Finding the right toys for your dog can be tough. We have spent hundreds of hours reviewing dog toys on your behalf. Our team of veterinarians have reviewed toys to bring you the best dog toys in 2021 for your beloved dog.
Keeping a dog happy is not just about giving them food and taking them out for walks. It’s also about how you relate to them the rest of the time – it’s about making them feel like valued members of the pack, and it’s about socializing and playing.
This is where dog toys come in. And it’s why choosing the right dog toy can so often be the difference between a happy dog and an unhappy one. And in fact, as we will see, the best dog toys can also actually be very useful for improving your dog’s health in a whole host of other ways. And let’s not forget that dog toys also keep our dogs nicely distracted so that we can get on with other things!
WHY DOGS LOVE PLAYING
The best way to understand dog psychology, and thus to ensure that you provide for the cognitive and emotional needs of your pet, is to remember that they are descended from wolves. This is what we call “evolutionary psychology”: looking at the traits of an animal in regards to what their value would have been in the wild. Your dog likes playing because as a puppy this is how it would have learned a lot of valuable skills. Play fighting with siblings taught it to fight, to use its senses, and to operate socially.
At the same time your dog has also gone through a lot of breeding since it was a wolf, and this will have affected its psychology in various ways as well that are crucial to understand. Basically, dogs are bred selectively to enhance certain traits and these are both physical and psychological. That means that there is going to be some difference between how a Sheep Dog and a Pit Bull behave. A Poodle for instance is a hunting dog and is very intelligent. This makes them responsive to dog training and it means that they are likely to use their nose a lot and enjoy bringing you “presents.” On the other hand a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which is bred for fighting, is more likely to be aggressive with other animals and you need to bear that in mind when dog training.
All dogs have been chosen for how social they are with humans. This is a trait that has been selectively bred for over countless generations, and the result is that all dogs are generally a lot softer and friendlier than they would have been in the wild.
In fact, it has been postulated that many dogs have been bred to be “puppy like.” They are psychologically stunted so that they maintain that desire to want to play but never develop to become fully aggressive predators. For obvious reasons, this suits humans well.
Remembering that your dog is a combination of wild wolf, combined with domestication over countless generations, will help you to better understand the merits of each of these best dog toys.
TYPES OF DOG TOYS
With all of that said, let’s take a look at some of the best types of dog toys and what makes them so popular.
The most popular and well-known type of dog toy is the chew toy. Put simply, this is a toy that a dog can wrap its jaw around and use to chew and bite. This is great for dogs because it gives them a form of stimulation, and simultaneously actually helps them to clean their teeth and encourage teething as puppies.
Teeth cleaning is a common issue for dogs. You want them to develop strong teeth, but brushing regularly isn’t always easy or practical. Letting your dog chew a chew toy on the other hand can help to a) remove plaque by scraping against their teeth and thereby removing bits of food and bacteria, and b) help to encourage the production of that saliva. Dog saliva is naturally antibacterial, and so this simple process is actually often enough to ensure that they kill off the bacteria and germs in their mouth.
Did you know that not only does this help your dog to enjoy healthier, cleaner teeth, but it also ensures that they actually have better-smelling breath? That’s because the bacteria is also what’s responsible for causing bad breath in the first place! This is a double win for sure.
When choosing a chew toy for dogs, there are a few things to consider. The first is that it needs to be resilient enough to last. Keep in mind that dogs can very quickly destroy something like a stuffed toy, so you want something that they can have a proper go of and still enjoy a few weeks later.
Another thing to consider is that a good chew toy that could be considered as best dog toys should have multiple different textures, and different widths and shapes. This gives your dog different places to get their teeth stuck in. Finally, some chew toys also have interactive or multisensory elements, or something that a dog can try to ‘accomplish’. For instance, dogs like trying to unscrew tops of bottles, and some well-designed dog toys will replicate this aspect. Likewise, you can find dog chew toys that are scented, or that squeak. Both of these can have a greater appeal for a dog rather than something that is wholly inert.
Kongs are a type of dog chew toy that have become very popular. These toys are chew toys made from a proprietary rubber that has been shown to be very satisfying for dogs, while also being resilient to them when chewing. These are very good for your dog’s teething, but also generally highly resilient and well designed.
Kongs are generally shaped like beehives and start narrower at the bottom compared with the top. This means that they have different areas that are perfect for different parts of the jaw. At the same time, it is possible to buy some Kong toys that come with a way to store a treat. This is the perfect way to make a toy that is more stimulatory and that offers more of a goal. Your dog now has to find a way to work the treat out of the toy, which engages their brain and which also makes chew toys more addictive and fun for them. This is particularly good for those smarter breeds of dog like poodles that might become more easily bored by a simple piece of rope.
