Dog Playing With Durable Toy
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.
Border Collie With Frisbee

Types of Toys

Dog toys fall into two broad categories: those that you and your dog can enjoy together, and those that he can play with on his own. Within those categories, there are six types of toys. Tug, fetch and chase toys fall into the first category.

Tug. Tug often involves jerking, pulling and shaking motions, so these toys are made to be fairly durable. A toy doesn’t have to be labeled as a tug toy to be played with in tug-of-war fashion. But for stronger players, toys specified for tug are important, as they are better equipped to withstand such harsh motions. Tug toys vary from ropes to character-shaped objects to toys with handle grips for a better grasp.

Fetch. The standard fetch toy is a ball, but a variety of shapes and launchers are gaining popularity. Shapes include flying discs, rings, character-themed toys and arrows. A variety of throwers is also available; some increase velocity and distance by adding an extension to natural arm length, while others launch toys with slingshot- or air pressure-type mechanisms.

Chase. This game invokes a dog’s instinct to chase after moving things. A flirt pole, which has a toy attached to a sturdy rope and wand, falls into this category.

Independent play toys engage your dog in tasks he can do on his own. These toys help keep him occupied, engage his mind and provide comfort.

Chew toys. These toys are designed for a dog to mouth and chew on. Such toys can help redirect your dog’s energy and attention away from objects he should not be chewing, like furniture or your belongings.

Puzzles. A puzzle engages your dog’s mind by encouraging exploration and problem solving. These toys challenge your dog and can help to combat stress and boredom. Puzzles vary in complexity from beginner level to expert. Some puzzles are meant to be played with in a fairly calm manner — the dog uses his teeth and tongue to remove a hidden reward — while others are more active and invite physical movement with paws and nose to unearth a treat. Puzzles can conceal food, edible chews or smaller toys.

Calming toys. Calming toys can provide a comforting distraction during times the dog may be upset or anxious, like when he is left home alone or has to ride in the car. (However, dogs should never be left alone with rawhides or other toys that they can potentially tear apart and swallow.) These toys may include engaging soothing sounds, extra-snuggly material and calming smells. Some may also have puzzle features to help distract anxious dogs.

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