They squeak. They bounce. They comfort. They challenge. Dog toys are so much more than stocking stuffers or one-kind-satisfies-all time-fillers. So we set out to find the best toys for dogs of all ages, sizes, chewing levels, and enrichment needs.
Why do dogs need toys?
You would never expect a human child to grow up without toys. You know they are foundational tools for the child’s development, entertainment, and comfort.
Dogs aren’t so different in that regard. And having the right toys serves several critical functions in a dog’s life.
Dogs need toys to:
- fight boredom, especially when left alone.
- provide comfort, especially when nervous or adapting to a new environment.
- learn and create games with humans and other dogs.
- hit their daily exercise goals.
- develop athletic skills.
- discover different ways of interacting with the world.
- develop preferences.
- develop neural connections that help with recognition and problem-solving.
- develop specific skill sets for work-related tasks (e.g. service dogs, police dogs)
- help with teething.
- release both physical and mental energy.
- help with behavioral problems.
- be entertained.
And, selfishly, we humans love shopping for toys for our dogs about as much as we love watching our dogs play with them.
How do I make sure a toy is safe for my dog?
Just as you would do when choosing toys for a human child, prioritizing safety is imperative when choosing toys for dogs.
Dogs engage with toys primarily with their mouths. So you always have to consider the risk of choking and/or destruction followed by ingestion.
Specific considerations for dog toy safety include:
- Size: Don’t let your dog play with toys that can potentially lodge in the back of his throat or be swallowed. Size does matter!
- Material: Many dog toys are made cheaply to entice impulse buying. Avoid stuffed toys with plastic eyes, for example, as these can be chewed off and swallowed. Also avoid toys with strings, ribbons, and easily detached dangling parts.
- Stuffing: What’s on the inside is just as important as what’s on the outside. It’s as true for toys as it is for people. Some cheap materials often used for stuffing include nutshells, polystyrene beads, and fiber fill that can lead to intestinal blockage if ingested.
- Squeakers: Listening to your dog go to town on a squeaky toy can give you all the feels. It’s such a happy sound, even when you need some peace and quiet. But, to your dog, that squeak can be an invitation to shred the toy in search of the squeak’s source. And that can lead to a choking hazard.
- Hardness: Hard toys and bones (including the hardened nylon bones) can be too hard for your dog’s teeth. In order to avoid potential dental damage, make sure the toy passes the “thumbnail test.” If it gives to the pressure of your thumbnail, it should be safe for your dog’s teeth.
The best toys for dogs will be made with quality materials and will have well thought-out design with safety as a priority.
What are the best toys for puppies?
Puppies are on a fast track to adulthood, so their toy rotation will be on a fast track, too.
In the early stages of raising a puppy, they will need mentally stimulating toys of all kinds, rotated daily to maintain variety. Squeaker toys will enthrall them, and a couple plush toys will comfort them as they adjust to life without mama.
As they grow over the next several months, they will begin teething and will naturally want to chew.
They will also become much more active and difficult to tire out. This is a great time to introduce balls for fetch and puzzles or interactive toys for mental stimulation.
Here are 7 dog toys to initiate your little one to play, comfort, interaction, and enrichment.
- Outward Hound Puzzle Toy, Puppy
- Nylabone Teething Rings Puppy Chew Toy
- Kong Binkie Puppy Chew Dog Toy
- Kong Snubba Wubba Interactive Toy
- Kong Tugger Knot Dog Toy
- Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy
- ZippyPaws Monkey RopeTugz, Squeaky and Plush Rope Tug Dog Toy
What are the best toys for adult dogs?
Bridging the end of puppyhood and the beginning of a dog’s senior years are the magical adult years. Your dog progresses toward calmness, connection, comfort, and confidence. And you get to really enjoy the adventures of life with a dog.
Assuming good health and mobility for your dog, the selection of toys and ways to engage during these years are almost endless.
The adult years are the perfect time to train your dog for both physical and mental agility. And you don’t have to train your dog for competitions to enjoy the mutual fun and benefits.
So we have added highly rated home agility equipment options to this category’s list of best toys.
Here are 6 of the best toys and types of play equipment for adult dogs:
- Zoomies Pet Ball
- Xiaz Dog Agility Course Equipments, Obstacle
- Outward Hound ZipZoom Indoor Dog Agility (best bang for the buck)
- Pet arena Adjustable Snuffle Mat
- Outward Hound HedgehogZ Squeaky Plush Dog Toy
- Outward Hound Dog Brick Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy
What are the best toys for senior dogs?