Kongs also come color coded in order to denote the best option for your size of dog. For instance, the orange Kongs are ideal for extra small dogs. They are suitable for up to 5lbs. The next size up is small – the yellow Kong – which is ideal for dogs up to 20lbs. This continues in increments all the way up to XXL, which is suitable for dogs over 85lbs. You can also get Kongs that are designed for different levels of toughness. You can get puppy Kongs Chew Toys, classic Kongs, extreme Kongs, and senior Kongs.
Now of course a Kong is a proprietary dog toy, and therefore fairly expensive. As with any popular brand, Kong can charge a little more than other options. Keep in mind that you can entertain a dog very well with an old plastic bottle, or a secondhand plush toys from a charity shop.
BUT at the same time, Kongs give you peace of mind knowing that the item has been designed specifically with dogs in mind, and that it will last even when those dogs chew hard and for a long time. What’s more, is that you can this way be sure that your kong won’t pose any risk for your dog. There is nothing worse than buying a toy for a dog, only for a small part to pop off and get stuck in their throats. Not to create any unwanted stress, but buying a toy that has been tried and tested and is well known to be highly popular with dogs… that’s a very good option.
A ball launcher is a dog toy designed to help you play with your dog. This is a device that is designed to allow you to play fetch, but in a manner that is going to let them run a lot further and faster.
Essentially a ball launcher works by providing you with a long stick that has a scoop on the end. You use this to scoop up the ball and then swing your arm in order to throw the ball. Because the ball is now attached to your hand via a longer pole or arm, that in turn means that it will travel much further and much faster – the energy is transferred along the lever and therefore becomes much greater. The arc of the ball is likewise faster, transferring even more energy and ensuring a much further throw.
This is an ideal option for people who don’t have a particularly strong throwing arm usually, as it means they can still provide enough of a challenge for their dog and get them to really run!
An automatic ball launcher is a different idea altogether. This is a machine that will fire balls for your dog to run after, which in turn means that they will be well entertained running after the balls without you needing to do so much as lifting a finger!
Automatic ball launchers are a good option for those that have a large yard, and who want to keep their dogs fit and healthy, despite perhaps not having the energy or the health they need to walk or run with their dogs often. They’re also great options for those dogs that just have so much energy that no amount of exercise ever seems enough to let them burn it off!
Remember: your dog is descended from a wolf, and as such they will enjoy chasing after balls because this mimics the process of hunting. Dogs love spotting movement out the corner of an eye and then reacting to it by giving chase!
The great thing about a ball launcher is that it’s a toy that allows you to engage with your dog. Dogs are social, pack animals and as such, they love playing with other people. And remember, their whole playing impulse comes from playing with other dogs!
Therefore, a tug toy is an even better option. This is a toy that both you and your furry friend can pull on and wrestle with. They love having the feedback and getting to play with their Mom/Dad, and at the same time this has all the same benefits as any kind of chew toy because they are using their jaw muscles.
You can get tug toys that are simply ropes with knots in them (knots are great for your dog to get their teeth around). But better yet are toys that are more stimulatory with larger and smaller areas, and that then have some kind of cord or attachment that you can pull in order to wrestle with your dog.
We’ve already discussed the merits of chew toys that squeak, that offer some kind of scent, or that have something for the dog to try and achieve. You can take this even further with an interactive dog toy something that will provide some kind of feedback to your dogs actions. This might mean for instance something that moves or lights up when your dog bats it, or something that is able to outrun your dog.
There are many more multi-sensory dog toys that have lights, sounds, and moving parts, all of which are designed to stimulate and excite your pup!
Nylabone dog toys are dog toys that have been designed specifically to help with teething and to encourage strong healthy teeth. These toys are flavored and often look like bones in appearance, all of which helps to appeal to your dog’s wild nature and to their sense of taste. At the same time though, these toys won’t immediately be destroyed and will last a good while before they need replacing.
These toys are popular because they mimic what dogs would have done in the wild – gnaw on bones in order to get at the delicious marrow inside.
With that said, there have been some warnings issued regarding Nylabone, and specifically with regards to dogs with very sharp teeth. It has been suggested that strong enough dogs may actually fracture and shatter the Nylabones, creating harmful shards that damage their intestines.
This isn’t a problem, however, as long as you choose Nylabones that are explicitly designed for your dog’s breed and size, and as long as you choose those that are made from the right materials.
