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Last updated on Nov 22, 2019

The Best Dog Toys

As entertaining as they are indestructible ​
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How We Found The Best Dog Toys

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1 month of research

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9 brands considered

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4 top picks

The Best Dog Toys

For the domesticated dog, play is the key to physical and psychological health. It allows them to perform innate actions—stalk and hunt, run and tear, comfort and cuddle. One of the five freedoms of animal welfare is the “freedom to express normal behavior.” With guidance from animal behaviorists and veterinarians, we sifted through the vast marketplace of dog toys to find the best for your pup’s preferred style of play—fetching, chewing, tugging, or riddling out a treat.

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How We Chose the Best Dog Toys

Suits play behavior

When a toy’s function meshes with the innate action it’s simulating — like chasing, chewing, or tugging — it prompts mental stimulation as well as physical activity. By providing dogs with a focus, an object for their excess energy, toys also discourage negative behaviors, like digging up the tulip bulbs or chewing on sneakers.

“Play is important to all breeds of dog. Through play, puppies learn important skills (like how to pounce on a toy and pick it up) that would be important to them in later life (for example, if they were to chase prey), and in play with others they develop their social skills.”


Zazie Todd Companion Animal Psychology

We sought out toys designed to sustain your dog’s interest in their favorite play behavior, whether it’s a fun toy to chase or something endlessly chewable. We gave priority to products with high customer reviews that indicate they’ve been well-tested (and well-loved) by a lot of dogs.

Material safety

What goes in your dog’s mouth should be safe and toxin-free. While no federal agency regulates pet toys, some manufacturers go out of their way to meet material safety standards. Many individual companies acquire third-party testing to verify that their products don’t contain harmful levels of lead, phthalates, and other worrisome chemicals.

We curated a list of promising brands from wellness-conscious dog resources like Pet Business, The Bark, Pet Sustainability Coalition, and Preventative Vet, then followed up with the manufacturers highlighted by those organizations to verify their safety measures.

Popular and dog-tested

We compared the favorite fetch, chew, tug, and interactive (typically treat-delivering) toys from our preferred brands. We wanted toys that real dog owners reported as being a hit with their pups because a toy is really only as good as the play it inspires. We compiled bestsellers and best-rated picks from Amazon and Chewy and combed through customer reviews to find toys that keep dogs interested and stand up to roughhousing.

“Dogs should have different types of toys that they can use in different ways.”


Zazie Todd Companion Animal Psychology

Even the most popular toys can have issues from time to time, though, so we also checked on return policies. While almost every company we considered offers replacements, we gave bonus points to those that make it easy to return their products, with generous timespan requirements and on-site forms.

Available sizes

Your doggo’s toys should be appropriate to their current size. Small toys are easily swallowed and can get lodged in your dog’s throat, while oversized toys are impossible to get a good, teeth-safe grip on. We gave preference to toys that are available in a number of sizes so you can get one well-suited to your sidekick’s size.

The 4 Best Dog Toys

    West Paw Zogoflex Jive

    Best for Fetch
    West Paw

    Zogo Flex Jive

    Pros

    • Unexpected movement
      Tennis ball design
      Weighty material

    Cons

    Why we chose it

    Unexpected movement

    Some dogs, like terriers, were bred to hunt. This heritage gives them an innate desire to chase and capture. Anything darting by at a good clip, be it squirrel or cat or car lights reflected on the wall, can trigger the instinct. But anything worth chasing does more than land and lie still. West Paw Zogoflex Jive has sculpted cutouts that cause it to bounce and roll in surprising directions.

    Tennis ball design

    There’s discs and frisbees, but the old tennis ball is an iconic dog favorite. However, a 2017 study revealed 48% of pet tennis balls tested contained lead, a known human carcinogen. Zogoflex Jive is roughly the size and color family (three shades of neon) of tennis balls, but is made with natural, recyclable materials, and is blessedly lead-free.

    Weighty material

    A somewhat heavy ball makes for stronger, farther throws. And if your arm gets tired, try using a launching device. Long, fast throws help stretch the legs of athletic breeds, and the Zogoflex Jive is made to fit most launchers. While most balls with the heft you need for a good lob are also hard, the Zogoflex Jive is a softer (but still guaranteed durable) option. The squelchier rubber surface also makes it easier for dogs to get a good gnaw on their prey as they carry it back to you.