Senior dogs still need mental stimulation and playful engagement. And they still delight in showing off the skills they have spent a lifetime learning and perfecting. They just need a little more consideration for achy joints, waning vision and hearing, and potential cognitive issues.
They also need good dental care and chew toys that will be gentle on their senior teeth and gums. For the same reason, any toys thrown to your senior to catch should not be hard or heavy.
Here are 6 of the best toys for dogs in their senior years:
- Playology Silver Dental Chew Toy Senior Dogs
- Senior Flexi Chew X-Bone, Nylabone
- Kong Classic Dog Toy
- Booda Tail Spin Flyer
- Outward Hound Dog Worker Interactive Treat Puzzle Toy
- Bird Ball
What are the best toys for small dogs?
The wee ones have their own needs when it comes to play time. Because the small breeds are so…small…they also aren’t as strong as bigger breeds. They need toys they can easily carry without being toppled over by the weight of toys made for bigger dogs.
Here are 6 of the best toys for dogs who are small:
- Chuckit Mini Ball Launcher
- Kong Plush Duck Dog Toy, XS/S
- Jax & Bones Rope Dog Toys
- Kong Cozy Dog Toys
- West Paw Zogoflex Hurley Dog Bone Chew Toy
- Outward Hound Interactive Treat Puzzle Toy, Easy Level
What are the best toys for large dogs?
Big dogs need toys appropriately sized and durable. Depending on your dog’s size, even your standby tennis balls should be upsized to ensure your dog doesn’t choke.
Here are 6 toys to keep the big dogs happy:
- Gnawsome 4.5” Spiky Squeaker Ball
- Kong Jumbler Ball
- Outward Hound FireHose Fetch Dog Toy
- Chuckit! Kick Fetch Ball Dog Toy, Large
- Kong Extreme Ball Dog Toy, Medium/Large
- Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Plush Dog Toy Puzzle
What are the best indestructible toys for dogs?
Finding indestructible dog toys is about more than saving money and clean-up time. It’s primarily about your dog’s safety.
We’ve scoped the goods to find a variety of durable toys across several brands.
Here are the 6 best dog toys for aggressive chewers:
- Kong Extreme Goodie Bone for Power Chewers
- Goughnuts MaXX for Aggressive Chewers
- goDog Amphibianz Chameleon Squeaker Plush Pet Toy for Dogs and Puppies, with Chew Guard Technology
- Outward Hound FireHose Fetch Dog Toy
- Wobble Wag Giggle Ball Interactive Dog Toy
- Kong Extreme Goodie Ribbon Toy (good for larger dogs)
What are the best interactive toys for dogs?
One benefit of dog enrichment toys, aside from engaging and stimulating your pupper’s brain, is that you don’t have to be directly involved. After setting up the toy and teaching your dog to use it, you can leave your dog to time-lapsing bouts of self-guided activity.
Anything that makes your dog figure out how to get something he wants on his own is good for mental stimulation. (And we’re not talking counter-surfing.) Puzzles and interactive food toys and games are good examples.
Here are our top 6 best dog enrichment toys:
- Outward Hound Puzzle Toy
- Outward Hound Dog Worker Puzzle Toy
- CleverPet Hub Interactive Dog Game
- Recordable Talking Dog Buttons Training Game
- Petcube Bites 2 Pet Camera with Treat Dispenser
- Bob-A-Lot Interactive Pet Toy
In our opinion:
Narrowing down your dog’s Christmas list of coveted gifts to a short directory of the absolute best toys for dogs can be tough. There are so many factors to consider – age, size, temperament, health, intelligence, personal preferences, access to running space, safety.
In our experience:
You may have noticed some brand overlap from list to list. And it’s from that overlap that we’re making our “best of” recommendations.
Kong and Outward Hound show up time and time again for several reasons:
- variety of dog toys (balls, squeaky toys, plush toys, agility equipment, enrichment/interactive toys)
- quality and durability
- size- and age-appropriateness
- attention to how dogs grow, play, chew, and learn
- reviews from customers
But we are also jazzed by the advancements in toy design and construction and the merging of technology with play. The fact that the CleverPet Hub, for example, came from the masterminding of pet-loving cognitive scientists speaks volumes about the direction of canine development.
Why we chose what we chose:
Over and over we found that the best dog toys are the ones that combine sustained interest, physical activity, durability, and interactive/mental enrichment.
Remember, however, that no toy lasts forever. And there are those doggos with a determination for toy decimation.
So always monitor your dog with toys, keep an eye on the structural integrity of his stash, and say bye-bye to any toy that has seen better days.
It’s just one more excuse to shop for your dog’s next latest-and-greatest.