A guide to choosing the right dog toys for your pooch

dog toys

Choosing the right dog toys for your pooch might sound easy, but there are several important factors to consider that can make a big difference to both the enjoyment and safety of your dog.

Meeting your dog’s instinctual needs is essential for their mental health and can help prevent behavioral problems such as separation anxiety, excessive barkingdestructive chewing and digging. When choosing toys for your dog keep in mind the four factors – movement, colour, noise and food, then look for what your dog responds best to.

All dogs are different so it’s reasonable to think they have different toy preferences as well, so when selecting suitable dog toys you should always consider your dog’s size, activity levels, their personal preferences (ie: do they like to chew, are they excited by noise or movement etc.)

Potential dangers to watch out for when selecting dog toys:

  • Avoid leaving wooden or painted toys and sticks around as wood can splinter and causes a range of internal injuries, whilst paint can be toxic if chewed.
  • Get rid of cheap rubber or plastic dog toys and balls if your dog likes to chew them because if they are chewed and digested, they can cause serious internal injury, not to mention the toxic chemicals in most plastics. Read about the dangers of cheap chew toys here.
  • Be wary of toys with plastic squeakers inside them. Dogs that react to squeaks that sound like a prey animal tend to want to “kill” the toy and consequently can swallow dangerous parts of the toy.
  • Balls need to be the right size so that your dog doesn’t swallow them.
  • Tennis balls should be avoided if your dog likes to chew on them as they can ruin dogs teeth and dogs can end up eating the fluffy skin and rubber (yes that mean’s you @dynamitedarcy!)
  • Ensure any new toys that have tags, string, ribbons etc. on them are safe for your pet. This may involve removing ribbons, strings, eyes, or other parts that could be chewed and ingested.

Different types of dog toys/categories:

With so many dog toys on the market it may seem overwhelming choosing the right toy for your pet. Here are the most common types of dog toys to choose from.

  • Balls
    This is a must-have toy for any dog that loves to fetch. Between a tennis ball or rubber ball. However ensure they are the right size for your dog so that they can’t be swallowed and if they tend to chew them, don’t leave them laying around.
  • Discs and Other Retrieving Toys
    Discs and other retrieval toys like a ball are great for tiring out your pooch. Depending on your dog’s  preference they may prefer the shape of a disk in their mouth compared to a ball. Playing fetch with your pooch is important because it can help build a greater bond between a dog and owner.
  • Plush Toys
    These toys are great for dogs want to carry something around with them. However,  if your dog tends to chew and rip them up then they can pose a risk and best to avoid if they do and never leave them alone with them if they do.
  • Squeak Toys
    These toys are great because they can keep your pooch entertained all day. However, beware of them getting to that squeaker and if they tend to rip these toys apart then avoid them and definitely never leave them alone with them. (See further below for considerations).
  • Rope Toys
    These toys are versatile and great for fetch, tug-of-war and chewing.
  • Tug Toys
    Here at Pooches at Play HQ we love Aussie Dog tug toys! They’re durable, colourful and have great movement to keep your pooch entertained all day.
  • Food Dispensing Toys
    These are great for hungry dogs or fast eaters, dogs left home alone and for extra mental and physical stimulation.
  • Interactive Toys and Dog Puzzles:
    Interactive toys and puzzles that can be left with them when home alone are great for keeping the mentally and physically stimulated, the Aussie Dog Products range or KONG are great.

Other key considerations:

Size – All dog toys should be large enough to carry, but not too small to digest as your dog can accidentally choke on them.

Squeaker safety – Some dogs will naturally tear apart a squeaker toy; it’s their canine instinct to attack something that makes this noise if they have a strong prey drive. This is natural and healthy behaviour and can keep your pooch entertained until they finally break the squeaker.

Whilst some dogs are quite happy just to bite into the area where the squeaker lives and stop once it is ‘dead’ without pulling apart the toy, you may be comfortable with allowing your dog to enjoy the ritual of killing it’s prey (deflating the squeaker). However, you must keep a close eye on them to ensure they don’t swallow the plastic squeaker or any other parts of the toy.   If your dog tends to go a bit crazy with them though, ripping apart the toy and chewing into the squeaker, then I would not recommend these toys for your dog.

Interactive toys interactive toys that dispense treats as the dogs play with them are great for dogs that get left home alone throughout the day and need mental and physical stimulation to keep away anxiety or boredom.    It’s important that these are safe, sturdy and have been designed to be safely left alone with them unsupervised.

Rotate their toys – Us humans like to have a bit of variety in our lives and can get bored if we do the same thing day in and day out.   It is no different for our dogs, so it is a good idea to rotate your dog toys daily and give them just a few different options each day to keep them stimulated and entertained.


About the Author: Lara Shannon is co-Host of Pooches at Play and has completed a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour & Training with the National Dog Trainers Federation. Lara also runs her own dog training, minding and walking business in Melbourne’s Bayside area.

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