You grab one end of a dog toy and your pup grabs the other and then you start a serious game of tug-of-war. There are so many great ways to engage your dog, and tug is nearly always a favorite. Plus, a toy that is reserved just for tugging makes training and playtime easier.
“The toy goes away when we're done tugging,” says Curtis Kelley, certified professional dog trainer and owner of Pet Parent Allies, based in Philadelphia. “Keeping the tug-specific toy away makes it more special when it comes out. Your dog can quickly lose interest if it's always available but never played with. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it's fun.”
Tug toys can be straps with balls, squeaky plush animals, or rubbery sticks, but veterinarians often recommend staying away from rope toys because your dog can pull off and swallow a strand of fiber. This can be life-threatening as it passes through their intestines. To be safe, we’re not including any rope toys in our lineup.
We asked pet owners, trainers, and fosters for their favorite tug toys and tested a wide range with dogs at home and at dog parks. We evaluated each on its durability, size, design, and how well they enable play.
Our favorite overall pick is the West Paw Bumi. It’s made of soft, bendy material that stretches to twice its length. It even floats. Plus, it’s dishwasher safe. But there are several other options our dogs also love (and rigorously tested).
Here are the best dog tug toys.
West Paw Zogoflex Bumi Dog Tug Toy
For tug and fetch
Floats and is dishwasher safe
Recyclable (with manufacturer)
Not for aggressive chewers
The Bumi is an S-shaped molded toy that stretches to twice its size. That offers a lot of give for tug of war, whether it’s you and your pup or two dogs playing. It’s also easy to fling for fetch and offers some decent bouncing if it hits the ground.
Available in three bright colors (for easy spotting), the Bumi comes in small and large. It floats, so it’s a good choice for water sports. Then you can clean off all the dog slobber by tossing it in the dishwasher.
The toy is manufactured in Montana from Zogoflex, a proprietary material made of blended plastics. It’s BPA-free and latex-free and can be recycled into new toys through the company. The material feels kind of rubbery and soft, so some puppies like to chew on it when they’re teething. Just make sure you supervise any gnawing. Dogs on a mission could break off pieces of the toy.
Price at time of publish: $20 (large)
Outward Hound Invincibles Snakes
Lots of squeakers
Really tough chewers can damage it
Hold on to one end of this colorful snake and let your dog pull and yank. When you’re finished (or don’t want to play anymore), this doubles as a sturdy squeaky toy. There are two layers of durable fabric with heavy reinforced seams. The large has three squeakers, the extra-large has six, and the ginormous (at almost 6 feet!) has a dozen. The squeakers keep making noise, even when they’ve been punctured.
There’s no stuffing, so even if your dog manages to chew through the fabric, there’s no fluff and guts everywhere. Some people with really determined dogs say they managed to tear these apart, leaving lots of bright fuzz behind. Although the fabric is tough, it’s relatively soft, offering a cozy cushion when it’s nap time.
Price at time of publish: $11 (large)
Best with Ball
Chuckit! Ultra Tug
Handle makes it easy to tug or throw
Less expensive than most
Can fray with serious chewing
Dogs that are ball-obsessed can have their catch and tug fix with this toy by fan favorite, ChuckIt. It has a classic orange rubber ball on one end attached to a heavy-duty strap with a leash-like handle. You grab the handle and let your pup grab the ball for a twist on tug.
Or hurl the whole thing by hand or in a launcher and let your dog retrieve it. ChuckIt balls are known for durability and the bright orange makes them tough to lose. Be sure to choose the right size for your dog so you have a big enough ball and long enough strap. The toy doesn’t float and the strap can fray if
Price at time of publish: $5
SodaPup Pop Top Tug Toy
Cute, colorful design
Not for aggressive chewers
Shaped like a pull tab on an old-time soda can, this bright orange tug has a big open loop on each end to get a really good grip for tugging. It’s about a foot long, which should be a good size, except for the tiniest or most massive dogs. When it gets gross, send it through the top rack in the dishwasher.
SodaPup toys are made in the United States from a material the company calls PuppyPrene. It’s a natural rubber that is BPA-free, phthalate-free, durable, and yet soft. That makes it easy for your pup to get a grip without hurting their teeth, but it’s not so simple to tear apart. (And it’s also soothing for teething puppies.) That said, a tough chewer might make easy work of this, so don’t leave your dog unattended when playing.
Price at time of publish: $19
Best for Puppies
Works for tug or toss
Lots of colors
Not incredibly durable
The KONG Wubba is a brightly colored toss and tug toy with a covered squeaky ball on one end and floppy tails on the other. Puppies in particular seem to enjoy playing with it. They can grab one end or the other and tug with a person or another canine buddy. There’s so many easy-to-grab strips that several pups can get involved at once.
The relatively soft toy is easy to throw for fetch sessions too. And when the racing and tumbling play is over, they often enjoy just squeaking the ball. It’s definitely not meant to be a chew toy as it can be ripped and unraveled with rough play. There are three sizes for dogs and a smaller version for puppies.