Finally, you might be wondering what toys would be best for puppies?Any toy that you get for a larger dog will work well for a puppy – from Kongs, to interactive toys, to ball launchers. The main things to remember here though are that puppies are much smaller, they have weaker jaws and more delicate teeth, and they are a lot more easily spooked! An automatic ball launcher may scare a young puppy, while a tough chew toy might pose too much of a challenge for their little mouths.Your aim is to make sure that you pick toys specifically aimed at puppies. If in doubt, then choose those toys that are smaller, lighter, and softer. And keep in mind that puppies are even more social than their elder counterparts – so anything you can find that will let you play with your puppy in order to stimulate and socialize them is absolutely guaranteed to be a big hit!
MLCINI Dog Toys Plush Dog Squeaky Toys Rope Dog Toy. MLCINI Dog Toys are ideal for all sizes and breeds of dogs. Ten different toys are included in the set, which is made to satisfy a dogs’ instinctual needs.
These dog toys promote proper chewing and maintain the interest of the dog with the variety of items included in the set. The non-toxic toys promote chewing, which can alleviate separation anxiety and also remove tartar on dogs’ teeth. The rope is easy to pull apart for larger dogs with larger teeth and may begin to shred with frequent use.
Woodland Friends Burrow, Interactive Squeaky. This ZippyPaws dog toy includes three squeaky chipmunks that allow dogs to play hide and seek for hours of fun. The plush material is ideal for teething puppies or larger dogs that like to chew.
This dog toy is made with high-quality materials and parts that are stitched on instead of glued together. It challenges dogs’ patience and endurance while they attempt to get the squirrels out. Some holes may develop on the toy log.
Multipet Latex Chicken Globken Dog Toy Assorted. The Multipet Latex Chicken Globken Dog Toy is plush and is available in a variety of colors. These toys are made from durable latex and feature a fun polka-dot design.
This toy chicken holds up well to frequent chewing and biting due to its thick texture, giving it a long lifespan. The colorful design makes it easy for dogs to spot. The squeak it makes might be too high-pitched for some dog owners.
Classic Dog Toy – Durable Natural Rubber. The KONG Classic red rubber toy offers hours of entertainment and bounces around when it hits different surfaces. It can attract dogs once it’s stuffed with snacks, peanut butter, or kibble.
As a vet-recommended pet toy, KONG doubles as a snack when it’s filled with healthy treats. The ultra-durable rubber material creates an erratic bounce and doesn’t break or tear when bitten by large teeth. It does have a strong rubber smell, which may turn off some pets and their owners.
Washable Cotton Rope for Dogs. Made from a tight multi-colored rope, these Pets&Goods dog toys are extremely durable for puppies and small to medium-sized dogs. Its materials are natural and non-toxic.
These dog toy ropes feature a myriad of colors, making them easy to spot in the house or yard during playtime. They prevent puppies from chewing on furniture or sneakers with their tough design. The ropes are prone to shedding.
Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle Toy. The Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle Toy allows dogs to sniff, hunt, and fetch “squirrels”. Hidden squeakers in the stuffed animals entice dogs to play along and stay active.
This toy offers a fun game to keep dogs entertained when they’re alone in the home. The durable quality of the parts prevents it from being ripped to shreds with frequent use. Some dogs may have difficulty understanding how it works.
Chuckit! Ultra Ball. The Chuckit! Ultra Ball is a squeaker ball toy with plenty of bounce and fun sounds. The textured surface and thick rubber core make the ball great for aggressive chewers.
This ball is the perfect toy for a game of fetch on land or in the water due to its ability to float. The bright color makes it easy to find in the grass or dirt. Cracks may develop on the surface over time.
Snug Rubber Dog Balls for Small and Medium Dogs. These BPA-fee rubber balls from Snug are made from 100% all-natural rubber. They’re 2.5 inches in diameter, which means they’re suitable for small to medium-sized dogs.
These rubber play balls are easy for small and medium-sized dogs to pick up and hold in their mouths. They’re very durable, which means dogs won’t damage them with their teeth while playing fetch. The bright colors make them easy to spot if they end up in a bush or tall grass. They bounce very high, which is fun for rambunctious dogs that like to jump and chase. Larger dogs are at risk of swallowing these rubber balls.
West Paw Design Jive Zogoflex Durable Ball Dog Chew Toy. The West Paw Design Jive Zogoflex Durable Ball is BPA-free, non-toxic, and FDA compliant. They fit in all standard ball launchers. They’re recyclable and also dishwasher safe.
