How to Choose the Best Toys for Your Dog

No matter the age, breed, or size of your dog, playtime is important for maintaining physical and mental wellness. As pet parents, our dog’s playful spirit is one of the reasons we love them so much! To nurture this spirit as well as stimulate and fulfill natural instincts, toys are a great addition to any playtime routine. When choosing a new toy for your dog there are just a few things to consider.

How old is your dog?

Age won’t matter so much when it comes to choosing toys once your dog is a mature adult. But choosing toys for puppies requires some closer consideration.

How To Choose The Right Toys

While puppies still have baby teeth (up to about 3 months), softer rubber and plush toys are a great fit. Many puppies get tired quickly and love to have snuggly fabrics around to nap in after playing.

Once your puppy starts teething (from about 3-9 months), avoid rubber toys as he will be more likely to rip pieces off potentially eating them and presenting a choking hazard. During this phase you will want to have plenty of chew toys to go around! This alleviates some of the discomfort of teething and distracts your dog from chewing on less ideal household items.

After the teething phase has passed your dog’s teeth and jaws will now be harder and more mature. They will likely still have boundless energy and adore the fun of hard rubber toys, balls to fetch, and rope pulls. As dogs age into their senior years, it is important to encourage them to keep active through play. Be mindful to changes in tooth condition and jaw strength as your pet ages to ensure they do not overexert themselves or damage teeth while playing.

How big is your dog’s mouth and teeth?

Even once dogs reach adulthood they certainly vary greatly in size and body composition, and this should be taken into consideration when choosing a new toy.

Dog Teeth

Dogs with smaller jaws and teeth (like the chihuahua pictured left) will likely prefer softer toys such as plush or rope toys. A larger and/or stronger dog, however, may damage this type of fabric too easily and present themselves a choking hazard by ripping off and swallowing small pieces. Use your best judgment of your dog’s size and strength when choosing a new toy, and always replace damaged or broken toys for safety.

What types of play does your dog prefer?

Dog toys differ not only in size but also in function. To make the most out of playtime, get to know which types of play your dog loves the most and then provide them the toys which cater to those needs.

One of the most classic dog toys is a ball to play fetch! Most dogs love to play fetch (a favorite past time of my own beloved Jack Russell) and will catch on to the game after just a little bit of training. If this sounds like your dog, look around the toy aisle at the various types of balls available. There are numerous colors, materials, and sizes. Finding one that your pooch loves can do a lot for strengthening your bond as well as providing a great source of exercise.

Rope toys

Another classic and favorite toy for dogs is tug and rope toys. Most dogs will enjoy chewing these, throwing them in the air, and even playing tug-of-war. Be mindful though that tug-of-war should always be kept at a safe and non-aggressive level. Dogs should be properly socialized and trained with these toys from a young age to avoid any aggressive or unpleasant behavior around them in the future. Still, many pups adore these types of toys and prefer them over others. Tug toys come in fabrics such as fire hose, leather, linen, plush, or rope so be sure to find the one best suited to your pooch.

Some dogs just want to chew no matter how old they get. For a pup like this it is best to provide toys specific to this purpose.

Often toys made of hard rubber or nylon are built to last and durable enough to be chewed on even by the big guys. Some toys like these also have the option to put treats inside as an extra reward to your dog for all that playing. Toys like this are appropriate for dogs of all ages, but you may notice as your dog ages that the size or durability of the toys she needs can change as well. Making these small changes will encourage your dog to stay active and playful even into the senior years.

Plush toys are another immensely popular option and are loved by many dogs and pet parents. These are often most appropriate for young puppies as well as small breed dogs. Larger and more active dogs can easily shred plush toys and create an unsafe situation. But for the dogs that love them, plush toys can not only be fun but can also offer comfort for sleeping and snuggling which is just a bonus.

There are many options when it comes to choosing a toy for your dog. The surplus of options can even be overwhelming at times to the average pet parent. But keeping in mind some of the points discussed in this post, you can confidently walk the toy aisle in the pet store and know that you are making an informed decision. Playing is a natural instinct for dogs and is essential for the health of their minds and bodies. But perhaps even more importantly, playing with our dogs creates an even closer bond and allows us to spend time with our furry friends doing what they love to do! To run, to fetch, to chew, this is the life of a dog and I think we are all just a little bit jealous of that.


Ashley Gustafson

Instagram (@ashikiwoman)