In 2017, Americans spent over $70 billion on our pets. Wow! Research shows that more and more, pets (especially dogs) are considered an integral part of the family experience – we dress them, throw birthday parties for them, and yes, spend tons of money on them.
Yet, shopping for our dogs can be overwhelming. There are so many types of dog and so many types of toys, it’s hard to decide what’s the right toy for our pups. Here’s a quick guide to the broad categories of toys. We hope it will help guide you next time you visit the pet (toy!) store!
- Soft Toys
Soft toys are best for dogs with a “soft mouth.” These dogs can be big or little, but when they reach for something with their mouths, they don’t clamp down with their teeth, they “mouth” it with their lips. Soft toys tend to be “loveys” for these pups. They’ll carry them around the house, sleep with them, and generally use them as a comfort object. Choose a toy with no squeaker, as the point for these is not to stimulate the chewing, but to provide comfort.
- Rope and Tugging Toys
This type of toy of best for interactive playing. Dogs enjoy tugging games with their human! Active playtime is important for many types of breeds: spaniels, terriers, and all breeds of hunting dogs. We’ve found that the rope toys with horn or bone as a added feature will engage the dogs both interactively and while alone. With these toys, make sure to match the size of the toy to the size of the dog – a small rope is easily ingested and can cause serious harm. (We speak from experience, thousands of dollars at the emergency vet hospital!)
- Rubber Toys
Rubber toys can be used to provide entertainment for your pup when she is alone. The most popular type is the Kong brand, but others that we’ve had good luck with include WestPaw and Starmark. The rubber that is used in these toys is not as easily ripped apart by the aggressive chewer. In addition, rubber toys that have openings can be stuffed with treats to provide interactive play for the solitary dog. However, there are many rubber toys that are made with a more flexible rubber, and these can be ripped apart and ingested by the aggressive chewer in your life…so, before leaving your dog alone with a rubber toy, make sure she can’t break off pieces and swallow them!
- Tough Fabric Toys
These fabric toys are not as soft as others. They boast extra stitching and tougher fabrics such as burlap and leather. For those whose dogs don’t like the taste or feel of the rubber toys, these are a good option. In addition, you can get these with squeakers to stimulate the dog’s interest in the toy. If you have an aggressive chewer who prefers a soft toy, get the ones that don’t have fabric ears or tails that can be ripped off quickly. And toys without stuffing are best, or you’ll end up with polyfill all over your house.
Bonus: Dogs love all kinds of balls. Though many people use tennis balls with their dog, we have found that for the aggressive chewer, tennis balls pose a serious danger because they are so easily torn apart. Lacrosse balls can be a good alternative, as can rope knots!
Please remember to monitor your dog with his toys before leaving him alone with them. You need to know that the toy is not a choking or ingestion hazard! Play safe!