High-energy dogs love to chase this ball around. It’s designed to bounce in unpredictable patterns, which leaves dogs guessing which way it will go. Great for small to medium-sized dogs and younger pups. It’s very durable and has a good weight, which means it can be thrown a long distance with a ball launcher. Cleaning this ball is very easy. Because it’s heavier than other rubber balls, it’s not suitable for indoor play.
Gnawsome 4.5” Spiky Squeaker Ball Dog Toy. The Gnawsome 4.5” Spiky Squeaker Ball is made from BPA-free thermo-plasticized rubber. It comes in an assortment of bright colors and squeaks when pressed. It’s also textured on the outside.
This is a great ball for dogs that like a bit of sound with their toys. The bigger size makes it perfect for medium and large-sized dogs. They won’t be able to swallow or choke on this ball. Many dogs seem to be drawn to the spikey texture on the outside. This feature is great for dogs that like to chew on objects. It’s very durable and holds up well, even with frequent use. The rubber used to make this ball has a strange odor.
West Paw Zogoflex Hurley Durable Dog Bone Chew Toy for Aggressive Chewers. This bog bone toy from West Paw Zogoflex is designed for aggressive chewers. It’s non-toxic, BPA-free, and FDA compliant. It’s recyclable, dishwasher safe, and made to float in water.
This toy can withstand hours of chewing. In addition to a chew toy, it’s perfect for games of fetch both inside and outdoors. If your dog loves to swim, you can throw it in the water and it won’t sink. It’s perfect for medium to large-sized dogs. It’s also very easy to clean. Small dogs like chihuahuas will have trouble fitting in their mouths.
Pet Qwerks BarkBone Stick – For Aggressive Chewers.
The shape of a stick attracts your dog because it looks like a bone, and this chew toy emulates that natural shape so your dog will love to chew on it. This stick is made of FDA-compliant safe nylon that is extremely durable and has a unique mint flavor with ingredients that can help improve your dog’s dental hygiene.
VANFINE Dog Squeaky Toys Almost indestructible Tough durable dog toys dog chew toys for large dogs aggressive chewers squeaky toys for dogs Stick Squeaker Puppy Chew Toys with Non-Toxic Natural Rubber.
This non-toxic rubber toy is perfectly safe for your dog to chew. It is made with an eco-friendly BPA-free material that is very durable, ensuring the toy lasts for a long time even when it is used by aggressive chewers. There are two squeakers installed in this toy, helping promote your dog’s natural playful behavior and making this toy more fun.
EETOYS Dog Chew Toys for Aggressive Chewers Nearly Indestructible Tough Durable Hard Dog Toy Non-Toxic Nylon Dog Bone Toy Reduces Boredom.
The extra-strong polymer nylon material used in this chew toy is non-toxic and perfectly safe for your dog, so even if some pieces are chewed-off and consumed, you don’t have to worry about your dog’s health at all. The toy itself is extremely strong yet easy on your dog’s teeth, making it great for aggressive chewers.
All Natural Medium Whole Elk Antler Dog Chew. Treat your canine friend to these all-natural elk antler chews, fortified with vitamins and minerals from antler marrow.
Cruelty-free and made from naturally shed antlers, these chews are an excellent source of nutrition that keeps your dog’s teeth clean and their gums healthy. Available in a pack of two antlers in various sizes. Suitable for any breed of dog. Some small dog breeds may prefer a squeaky toy instead. Excellent for dogs with strong jaws.
Kong Combo Toy. This KONG toy brings together a plush toy and rope knots into one toy that your dog will love. The outside is soft and cuddly, with knots on the inside that satisfy their craving to chew.
Five chew points provide a fantastic thrashing toy for small dog breeds. This is an excellent toy for puppies that are teething, or small dogs that need a friend in their crate.
Skinny Peltz No Stuffing Squeaky Plush Dog Toy. These cute woodlands creatures come with no stuffing, so you don’t have to worry about your dog making a mess. Each toy features two squeakers to capture your dog’s attention.
With no stuffing, these toys will create less of a mess if your dog tears them open. However, the squeakers may present a choking hazard if they do open them up. Soft and furry, they’re the ideal companion to help soothe anxiety while your dog is in their crate.
Real Flavor Wishbone Dog Chew Toy. The innovative wishbone design of this toy lets your dog grab it easily and chew to their heart’s content. The flavor options are a great bonus!
The Benebone wishbone is great for chewing or for playing fetch. Although the flavor features 100-percent natural food-grade ingredients, your dog can’t eat this wishbone – replace it when it’s worn out. Your dog will love the natural flavor and smell, but it fades over time.
Dogwood Durable Real Wood Dog Chew Toy. With the Dogwood stick, you get a smooth surface that’s splinter-free. The toy features non-toxic materials and is made in the USA.
