygiene.
Nylon Dog Toys
Nylon dog toys are popular for dogs that have strong chewing tendencies and powerful jaws! Rubber toys as mentioned above are good to a point. However there does come a time when a dog might need something more solid to chew on. Nylon toys, of which the most common brand in the shop is Nylabone, offer a very hard, normally bone shaped chew made of nylon. The toy will often be impregnated with a flavour. The flavour is activated through heat generated by chewing as well as the dog’s saliva.
The surface of Nylon toys are often made to be ridged or knobbly. This textured surface gives the dog something to literally get their teeth into. These ridges/groves/bumps will rub up against the teeth and can help remove some plaque. Nylon toys will gradually wear down over time. Tiny pieces of nylon will come off the toy as it is chewed. These tiny pieces are harmless and if swallowed will pass through the dog and come out with their poo. Nylon toys can come in a variety of flavours, shapes and sizes. I think they probably offer the best value in terms of longevity and value for money. Assuming of course your dog likes to chew on a nylon toy!
Soft Dog Toys
I think the best example of a soft toy for a dog is a good old fashioned teddy bear. That is basically what a dog soft toy is. A sort of teddy bear but usually with the addition of a squeaker or 3! Of course, soft toys can come in a variety of shapes and size. From balls to bears. Ducks to elephants! The common factor is that they are soft and squidgy. In addition, they normally have an amount of fabric stuffing. However stuffing free dog toys are also popular.
With this in mind it is worth pointing out that soft and squidgy doesn’t really make for a super strong and durable toy! So if you have a dog with powerful jaws that likes to chew hard and tear at their toys, a soft toy may disappoint. Soft dog toys are usually stitched together. Stitching means there will be seams. Seams can be a both a point of weakness. Furthermore they may also may provide a lip for a dog to get their teeth under.
Looks can be deceiving!
Even the roughest and toughest of dogs can have a soft side! Some of the dogs I have had over the years enjoyed proudly carrying their soft toy around the house like a prize! They would often cuddle up with their soft toy and lick it lovingly. Never showing any inclination to destroy or damage it. Conversely I have also had dainty and delicate dogs that can destroy a soft dog toy in a matter of seconds!
Needless to say, those dogs did not get another soft toy. They were given more durable toys which better suited their chewing style. When it comes to soft dog toys, common sense should prevail. A soft dog toy is by it’s nature, soft. You wouldn’t give a dog a pillow as a chew toy unless you wanted it destroyed. The same applies to toys. If they have form for annihilating soft toys, stick to the more durable types listed above. It will be safer for your dog and mean a lot less mess in your house!
Rope Dog Toys
Rope dog toys have been popular for generations. Many are made of cotton, a readily available, natural fibre. No matter how thick or thin the rope, it will be made up of tiny strands of material bound together. This collection of fibres when chewed will start to split and separate. As this happens, the dog’s teeth will penetrate deep into the rope with the fibres rubbing against the teeth in a similar fashion to dental floss. So that is a definite tick for dental health!
However with continued chewing, strands of the material can separate from the rope toy. In some cases they can be swallowed by the dog. This is not good as the rope strands can in some incidences cause an intestinal blockage. Or at the very least, provide you with a long, stringy poo the following day! But don’t worry, if you have had this happen or are concerned it might, there is an alternative in the form of Hemp.
Hemp is another natural fibre but with one key difference. Unlike cotton, hemp is a short strand fibre. This means that any strands of hemp that come away from the rope toy are short. Therefore the risks are significantly reduced. As the strands are short, normally only an inch or two long, they are much less likely to get wrapped up in the gut. As a result they can very easily pass through your dog’s digestive system. So if you want to give your dog a rope toy to chew, I would very much recommend hemp toys over cotton toys.
Latex Dog Toys
To many, the words latex dog toy conjure up an image of a squeaky, chicken shaped or pig shaped dog toy. Generally with no stuffing, only a squeaker. They can provide hours of entertainment for the dog and hours of annoyance for the owner if you are trying to watch you favourite TV show! Although they are soft, the latex itself is quite durable. I wouldn’t call them a tough, long lasting toy for a powerful chewer but they can certainly take a good bit of chomping on! Often the appendages are the first to go with repeated chewing; ears, arms, tails etc. Remember to make sure your dog does not eat the squeaker!
