Dog Toy Styles

Choose the Right Toys for Your Dog

Playing and chewing are natural canine behaviors. Though some dogs will play or chew more than others, dog toys are essential items for all dogs. In fact, behavior problems can develop when dogs do not have the proper outlets to follow their instincts.

Dog toy options are nearly endless, so choosing toys for your dog can be overwhelming. Some owners end up with a heap of toys gathering dust because they do not interest their dogs. How do you choose toys that your dog will actually like? A dog's toy preference depends on her personal style of playing and chewing. Try a few different types of toys for your dog and learn how she likes to play and chew. If you seem to end up with too many toys, try putting a bunch of them away for a while and reintroduce them in the future. Months later, your dog will think they are brand new. You can use the following list as a guide to choosing the best toys for your dog.

It's important to remember that all toys can pose a risk if your dog ingests them, so play should be supervised, especially with aggressive chewers. No matter how durable a toy seems, there is still a possibility that pieces can be chewed off and ingested.

  • 01 of 09


    Retriver with a ball.
    Lysandra Cook / Getty Images

    A ball toy is a must-have for any dog that loves to fetch. Ball toys come in many varieties, from the basic tennis ball or rubber ball to glow-in-the-dark and flashing-light balls. Some balls contain squeakers or holes for treats, while others are basic bouncers meant for retrieving. Try a product like Chuckit! to allow you to throw balls further and for slobber-free ball handling.

    When choosing a ball for your dog, pick one that is large enough for your dog to carry without accidentally swallowing it. The basic tennis-ball size works fine for most dogs, but there are also extra-large balls for giant dogs and mini balls for tiny dogs. In general, avoid leaving tennis balls around for your dog to chew on. Believe it or not, the material in tennis balls can cause the teeth to wear down and pieces can lead to choking or gastrointestinal obstruction if ingested.

  • 02 of 09

    Discs and Other Retrieving Toys

    Boston terrier at play at dog park
    Doxieone Photography / Getty Images

    Dogs that love balls and playing fetch also tend to enjoy discs and other retrieval toys. The disc is a bit more versatile than a ball when it comes to fetching, as you can vary the speed of the disc and cause it to change direction, further challenging your dog. There is even a dog sport that involves disc retrieval. Other retrievers, such as the Hurley give your dog a uniquely shaped toy to fetch. They may be made of rubber, plastic, rope or another material.

  • 03 of 09

    Plush Toys

    Yorkie playing with teddy toy
    Cheryl Chan / Getty Images

    Many dogs adore plush toys. They will carry them around like babies or tear them apart like prey. Stuffed dog toys usually contain squeakers and poly-fill. Dogs often rip into them and stuffing goes everywhere. Many dogs seem to be trying to "kill" their "prey" by destroying the squeaker. After the toy is "dead" they still sometimes carry them around and shake them. Supervise your dog when she plays with plush toys to keep her from swallowing stuffing or squeakers, which can lead to GI obstruction. If you are sick of cleaning up the stuffing from your dog's plush toys, try a stuffing-free toy like Skinneeez. These are basically the outside of stuffed toys with squeakers but no stuffing. Plush toys will not last long with aggressive chewers, but can still be plenty of fun (with supervision). Some companies make extra tough plush toys for longer lasting chew time, such as Kong Ballistic.

  • 04 of 09

    Squeakies (non-plush)

    Close-Up Of Dog With Rubber Bone In Its Mouth
    Michal Kovacs / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Non-plush squeaky toys come in many shapes and sizes. Typically, they are made out of vinyl, rubber or plastic. Durability varies, so choose wisely according to your dog's chewing habits. Generally, thick rubber is best for aggressive chewers. Thinner vinyl or plastic toys are better for mild chewers or if you will be supervising play at all times. The benefit of thinner squeaky toys is that they are often very inexpensive. The downside is that they don't typically last very long.

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  • 05 of 09

    Rope Toys

    Back in the Pack dog portraits / Getty Images

    Rope toys are made of braided rope and sometimes have rubber or plastic parts. They can be used for fetch, tug-of-war or simply chewing. Many dogs love rope toys, while others have no interest. The action of chewing on a rope toy can actually be good for your dog's teeth as it creates a brushing-like action. However, aggressive chewers can easily shred rope toys and may ingest pieces. This can lead to serious gastrointestinal obstruction. Never let your dog play with rope toys unsupervised. When your rope toy begins to unravel, it's time to throw it away.

  • 06 of 09

    Tug Toys

    Golden Retrievers playing tug-of-war with toy in garden
    Ryan McVay / Getty Images

    Many dogs enjoy playing tug-of-war. It's a healthy display of a dog's predatory nature, plus it's great mental and physical exercise. There are many types of tug toys on the market in various shape, sizes, and materials. Often seen are tug toys made of rope and/or rubber. Choose a tug toy that is comfortable for you to hold in your hand and pull on, as well as easy for your dog to bite and pull on. In addition, tug toys should be durable enough to hold up to the strength of your dog's pulling. Replace worn or fraying tug toys so they do not break in the middle of a game of tug-of-war and hurt someone.

  • 07 of 09

    Floating Toys

    Floating toys are great for dogs that love swimming. Usually made of a foam, rubber or plastic material, floating balls, rings, and other toys are easy for your dog to find and grab in the water.

  • 08 of 09

    Food Dispensing Toys

    Food and treat dispensing dog toys should be in every dog's household. They offer fun, mental stimulation, and are a great way for dogs to funnel their energy. Food dispensing dog toys come in various shapes and sizes and are usually made of rubber or plastic. Perhaps the most popular of all food dispensing dog toys is the Kong, which can be filled with treats, kibble, peanut butter and other foods and can provide hours of fun for your dog.

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  • 09 of 09

    Interactive Toys and Dog Puzzles

    Similar to food dispensing toys, interactive toys and dog puzzles engage your dog mentally. Some interactive dog toys are simply the food dispensing toys mentioned above. Others engage you and your dog together and can be as basic as a tug toy or fetch toy.

    Dog puzzles are designed to challenge your dog. They contain compartments and mechanisms that hide food or treats and require your dog to figure out how to get to the food. One example of an excellent dog puzzle is the Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado.

    Interactive dog toys and puzzles are a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated and to teach her some cognitive skills. The built-in reward system of puzzles really makes learning fun and easy.