This toy is lightweight and an excellent alternative to rubber bones. The realistic design activates your dog’s natural playfulness. It’s great for dogs that like being outdoors or enjoy chewing, and makes a good throwing option as well. It’s fantastic product innovation, but some dogs may still prefer their squeaky toy.
Mountain Yak Cheese Dog Chews. Emmys Yak cheese chews come from the chilly mountaintops of the Himalayas and are manufactured with all-natural ingredients and no preservatives or additives.
These chews are a blend of, yak milk, cow’s milk, lime juice, and salt, making them perfect to keep your dog busy all day long. The DogGear experts love these chews for our dogs. Suitable for any breed, the organic, natural ingredients are top-quality. They’re tougher than rawhide chews and great for your dog’s oral hygiene. We struggle to find a drawback to these chews.
Large Textured Chew Toy. This is the ideal chew toy for dogs with powerful jaws. It features raised nubs and ridges for optimal oral hygiene and dental health.
This toy lasts for ages and is a great option for keeping your dog occupied while you’re away from home. It is non-edible, so you’ll have to inspect it regularly to ensure your dog isn’t biting off pieces and swallowing them. That said, the chew is super tough and stands up to the jaws of the most aggressive chewers.
SwimWays Spring Float Paddle Paws Dog Pool Float – Large (65 lbs and Up).
This dog pool float features a patented spring system that helps give the inflatable more stability over water and makes it easy to set up and flatten. This spring enables the float to retain its shape no matter how your dog positions themselves. With a dimension of 64.5 x 43.25 inches, it can accommodate multiple small dogs or one large dog. Because only the outer rim is inflatable, it can only support a weight of up to 65 pounds.
Chiwava 4PCS 2.4” Squeak Latex Puppy Toy Funny Animal Sets Pet Interactive Play for Small Dog Assorted Color. These squeaky toys come in a set of four and have different animal faces featured on them. They bounce off of surfaces easily when thrown and are suitable for smaller breeds of dogs.
These toys are soft and don’t have any filling in them. They’re made with non-toxic latex rubber that makes them safe for your dog to chew and play with. They make a great option for playing fetch and are quite interactive with the sound they make when pressed. However, the squeaker may break with rough use over time.
BarkBox Dog Squeak Toys | Long Lasting for Chewers | Durable Tug and Fetch Toys | Interactive Stuffed Plush Toys and Balls for Small/Medium/Large Dogs. These 2-in-1 toys are ideal for dogs as they feature a fluffy stuffing and interactive elements that help them stay engaged. The toy comes in different shapes likea cactus, a sloth or a pineapple.
It’s affordable and made of non-toxicplushso it’s safe for your pup. The toy is designed to be destroyed, with a smaller squeaker inside to surprise your pup and make for long playtimes. However, you need to be careful so your dog doesn’t swallow any bits after shredding it.
Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy – Hide and Seek Activity for Dogs. This squeaky plush toy is amazing for interactive bonding sessions with your dog. All you need to do is fill the tree trunk with the stuffed toy and let your dog sniff around and hunt them.
The toy is available in different sizes and in different shapes such as squirrels and hedgehogs.This hide-and-seek game incorporating squeaky toys is great for stimulating your dog’s brain and keeping them occupied. However, it’s made of synthetic material which shouldn’t be ingested by dogs.
Premium Elk Antlers For Dogs. Elk antlers are all-natural and packed with calcium and other nutrients that are great for dogs. Your pup can chew this either inside or outside since there will be no residue left behind, and it’s also good for dental hygiene.
This toy lasts a long time and has lots of health benefits, and we like that it doesn’t have the odor rawhide or other dog bones do. We have noticed some inconsistencies in the sizes of the antler pieces.
Jumbler Football Toy. This toy uses proprietary rubber to provide a healthy and fun chewing toy for dogs, and features a squeaker and tumbling ball on the inside to make it enticing for your pup.
KONG is a leading name in the world of dog chew toys, and for good reason. This is a toy that many pups and owners alike enjoy playing with, and owners who supervise play with their dogs love that it holds up so well! Of course, when left to their devices, very destructive dogs will likely find a way to puncture this toy.
Amber grew up having golden retrievers and will always have a special place in her heart for the breed. Her love for all things "dog" helped her become a general manager at a small kennel in Ohio for several years. Acquainting dogs and understanding both their needs and limitations have given her deep insights into the boarding process many dogs face in their lives. From consistent details to play time to food and bed time, Amber will always remember the small influences she was able to present to every pooch she cared for.