The Best Dog Toys to Keep Dogs Busy

When dogs don’t have opportunities to play, they can get bored or frustrated and begin to exhibit problem behaviors, such as chewing, digging, or anxiety. One way to help prevent this is to provide fun and safe dog toys. Dogs who have their own toys are less likely to use children’s toys or other household items, such as your favorite shoes, as playthings. Dogs need a lot of toys, generally speaking, because they can get bored with the same old thing. So it's best to offer a variety of items that are appropriate for the size, strength, activity level, and interest of your dog.

Here are some tips to help you pick the best dog toys — and the safest dog toys — for your pup. 

Finding the best dog toys

It’s ideal to let your dog only play with toys that are designed for dogs. This will help your dog learn what they’re allowed to play with and what’s off-limits. If you let your dog play with old shoes or socks, for example, they might be more likely to play with your new shoes and favorite socks. Also, dog toys are meant to withstand the wear and tear of canine play, though some dogs will have fun destroying just about anything — even dog toys that come with indestructibility claims.

There’s no single perfect toy that will keep a dog busy. It depends on the individual dog’s preferences, and even then your dog will likely need different types of toys to keep them engaged mentally and physically. Look for toys with different textures, tastes, and features (such as various squeaker sounds).  

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Here are some of the best dog toys that many dogs tend to like the most:

  • Balls: Rubber balls and tennis balls are often favorite fetch toys. However, never throw them hard and fast for your dog to catch; they can become lodged in the back of a dog’s mouth. Select balls that are appropriate for your dog’s size; for example, if your dog is extra large, use balls that are larger than tennis balls. Also, note that while some dogs like to chase rocks, you shouldn’t use rocks as fetch toys because they can wear down and even break your dog’s teeth.
  • Items for chewing: If your dog loves chewing, try offering bully sticks or rawhide chips. Always monitor your dog when they’re chewing. Some dogs are so enthusiastic that they swallow without chewing enough, which can cause choking. Nylabones, Kongs, and similar dog toys are also great for chewing. Nylabones come in a variety of sizes and flavors. Kong toys, which come in a variety of shapes, can be stuffed with treats and even frozen to make the treat last longer.
  • Puzzle toys: Puzzle toys are entertaining, safe dog toys that can keep your pup occupied for a while. You put kibble and/or treats in the toy, and the dog has to work on the toy to get the food to fall out. Examples of puzzle toys are Buster Cube, Busy Buddy, and Kong Wobble, but there are lots of others. Always supervise closely when your dog is working with a plastic puzzle toy to make sure they don’t chew the plastic or get their teeth stuck in any part of the toy.

To get the most fun out of dog toys, swap out a few every week or so — and for even more fun, get a toy box! While dogs can benefit from swapping the toy supply regularly, having them dig through a toy box to pick out their favorite toy can also be a fun activity to keep the staleness of toys away. Also, play hide-and-seek with toys. At first, you might need to teach your dog to look in the box, but most dogs love the game once they get the idea. Furthermore, if you have a place in the yard where digging is encouraged (a dirt box, for instance), you can bury toys there for your dog to find. And don’t forget good old-fashioned fetch and Frisbee playing with your dog.

Remember, every dog has their own idea of what’s fun. You might find that your dog won’t touch one toy but spends hours with another. If your dog doesn’t like the first toy you give them, don’t give up. Try some other types of dog toys, and play different games with them. Play shouldn’t be forced; it should be a stress-relieving, fun bonding activity between you and your dog. Be aware that not every dog will play with a toy unless a person is engaging in play with them. So they may not hate the toy, they just need you to make it fun. 

Making sure you have safe dog toys

Always thoroughly check out items to make sure you have the safest dog toys for your pup. Avoid toys with pieces that can be easily removed, such as stuffed animals with ribbons, plastic eyes, small appendages, and other parts that can be chewed off (and potentially swallowed). Check what the stuffing is made of, too. Avoid anything with plastic beads or sharp pieces of nut shells that your dog could ingest.  

For safety, observe how your dog likes to play with toys. For example, some dogs love soft plush toys and will keep a soft toy forever without “killing” it (ripping it apart). Other dogs will gleefully destroy soft toys; this is natural behavior, and it’s all part of the fun. However, it can be dangerous if parts of a toy are ingested or become lodged in the dog’s mouth or throat. For instance, wood and plastic can become lodged in gum tissue, causing painful injuries and infections that require medical attention. And if ingested, toy parts can create blockages in the dog’s intestines that might require surgery.

Always supervise your dog with any new toy until you are confident that it is safe. Plus, check all toys periodically for wear and tear, and discard any toys that become unsafe. 

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