Price at time of publish: $10 (large)
Best for Tough Chewers
Goughnuts Original Tug Toy
Very tough rubber
Different levels of rubber durability
Really, really aggressive chewers can damage it
For big dogs with a serious need to chomp and destroy, Goughnuts provide a pretty good challenge. The rubber material is designed for chew toys and spacecraft and is virtually indestructible. The medium is targeted for dogs 30 to 70 pounds and the large for pups 60 to 120 pounds. There are various levels of rubber durability you can choose based on your dog’s chewing style.
There are two rings, so you and your dog each get a side. The toy floats, washes in warm, soapy water, and is made in the United States. Some really aggressive chewers may be able to take out a chunk, but it’s hard to find a tougher tug toy than this. The toy comes with a guarantee: If your dog chews through the outside layer and gets through to the red warning layer, the company will replace it.
Price at time of publish: $28
TUFFY Ultimate Ring
Soft, but durable
Strong chewers can rip outer seams
Sometimes only available as a 2-pack
This soft dog toy is also tough. It has four layers of fabric, including a fleece cover and seven rows of stitching. That should deter shredding and help keep it from being easily destroyed. There are two sizes and several different colors.
The ring shape makes it easy for dogs and people to grab an end. The ring floats in water and is machine-washable, as long as you air dry. The toy also has a squeaker, but isn’t designed to be a chew toy. Pets can toss it, tug with it, and nap on top of it when they’re through.
Price at time of publish: $21
What To Look For
Size and Shape
It’s important to choose a toy that is an appropriate size for both you and your dog.
“You should hold the toy comfortably with fingers mostly closed around the handle,” says Kelley. “Your dog should be able to close her mouth around the toy mostly. If it's too thick, it may cause jaw injuries.”
Materials and Durability
Many tug toys aren’t meant to double as chew toys. Your dog should not be left with them unsupervised. But even when tugging, some toys don’t last very long. Kelley suggests looking for a strong, sturdy material that is tear-resistant. If it’s fabric, check for double- or triple-stitched seams.
Some tugs have squeakers to make them more entertaining. Others might have a ball on one end or incorporated into the toy, which is so tempting for Labs and other fetch-obsessed pups. The extra Kelley likes the best is a comfortable handle.
“The handle is a must-have for me,” he says. “The strain on your wrist and elbow can become high enough to risk injury quickly, especially when tugging with a bigger dog. You should be able to hold your wrist straight.”
Kelley also likes a tug toy with special sections. Clearly defined areas make it obvious where your dog should have his mouth when tugging, he says. If your dog loves water, you might want to choose a toy that floats.
Are tug of war toys good for dogs?
They definitely can be, trainers say. “Tug toys are great for dogs to relieve tension, reduce stress, and get exercise. Tug can help dogs calm themselves after a stressful moment and alleviate frustration about a challenging training task,” Kelley says.
Tug toys can also help you teach your dog how to play appropriately so they learn which behaviors are okay.
Do tug toys make dogs aggressive?
Tug toys won’t turn a dog aggressive, but they can get a pup really worked up. “Some dogs become over-aroused when they play tug; some assess the tug toy as a very valued resource and seek to keep it away from you,” Kelley says.
But he points out that the dogs that become over-aroused would likely act that way in many situations. “Dogs who resource guard a tug toy might display other possessive tendencies. Tugging is actually a great way to encourage your dog to exercise more self-restraint and learn to share if they struggle with that.”
Are rope toys safe for dogs?
Many tug toys are made from long knotted ropes that are actually made up of hundreds or thousands of tiny strands. During play, your dog can unravel the fibers and swallow them. That can lead to intestinal blockage or what vets call “linear foreign bodies.” They can wrap around the intestines and be life threatening.
How do you play with a tug toy?
Kelley suggests following these tips for a good game of tug:
- Don’t let your dog tug so hard it hurts you. “If you’re tugging with a dog that's stronger than you are, it's up to you to let go if they pull too hard or abruptly. If they want to keep tugging with you, it benefits them to modulate and tug at an acceptable strength level.”
- Don’t let your dog move its grip closer to your hand. “Dogs often try to move their grip closer. They are excited and invested in the game! But that will make it easier for him to hit you with his teeth, and that's a big no.”
- If your dog takes the toy away, they have to bring it back in order to keep playing. “If you chase your dog around when they win the toy, they learn they should run away with it! You can encourage them to take prosocial actions and resume playing only when they have brought it back.”
- If you take the toy away, everyone takes a quick break. Kelley suggests, “10 or 15 seconds is fine, just long enough so he’s not lunging back into it the second he loses his grip.”
Why Trust The Spruce
For this roundup, Mary Jo DiLonardo talked to dog owners, trainers, and fosters about their favorite (and least favorite) tug toys. She also tested many tug toys and looked at online reviews. They were evaluated on how fun they were, how durable they were, and extras, like handles and balls.
Mary Jo has been writing about pets and animals for several decades. She has a rescue dog and has fostered nearly 60 dogs and puppies. They have all tugged on their share of toys, some more successfully than others. She is always trying different products to keep the dogs in her care entertained, healthy, and safe.