Dog Toys. No shortage of choices out there on the market, almost all available in sizes for small dogs, medium dogs, and large dogs. Our dogs are well past their puppy years and have chosen two types of favorites now (rope and ball), but as puppies and over the years we’ve done like most pet parents and have tried a bit of everything. In our family, our dogs also get them as gifts from their aunts, uncles, and grandparents. No joke. And we know we’re not alone. Families love their dogs and getting them a toy is fun.
You can break down your quest for the perfect dog toy either by function or material. For function we go with dog toys that are for: Chew, Interactive, Toss/Retrieve, and Tug. Dog Toys are both soft and hard and common materials include, sheepskin, cloth, nylon, latex, rope, rubber, vinyl, and hard plastics.
Fundamentally, dogs play with their toys by chewing on them. Some chew a lot, some chew a little, some chew on their toys really hard and some are more gentle. We’ve had toys that lasted less than 2 minutes and some which have been in regular use for years. As you’ll read on the packaging of all dog toys, ALL CHEWING MUST ME SUPERVISED. You have to really know the toy and know they dog before leaving them alone with a new dog toy. To this day, if we get our dogs one of those plush squeaky toys, within minutes they have the stuffing removed (but they don’t eat it, luckily) and are trying to destroy the squeaker. Those things are a serious choking hazard and an intestinal nightmare if swallowed. We watch and take it from them right when they get it, pick up the stuffing, and leave them with the carcass as they only like to walk around and play keep away with that.
As mentioned above, our dogs still have piles of random toys in at least a couple of places in our house, but it is the backyard which has the two types of dog toys we use every day. Maya only plays with the tug toys. Tucker is all about his ball and fetch.
For tug toys at this moment we have two rope toys, one large and one medium, both made of the braided cotton rope with three large knots. We’ve had these for years and get tons of use out of them, but they do get heavy and dirty when left out like we do. Maya’s third tug-toy is similar, but it made of braided nylon configured in a way to allow it to stretch and rebound like a spring. It is our new favorite. It’s light, it’s tough as heck (we’ve had it almost two years now), and the way the nylon bands expand and contract, they allow for excellent biting and it appears they have been cleaning her teeth as well. We never ‘yank’ on the tug toys as that can lead to accidents, but we do get pulling against her and she loves to be run in a circle with us pivoting at the center. The extra centrifugal force she seems to enjoy by hopping and skipping sideways. We also never just let go and send her flying. That’s both cruel and stupid. But all of these rope-style dog toys have stood up to this sort of play with our 70 lb Belgian Malinois all the while being left out in the elements for years.
Tucker has 3 types of balls and few duplicates laying about. A tennis ball is his standard, and yes we do know of the various concerns and debates about the safety and use of tennis balls. We’re paying attention. He then has two of the harder-rubber and slightly off-shaped balls. These are awesome with their heavier weight and extra durability – they bobble or bounce well beyond the throw and are great in the snow, but we have to be careful of giving the shared fences with our neighbors an extra ‘whack’ here and there. It’s annoying and we try to be respectful. His third ball is a favorite all winter since it glows in the dark. It’s light and hallow, and even makes a whistling sound at times due to the two little finger-holes cut into opposite ends. We set it under the light for a few minutes (or atop our ridiculously bright 30-led, 4 D-cell flashlight) and it’s ready to go. With the early evenings of the winter, it’s the only way we can get a good game of fetch going in the afternoon and early evening. Oh, and speaking of color, while bright reds and greens are useful for YOU to see, they are perceived by dogs as a dull, dirty, yellow. If you want something both you and your dog can see against the backdrop of lawns and fields, try blues and purples. Dogs see blue as blue, and purple comes arcoss as a lighter, but brighter, sort of blue.
So after all these years those are the two sorts of dog toys we use every day. Yours will likely be different. And while maybe not daily for us and our dogs, our pups also have readily-accessible piles of dog toys consisting of the following:
- Plush Dog Toys – Well, just the carcasses really, as told earlier. All stuffing and squeakers were removed in the first few minutes.
- Nylon (The Dura, Denta..etc, etc) Chews. – We’re talking about the really hard plastic chews. These last a really long time and our dogs have used them sparingly. They do get sharp little burs and should be regularly inspected and well supervised when in use.
- Bones – We give our dogs real, frozen, femur bones during the summer. Maya gets a little anxious but Tucker lays down and goes to work for the next hour or so, and long after they’ve been picked clean they remain favorites to randomly pick up.
- Rubber Dog Toys – Mostly the classic shaped KONG in both Classic and Extreme composition and various misshaped balls. These are great in the snow since they don’t get soaked and the extra heaviness is helpful in leaving a trail. Plus, the snow slows them down and we hit the neighbor’s fence a lot less.
- Rope Dog Toys – We have all kinds for Maya since she loves to play tug the most. Some have handles, almost all have one or more knots for extra grip, and they provide a variety of uses for tugging, chewing, and even flossing!
- Hard Plastic – Completely non-bendable or pliable in any manner. Some have lights inside which activates when bounced, etc. We even have one that makes funny noises in addition to lighting up. They are very durable but unfortunately, for our Tucker, none have been indestructible. We’ve learned to never leave them alone with the dogs.
Go out and play with your dog, and just remember that not all items labeled as a dog toy are intended for your dog to chew on, and not all dogs will chew on the same thing or in the same manner. It’s why the number one rule with dog care is ‘no unsupervised chewing’.
Let us know what your dog’s favorite toy is and anything you recommend.