Dog Board Games
As crazy as it sounds, dogs love a board game! Not Scrabble or Monopoly though. We stock a number of different, dog specific board games in the shop. Available in 3 different levels, Easy, Medium and Hard. Effectively they are hide and seek games. The board will have various compartments for you to hide small but smelly treats in. The dog then has to figure out how to open the compartments. It could be a drawer. A box with a hinged lid. An upside down cup over a treat etc. Often you will need to show the dog how to open each compartment. Gradually they will learn how to do it themselves. This provides great mental stimulation and offers a satisfying treat as a reward!
A word of caution though. If you have an impatient dog, you may find that they want to destroy the board game to get at the treats as quickly as possible! Therefore this game is best played under supervision.
Whilst on the topic of board games, it is worth remembering that feeding time can also be a time for your dog to play. If you have a dog that eats their food very quickly, a slow feeding bowl can be a good ‘toy’. Slow feeding bowls often require a dog to think about how to get the food. So although they are not actually a game, feeding from a slow feeding bowl can be a rewarding activity for your dog.
Dog Fetch Toys
The most popular fetch toy would be the simple tennis ball. You throw it and the your dog chases it, picks it up and hopefully brings it back to you! As there is a limit to how far we as humans can throw a ball, many companies have produced ‘ball launchers’. These are long, flexible sticks with a tennis ball shaped cup at one end. As a result they serve a dual purpose. The cup allows you to get the ball off the ground without having to bend down to it. The flexible stick provides a whipping action to catapult the ball further then you could probably throw it.
Other popular fetch toys are training dummies. These are often a canvas bag you put treats into. However they can also be made of rubber or even nylon. Balls on a rope and frisbees are popular as well. Anything you can throw that the dog is able to pick up and return to you falls into this category. Remember, if a toy is designed for fetch play, it is not necessarily going to withstand continued chewing. As a result, if you have a dog that chews anything it picks it, look for the most durable type of fetch toy. A simple tennis ball may not suffice!
With such a wide range of toys available today, there should be a toy for every dog! That said, it is worth keeping a few things in mind when you are looking for a new dog toy:
NO TOY IS INDESTRUCTIBLE
As much as many packets might suggest otherwise, I firmly believe (based on years of experience) that given enough time and inclination, a dog will get through pretty much anything! Similarly, if a toy truly was indestructible and your dog continued to chew it, their teeth could start to wear away. As a crazy as it sounds, I have seem this many times in dogs that chew tennis balls continually. This is due to the material used on the surface of the ball.
BUY THE RIGHT SIZE TOY FOR YOUR SIZE OF DOG
If you have a 55kg Rottweiler, don’t buy a small sized Nylabone. Firstly, it won’t last but more importantly, the dog could try swallow it whole and choke. Conversely, a Pomeranian will not thank you for buying an XL chew toy that it cannot get it’s mouth around. Though on the plus side, this toy probably WOULD last forever!
BUY THE RIGHT TYPE OF TOY FOR YOUR DOG
If you have a dog or puppy, establish which toys work best for them. Buy one of each type of toy and see which one they engage with most. However, if the popular toy is a soft toy they tear to shreds, it may be worth avoiding these due to choking hazards. You may find they really like rubber dog toys and leave rope toys or vice-versa. For young puppies, look for puppy teething toys. They can help soothe sore teeth and gums.
PROVIDE A SELECTION OF TOYS AT DIFFERENT TIMES
Many owners have dog toy boxes to store toys safely. These are a great idea as you can control the amount of toys available at any one time. As a result, producing a toy from the box that the dog has not played with for a while creates a novelty. This novelty factor stimulates interest, enthusiasm and ultimately satisfaction. If all the toys were left out the dog could become bored of all the toys. As a result they may start chewing other things like skirting boards or chair legs! You could have different toys in different rooms as well. In addition you could have car toys to keep them occupied whilst travelling.
Be aware, squeakers can be a choking hazard. Generally found in softer toys, the squeaker emits a high pitched noise that can excite your dog. However sometimes this excitement can cause some dogs to destroy the toy to expose the squeaker. Consequently, the squeaker may be swallowed and cause a choking hazard or blockage. As a result, if you think your dog is likely to do this, do not buy soft, squeaky toys. Or if you do, only let your dog play with them under supervision.
To see some of the wide range of dog toys we stock, click here: https://thepetexperience.co.uk/dog-toys/
Read more on chewing behaviour from our friends at the Blue Cross: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/pet-advice/how-control-dogs-chewing