If you’ve ever walked in a pet store you’ve probably had that feeling – wow, look at all the great toys! How do I decide? If you have a strong, determined chewer, you’ve probably also sighed knowing you can strike most of the toys off your list if you want one that lasts longer than 5 minutes.
A good choice for playing tug and for teething puppies. Some dogs will toss these around and amuse themselves. My dogs like to sit down and snap all the treads, so I need to supervise and frequently inspect the toy for signs it is too damaged and needs to be replaced.
Available in a variety of styles – squeaky, tennis, chuck it etc. Some dogs LOVE playing ball and will fetch for hours. Others will look at you and wonder why you threw it away if you just want it back after all. One thing to watch out for is that some balls (such as tennis balls) can promote wearing of your dog’s teeth possibly due to the abrasiveness of the cover. I’ve had good luck with the balls made by West Paw, Kong also makes a ball in addition to their signature ice cream scoop shaped toys.
These toys come in a wide variety of shapes and materials. Some dogs will carry them around and treasure them for years, while others won’t rest until the squeaker has squeaked its last squeak. If your dog is likely to attempt to remove the squeaker from the toy, it is best to supervise any play with these toys and be prepared to trade your dog for the toy when it is time to remove the squeaker or replace the toy. There is a company making stuffing free fuzzy squeaky toys, and once my dogs remove the squeakers they will continue to play with these toys as tug objects.
Similar to squeaky toys in how dogs treat them, these toys may also include a squeaker. My boxer had a stuffed frog for years, but my beagles seem determined to eviscerate any stuffed toy as soon as possible. I have found that some of the tougher toys (thicker material, reinforced edges) may last a bit longer, but ultimately no toys in my house retain their stuffing. If I buy them, I buy them with the expectation that they won’t last long but my dogs will have fun!
Companies have noticed that some dogs like to pull things out of toys and have created what I think of as nesting toys – a main toy that comes with smaller toys that can be placed inside for the dog to remove. One on the market now consists of a stuffed tree stump and several little stuffed squirrels that you can put inside. I haven’t tried this toy with my dogs yet, but I have made a DIY version using a larger, round toy (stuffed ball) that they unstuffed through one hole and several smaller already de-sqeaked toys that I can put inside it. Tristan loves to pull all the smaller toys out.
Food Dispensing Toys
These toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes but all allow you to place food into the toy so that your dog can work to get it out. Some of them are meant to be pushed around the floor – dispensing treats as they move. I have an orange tricky treat ball that I can drop some kibble in. As the dogs push it with their nose, the kibble will fall out. I find that the material it is made out of is a bit softer than some other toys, so it isn’t as loud. I do need to watch my dogs as they learn how to use it and as it gets empty though or they may resort to trying to chew their way in. I’ve found a variety of food dispensing toys that my dogs use including: classic Kong, Kong Mike, (they chewed the end of the Kong Leo) West Paw Quizzel, West Paw Toppl and Squirrel Dude.
The first food puzzles that I encountered were made by Nina Ottason and they require the dog to manipulate the puzzle to reveal the food. There are now a wide variety of puzzles on the market to challenge your dog along with some DIY options. Snuffle mats (strips of fabric tied to a base) fall in this category, as does a muffin tin with food under tennis balls. Food Puzzles need to be used under supervision to avoid a dog taking a short cut and eating part of the puzzle!