It can sometimes be challenging to keep our dog engaged and well exercised. And we all know, that when left to find his own “entertainment“, a dog will come up with many ingenious ways to cause great property damage. Investing in dog toys will make everyone happier, as well as save us some frustration, worry, and money.
Below are a list of toys that my dogs most enjoy. To keep my dogs’ interest in their toys, I usually cycle through different ones, each day of the week. Note that the following descriptions are solely based on my own experiences. Different dogs have different temperaments, and may have different responses to a toy.
Supervise a dog, whenever we give him a new toy. Consult with our vet, if there are safety concerns.
1. Food Dog Toys
One of the best classes of toys for dogs, are interactive food toys.
My dogs spend the most time on their food toys, because they are always trying to figure out the fastest, most efficient way, to get at the food.
Some of their favorite interactive toys include Kongs, the Premier Busy Buddy Collection, the Buster Cube, and much more. Here is a full list of their best interactive food toys.
2. Plush or Tug Dog Toys
When presented with a plush toy, my dogs will often shred it, usually in a matter of minutes.
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to supervise plush toy use, and only allow tug-of-war or fetch games. No chewing should be allowed, in case our dog swallows the squeaker, or other plastic parts within the toy.
My dogs prefer to play tug with plush toys, compared to tug-ropes or rubber-toys. Plush toys squeak, rattle, are easy on the mouth, and are easy to grip. Their favorite soft toys include Dr. Noy’s Dog Toy, Kyjen’s Extreme Bungee Duck Toy, and the Egg Babies Hedgehog.
For the Egg Babies Hedgehog, I remove the squeaky eggs because they are too distracting, and my Shiba Inu cannot resist chewing on them. Instead I put in a chew-safe ball. Then I put some kibble under the ball, and let my dogs figure out how to get the kibble out.
I do not play tug with Shiba Sephy because he gets too excited and reactive, even with strict tug rules. He only plays tug with my other dogs.
3. Chew Dog Toys
Shiba Sephy is an extremely strong chewer, so it is difficult to find good and safe chew toys, for him.
Strong rubber toys, (e.g. Kong Rubber Toys, Nylabone Rhino Rope Toy, TireBiter), seem to be most appropriate. However, I still check his toys frequently, to make sure they are structurally sound.
For instance, Sephy can chew fairly large pieces off the TireBiter toy, if he is feeling persistent and determined. Luckily, he does not show any interest in eating those pieces. It is important to supervise closely when we give a new chew toy to our dog, and ensure he does not swallow any large pieces of rubber or plastic.
Sephy also loved to chew on deer antlers. One day, he found a deer antler while hiking in the hills around our house. He proudly carried it home, and had great fun chewing on it.
Since then, we have always kept our eyes open for new antlers, but have not found too many. Therefore, we decided to buy some from AntlerZ. Sephy really loved these antlers, but he cracked one of his pre-molars, while chewing on this dog toy. It was cracked so badly that we were unable to save the tooth with a root canal, and it had to be extracted.
The dental specialist told us not to give any compressed chewing toys (toys that are hard, with no give) to our dogs. These include processed antlers, processed bones, compressed rawhide, hooves, and hard Nylabone non-edible chews. Note that before this, I have given non-edible Nylabones to my dogs for about 1 year, without any problems. However, here are some reports of hard Nylabones, cracking a dog’s teeth. Based on what I have read, it depends on the hardness of the Nylabone, chew strength of the dog, age of the dog, and duration of the chew session.
Softer Nylabones and rawhide, however, may also be dangerous for dogs.
Many dogs can tear off fairly large chunks of the rawhide, and if swallowed, these chunks may become a choking hazard. They may also block the digestive system and cause infection. Rawhide pieces may absorb water and expand in our dog’s stomach, causing further digestive problems.
4. Balls and Frisbee Dog Toys
My dogs (a Shiba Inu and two Siberian Huskies) don’t generally do fetch.
They may fetch a couple of balls and actually bring it back to me, but they quickly get bored thereafter. The same goes for frisbees.
In terms of ball games, my dogs prefer soccer a lot more than fetch. They are most interested in balls that make noise, including squeaky balls and the Wiggly Giggly Ball.
5. Homemade Dog Toys
My dog loves cardboard boxes.
He will tear a cardboard box apart to get to the food or toy I put inside. Then, he will shred the box some more. This simple, and free “dog toy”, can be good mental exercise for our dog, because he will be challenged to figure out how to get to the hidden food, in the fastest possible way.
Afterward, he can indulge his shredding instinct to his heart’s content. Be warned however, there will be many little pieces of cardboard left all over the floor, at the end of this activity.
My dog also loves shredding paper, and it is simple to hide some food in a ball of paper, and let him go at it.
Make sure that our dog is not interested in eating the cardboard or paper. If he loves the taste of cardboard, then this dog toy is not appropriate. The cardboard can be a choking hazard, and is bad for the digestive system.
This game works with any light (not heavy) basket or container. Just put our dog’s favorite toy and some treats under the basket, and let him figure out how to get to it.
Make sure there are no sharp edges, and the container is non-toxic. If our dog is uninterested, make sure he knows there is good stuff under the basket. It is best to start with a smaller basket, that is easier to lift or that may be easily knocked over.
Once he conquers the smaller containers, he can then slowly graduate to larger containers.
6. Other Interactive Toys
Kyjen has a line of engaging interactive toys, including the I-Qube.
I hide food in soft toys, and then put them into the I-Qube for my dog to work on. Sometimes, I will also put Kongs or Premier food toys into the I-Qube, so that my dog has to fish it out first, before getting to work on the toy.
When I first got the I-Qube, my Shiba Inu chewed-on and destroyed the soft cube in under 1 minute. As stated above, soft or plush toys are not suitable for dogs, unless they are closely supervised.
I have since discovered that putting food in the I-Qube, instead of the squeaky balls that it comes with, helps to refocus my dog. He will work at getting the food first, rather than chewing on the toy. I remove the I-Qube once he gets all the food out.
Cheap Dog Toys
Amazon often has some super discounts on dog toys. These discounts are a great way to save money.
Unlike food and grooming products, there are usually a wide range of quality dog toys to choose from, and they need not be bought on a fixed schedule. Therefore, I wait until the toys that I want are on sale, before getting them.