    Similar options to consider

    • Kong Extreme Ball – With Kong’s patented uber-rubber, the Extreme Ball is a better fetch option for dogs that tend to seek-and-destroy.
    • West Paw Echo Zwig – If your pup tends to ignore balls and haul branches back to you, this fun, bendy stick-like fetch toy could be a better pick.
    • Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Squeak – Some dogs live for the squeak—it’s the sound of active prey. Here’s a vocal fetch alternative to the classic ball.

    Kong Classic Dog Toy

    Best for Chewing
    Kong Classic

    Kong Classic Dog Toy

    Pros

    Unexpected movement
    Tennis ball design
    Weighty material

    Cons

    Why we chose it

    Sturdy construction

    High-quality rubber is perfect for aggressive chewers with strong biting instincts. Kong delivers some of the toughest rubber on the dog toy market and calibrates its strength to suit various chewing styles. If you have a power chewer on your hands, upgrade to the Kong Extreme. But for most dogs, the Kong Classic provides more than enough resistance, promoting healthy chewing behaviors while helping dogs scrape plaque from their teeth.

    Size range

    Offering the right size of toy for your dog is important across every toy category, but it is especially important for chewing toys. They should be large enough to encourage chewing from the side rather than up and down (that kind of direct pressure can be damaging to dogs’ teeth), but small enough that your dog can carry it around with ease. The classic Kong comes in six sizes — XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL — offering something for ankle biters and big-mouth pit bulls alike.

    Versatile

    Chew toys provide a diversion, a heck of a masticating workout, and promote dental hygiene. The Kong Classic extends this list: It’s also a fun fetch toy with an ear-plug-like shape that bounces in unpredictable directions when thrown. Its hollow interior is also perfect for hiding treats or a dollop of peanut butter.

    Similar options to consider

    • Kong Extreme Ball – If you have a power chewer, you know it. The Kong Classic provides enough durability to stand up to most chompers, but level up to the Extreme if you are used to seeing toys destroyed in seconds flat.
    • West Paw Zogoflex Tux – A shapely alternative to the Kong, this treat-dispensing option has three knobs to keep your dog gnawing.
    • Nylabone DuraChew Bacon Flavor – For a safer spin on the bone your dog is instinctively craving, try this bacon-infused chew toy. Bonus: it features raised bristles to scrape teeth clean.

    Mammoth Cottonblend 5 Knot

    Best for Tugging
    Mammoth Cottonblend

    Mammoth Cotton Blend 5 Knot

    Pros

    Sturdy construction
    Size range
    Versatile

    Cons

    Why we chose it

    Length prevents biting

    If you like playing tug-of-war with your pup, you should have a single designated tug toy. This keeps tugging from being an acceptable play behavior with whatever toy, shoe, scarf, or Thanksgiving turkey you happen to be holding. According to Todd, “Ropes are great toys for dogs that love to play tug (be sure to let them win often!)” Mammoth Cottonblend is perfect because the lengthy design is tug-specific, and keeps hands clear of your dog’s chompers.

    100% natural cotton

    Woven cotton rope makes for a strong tug toy that’s non-toxic and can also help clean their mouth as the rope fibers essentially floss during chewing. While there are dental benefits to tugging, keep in mind it can be overly strenuous for the teeth of puppies and senior dogs.

    Different sizes

    One size never fits all when it comes to dog toys. Mammoth Cottonblend comes as a three-knot rope (available in five sizes) and a five-knot rope (available in two sizes) — so you’re always the right distance away from your canine’s canines.

    Similar options to consider

    • Mammoth Cottonblend 3 Knot – Smaller dogs want to tug, too. The 3 Knot is available in five sizes, starting at just 10 inches, so you can fine tune your pup’s tug toy to their size.
    • West Paw Zogoflex Bumi – The S-shaped design of this tug toy provides safe spots for your hands and their mouth, a nice change-up from yanking on rope.
    • Kong Floppy Knots – Tug toys simulate the joy of the kill, and these rope-made critters provide a realistic mouth feel that your doggo will enjoy wrestling with, whether he’s playing with you or alone.

    Nina Ottosson Dog Brick

    Best for Interactive Play
    Nina Ottosson

    Nina Ottosson Dog Brick

    Pros

    Rewarding play
    Mentally stimulating
    Increasing levels of difficulty

    Cons

    Why we chose it

    Rewarding play

    Dogs are happiest when they solve a problem and then get a food reward—happier than they would be with just the solution or just the treat. The researchers who discovered this call the ultimate treat a dog’s eureka moment. Dogs crave this kind of intellectual stimulation, and that’s where food delivery toys come in. Nina Ottosson is a design pioneer in this category.

