Most dogs between five and 18 months, large or small, play hard — it’s up to us to locate toys that are both safe and last more than 20 seconds once the dog starts using them!
Soft latex or plush toys aren’t suitable for most growing dogs (although some dogs enjoy carrying a fleecy toy like it’s a puppy). Stuffed animals, particularly those with squeakers, tend to be disemboweled after only minutes of play, and latex ones are torn apart even faster.
A game of tug with you or another dog makes many dogs’ lists of all-time fun activities, so knotted rope bones, strong rubber tug toys or large plastic bones are good additions to the toy box.
My first criterion when choosing a dog toy is, “Will it last longer than a week?” If the answer is yes, then the toy likely passes the safety test, as well. The second is, “Will my dog play with it?” Toy-treat combos, such as products made from rawhide, might be enjoyed by your dog, but don’t qualify as interactive or provide much mental stimulation. While some dogs are happy to make a toy from anything, it’s important to start teaching your dog early in puppyhood which objects are for playing, and which objects belong to you.
Here are five of my favorite dog toys that can stand up to rough players:
The Buster Cube is a perfect way to feed your dog if you don’t have time to trade the dog’s dinner for a few tricks or obedience behaviors. The cube has a maze-like center that you fill with kibble or treats, and your dog rolls it this way and that to get the food out. It’s a great way to add a little work to your dog’s day!
By far the favorite of the chase-and-slam crowd at my place, the Jolly Ball comes in several sizes to suit any tough pup. I buy the 10- and 8-inch Jolly Balls in pairs and leave them in the yard for a handy game or fetch, chase or tug. They don’t deflated when punctured, which means they last practically forever. The Jolly Ball also comes without the handle, in a “Bounce-n-Play” version.
If ever a toy was designed specifically for big, strong adolescent dogs, the Kong Company has made it happen. The Kong Extreme is made for heavy chewers and can take more abuse than its red counterpart. If you have one a dog who does not enjoy chasing or chewing the Kong, insert small treats, or stuff it full of canned food and freeze — this will generate interest!
The Jawz disc by Hyperflite is an extremely durable disc that flies just like a regular one. Most dogs will destroy a regular plastic disc in one 20-minute play session. Although puppies and young dogs should not jump to catch discs until their growth plates have closed, you can begin teaching dogs of any age how to grab short tosses and pick up rollers off the ground.
JW Pet Invincible Rings
These heavy-duty interlocking rings are perfect for joint tug games, whether with you or another dog. They withstand dogs who are strong pullers and chompers! A determined dog can sit with this toy and chew it apart, so it is best used under supervision and not left alone with your dog.
Kong Goodie Bone
Even dogs who aren’t chewers like this Kong Goodie Bone, and dogs who are chewers love it! A little peanut butter or cream cheese, or a biscuit stuffed in one end provides hours of tough-chewing fun. My dogs like to “share” it between them with endless games of tug. Perfect for your female who likes to play, “I have it and you don’t”! Put it in the refrigerator or freezer first to sooth teething jaws.
Hol-ee Roller Ball
Also not a chew toy, these ball-shaped toys stand up to heavy use primarily because it can’t be punctured!
Be sure to inspect all your dog’s toys regularly, and replace any that are worn or have pieces missing.