How to Buy Dog Toys

Two Parts:Buying Safe Dog ToysBuying the Right Toys for Your Dog

Toys, while fun and enjoyable for your dog, are a necessary component of his overall health and wellbeing.[1] Not only do toys keep your dog happily entertained, but they can also ward off behavioral problems and provide him with comfort.[2] As a responsible dog owner, you should put thought and consideration into buying quality toys for your dog.

Part 1
Buying Safe Dog Toys

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    Examine the toys for dangerous components. Not all toys are safe for your dog. Toys with removable parts (e.g., string, ribbons, rubber bands), can pose health hazards—these small parts could cause your dog to choke or develop an intestinal obstruction if he swallows them.[3][4] Both of these scenarios would require veterinary care.
    • Plastic eyes on a stuffed animal can also be hazardous.
    • Your dog may like toys with squeakers or bells because of the sound they make. However, these internal components could be harmful if swallowed.[5] Closely supervise your dog if he plays with these types of toys to ensure he does not swallow the noise-making components.[6]
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    Read the toy label. Although a dog toy make look harmless, it may contain material that could be toxic to your dog. For example, some dog toys may be coated with toxic heavy metals (e.g., cadmium, lead, chromium).[7] Other toys may be coated with fire retardants or stain guards that contain such toxic ingredients as formaldehyde.[8]
    • Be mindful that the product packaging may not contain information about what the toy is made of. Often, the information is more for advertising, and could thus leave out important wording about the toy’s safety.[9]
    • Consider visiting the toy manufacturer’s website to learn more about how they make their dog toys.[10]
    • If the label does not provide much information, you can smell the toy—a strong scent may be indicative of residual chemicals from the manufacturing process. In addition, bright-dyed fabrics could contain toxic materials.[11]
    • In toys containing lead, the lead can come off in your dog’s mouth when the toy is partially chewed on and becomes wet with his saliva.[12]
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    Purchase toys that are large enough for your dog. This is especially important for larger dogs. Toys that are too small can be easily swallowed, and thus become a choking or obstruction hazard.[13] Ideally, your dog should not be able to fit the entire toy in his mouth.
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    Use caution when buying stuffed toys. Dogs love stuffed toys. However, the filling in a stuffed toy can be harmful to your dog’s digestive system if he swallows it.[14] Particularly dangerous fillings include nutshells and polystyrene beads.[15]
    • Stuffed dog toys labeled as safe for children under three years of age are not likely to have dangerous fillings.[16]
    • Monitor your dog closely if he plays with stuffed toys. Replace the toys when you notice a torn seam or other damage that would provide easy access to the filling.[17]
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    Select a safe version of rawhide bones. Dogs enjoy chewing on rawhide bones.[18] Not only would a rawhide bone keep your dog busy,[19] but it would also strengthen his jaw bones and help maintain his dental hygiene. However, rawhide bones, especially those made of one large sheet of rawhide that is rolled and knotted on each end,[20] can be choking hazards.[21]
    • Look for pressed rawhide bones. When chewed on and softened, pressed rawhide bones will break into small pieces that will be safe and easy for your dog to swallow.[22]

Part 2
Buying the Right Toys for Your Dog

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    Select indestructible toys. Dogs tend to see toys as wolves see prey, and thus like toys that taste like food, make a noise, and/or can be torn apart.[23] Therefore, it is important to choose very durable toys. Indestructible toys are commonly made of hard nylon or hard rubber.[24]
    • Kong toys are very durable.
    • Over time, even the indestructible toys can develop sharp or rough edges that could injure your dog.[25] Replace the toys when you see these signs of wear and tear.
    • Rope toys containing hard nylon or rubber are durable, but can unravel over time.[26] Replace the rope if it is no longer intact.
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    Purchase toys that will keep your dog busy. Whether large or small, young or old, your dog will need toys that will distract him for extended periods of time. Food cubes can keep your dog easily entertained.[27] Small bits of food easily fit in the cube, but do not easily fall back out—there is a maze inside the cube, so your dog will have to roll it around to get the food out.[28]
    • Treat balls are similar to food cubes, but the food comes out more easily. Treats balls would be good for your dog if he likes quick rewards without doing much work.[29]
    • Kong toys are another type of ‘entertainment’ toy. Not only can you hide treats inside of it, but you can also use it as a fetching toy.[30]
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    Buy chew toys for your dog. Your dog will probably always want something to chew on. Technically, though, your dog is not chewing the toy—rather, he is trying to tear and shear the toy with his premolars and molars (‘grinder teeth’), as if the toy was prey.[31] Durable toys made of hard nylon or hard rubber make great chew toys, since your dog will not easily be able to tear them apart.
    • Your dog’s premolars and molars are in the back of his mouth. He may end up swallowing a small chew toy in his efforts to tear it apart, which could pose a choke hazard. Make sure the chew toy is large enough that he cannot fit all of it in the back of his mouth.[32]
    • Dental chew toys will help keep your dog’s teeth clean. Choose name-brand dental chew toys that are made of soft material and will soften and dissolve when in contact with your dog’s saliva.[33]
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    Choose interactive dog toys. As much as your dog loves to play with his toys, remember that toys are not are not substitutes for human interaction.[34] In fact, your dog will probably be more interested in his toys if you play with him.[35] Examples of interactive toys include rope toys and balls.
    • Even if a toy does not seem particularly interactive, you can hide it and encourage your dog to find it. Playing ‘hide and seek’ with your dog is a great way to interact with him.[36]
    • Rope toys are not good interactive toys for aggressive dogs. These toys can encourage rough and aggressive play.[37]
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    Pick toys based on your dog’s life stage. Your dog’s toy needs and preferences will change as he progresses through the different life stages (puppy, adult, senior). For example, a teething puppy would need a durable chew toy, but an older dog may do fine with a soft toy that he could mouth on without using his teeth.[38]
    • A puppy or young adult dog that’s full of energy would need toys that would keep him active (e.g., rope toy), but an older dog may prefer toys that he can easily play with when lying in one place.[39]
    • Dogs tend to play less as they age.[40]


  • Dogs can be picky with their toys,[41] so you may go through some trial and error to determine what toys your dog prefers.
  • Consider keeping your dog’s toys in a toy box or other large container.[42]
  • Dogs can lose interest in their toys over time.[43] Give your dog several toys to play with at a time and rotate them out once a week. Within each rotation, there should be several toy types.[44]
  • Several dog toy companies are known for making high-quality toys from non-toxic and eco-friendly materials. Visit the website for a list and description of these companies.


  • Veterinary care would be needed if your dog chokes or becomes obstructed after swallowing a toy. Toxicity-induced illness would also require veterinary care.
  • Certain chemicals in dog toys (e.g., lead, chromium, formaldehyde) are toxic to dogs.[45]
  • Small items like ribbons, strings, and rubber bands are potential choke hazards for dogs.[46]
  • Over time, buying dog toys can become expensive.[47]

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Categories: Dog Toys and Play