    Mentally stimulating

    If you have a pup who gets bored or anxious when they aren’t getting human attention, or tears up toilet paper if left to their own devices, chances are they are in need of a more productive outlet for their mental energy. The Dog Brick features hinged and sliding pieces that need to be maneuvered with nose and paw to reveal treats tucked into its compartments. Customer reviewers say their dogs love solving the puzzle and prefer to have their food delivered to them via the Dog Brick than in their bowl.

    Increasing levels of difficulty

    A new toy, especially a new and challenging toy, will always focus and occupy a dog’s attention. Prolong their interest and stimulation by upping the difficulty level of the Dog Brick. Let them take a first shot at the toy with not all the bricks in place, then up the difficulty by including more pieces and swapping.

    Similar options to consider

    • Starmark Treat Dispensing Pickle – Not all interactive toys need to contain a lot of small pieces. The gash in this football-shaped toy creates a pocket for treats that your pup will fixate on retrieving.
    • West Paw Quizl – The bendy, hourglass profile of the Quizl can hold long, thin treats in addition to smaller ones, perfect for pups who yearn for bully sticks.
    • Kong Stuff a Ball – For power chewers who enjoy the chase, this bouncing ball features slits and openings that shake out treats with enough play.

    Guide to Dog Toys

    How to encourage your dog’s playful nature

    Make time for play

    Dogs need play and humans enjoy playing with dogs—it’s not clear which came first in the process of domestication. Either way, play is a central part of dogs’ positive welfare. When you see puppies scuffle, you’re seeing social cohesion being built between dogs. When you play with your dog, the same cohesion is at work. Cooperative relationships between and across species are strengthened by play.

    “Regular, real play between a dog and owner does not revolve around commands, and is important to strengthen their bond.”


    Rebecca Sommerville Canine behavior veterinarian at the University of Edinburgh

    Know your dog’s behavior with different toys

    Before leaving your dog alone with new toy types, know what he is most likely to do with them. Some dogs play gently, or bore of a single pursuit quickly, while others go into seek-and-destroy mode, disemboweling fluffy critters and seeking the noisy heart of a squeak toy. Since most toys become choking hazards if sufficiently torn apart, being aware of your dog’s characteristic response will help you decide whether certain toys are safe for them, or if you should simply leave them with a sturdy Kong.

    Rotate available toys

    Offer a rotating group of four or five toys that hit all your dog’s play behaviors—tugging, chewing, “killing,” and carrying. Dogs love novelty but you can fake new toys by having your pup discover oldies but goodies around the house and yard. Giving a toy a new scent by washing it in the washing machine, rolling it in the grass, or storing it in the herb cupboard—any of the above will up its appeal. Above all else, if you seem excited about a toy, he will be too—he mostly wants to play with you.

    Keep a favorite comfort toy available at all times

    Comfort toys are plush items that your dogs soothe themselves with by carrying around and babying. Comfort toys should be left out at all times. This is a toy your dog has bonded with and probably likes to sleep with. The best comfort toy will be small enough to carry, and maybe analogous in size to your dog breed’s prey (rabbit, duck, mouse), as some dogs like to shake and “kill” their soft toys. Just keep in mind most comfort toys generally aren’t good for power chewers.

    Improve their digestion and mood with treat-dispensing toys

    Many pups guzzle their food down at an alarming rate, leading to an unsatisfying meal or, worse, a bad case of indigestion. An interactive feeding toy slows them down, creating pauses between bites as they quiz out their next morsel of food. You won’t see their dinner spat back up on the floor, and they’ll derive more pleasure from their food.

    Dog-proof their toys

    Even well-made, durable toys may eventually succumb to wear and tear. Regardless of your dog’s chewing prowess, regularly inspect any stuffed toys to look for damage to lightly stitched seams, as well as loose, hanging pieces that might fall off and be eaten. If well-loved toys are getting torn apart, it’s time to discard. Examine any new toys and remove dangling strings or loosely attached decoration before your dog has a chance to gnaw them off and ingest them.

    Dog Toys FAQ

    The Best Dog Toys: Summed Up

    West Paw Zogoflex Jive
    Kong Classic Dog Toy
    Mammoth Cottonblend 5 Knot
    Nina Ottosson Dog Brick
    Best for Fetch
    Best for Chewing
    Best for Tugging
    Best for Interactive Play
    Price
    $11.95
    $10.99
    $10.99
    $19.99
    Sizes Available
    S, L
    XS – XXL
    36′ or 72′
    N/A
    Material
    Rubber
    Rubber
    Cotton
    Plastic
    Origin
    USA
    USA
    Mexico & China
    China

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