Shopping for Dog Toys? Read This First

Dog Playing With Durable Toy
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If your dog is a power chewer or enthusiastic player, you may want to opt for extra-strength, more durable toys.

Dog toys once consisted of basic staples, like balls, squeaky playthings and rope toys. These days, dog owners are faced with a nearly endless variety of options. So how do you know which toy is right for your dog?

Fortunately, dog toys can be easily categorized by features and types. Knowing what your options are and which toys are best for which dogs can make choosing the right toy for your pooch fairly simple.

Note: Not all toys are veterinarian approved. Some may cause choking, or wear or breakage to your dog’s teeth, and if inadvertently swallowed, many toys can lead to gastrointestinal blockage. It is important that you talk with your veterinarian about the safest options for your dog. Also, dogs should generally be supervised when playing with toys to help prevent accidental ingestion.

Features to Look For in a Dog Toy

Life stage. Dog toys are most commonly grouped by life stage — puppy, adult and senior. The toys may have special materials that are appropriate for that age or may target an age-related issue. The most common life stage toys are those geared toward puppies, in particular, those in the teething stage. These toys are designed to help you redirect chewing away from unwanted objects like furniture or shoes. The material is commonly soft to soothe aching gums. These toys are not designed for adult dogs, as the malleable material usually won’t withstand adult-size jaws.

Strength and durability. Toys vary from softer and less durable materials to those constructed to withstand power chewers and enthusiastic players. Unless indicated, most toys are for mild to moderate chewers and gentle players. Extra-strength toys for more destructive chewers are commonly labeled as such and are designed to help resist tears and punctures. But even with extra-strength toys, there should always be at least a little give when chewing, so dogs are less likely to break teeth. Plush toys with stuffing are a favorite with many canines, but most are easily destroyed (and sometimes swallowed) by dogs who are rough on toys. More durable variations of the plush toy are available; these include elements like reinforced seams and altered or decreased filling.

Sound. The most common sound is a squeaker, but dog toys may grumble, grunt or crackle, or may include recorded noises, such as animal sounds. Some toys allow pet owners to record their own voices for playback. Some toys have protective features like replaceable squeakers or squeakers that function even when punctured. If the thought of repetitive sounds, like ongoing squeaking, is irksome, opt for toys that feature on/off switches, which allow pet owners to control the sound. Some dogs may try to demolish the toy to get to the squeaker, so it's always a good idea to supervise your dog when he's playing with these types of toys.

Size. Ball toys, stuffed toys and puzzle toys can pose a choking hazard if they are not appropriately sized. If you’re not sure what size toy to buy, check the packaging: The toy’s label typically indicates the approximate weight of dog the toy is designed for. When in doubt, opt for the slightly larger size.

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