Every owner knows that a bored dog can spell disaster. While not all dogs will start chewing up your curtains if left unattended, it’s still a good idea to keep a few of your pet’s favourite toys in their bed (and a few treats in the cupboard) to help keep them occupied and amused while your attention is elsewhere.
Dog toys have a range of benefits aside from providing a distraction or curing boredom. According to dog behaviourist and trainer Adem Fehmi, dog toys can “offer an outlet for certain behaviours such as mouthing and predatory chasing, and also help to reduce the energy that may be placed into feeling anxious, fearful or over-excited”.
When it comes to choosing the best dog toy for your pet, there’s a lot to choose from. So, to help you find a selection of toys best suited to your dog, The Recommended spoke to Adem for his expert advice on what to avoid when shopping for a dog toy, which you can find at the bottom of this article. In line with Adem’s recommendations, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best dog toys to buy online.
The best dog toys at a glance:
- Best durable dog toy: Beco Rough & Tough Recycled Plastic Toy
- Best recyclable dog toy: Green & Wilds Eco Dog Toy
- Best dog ball toy: ChuckIt! Ultra Ball Dog Toy
- Best dog toy for short snouts: Chuckit! Air Fetch Dog Ball
- Best food-dispensing dog toy: West Paw Zogoflex Toppl
- Best calming dog toy: LickiMat 2-Pack Classic Soother and Buddy
- Best soft dog toy: Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Plush Dog Toy
- Best meat-flavoured dog toy: Benebone Durable Wishbone Dog Chew Toy
- Best dog toy for teething: KONG Puppy Toy Natural Teething Rubber
The best dog toys
Best durable dog toy: Beco Rough & Tough Recycled Plastic Toy
Made from recycled materials
This dog toy is designed to withstand chews and wrestles and comes recommended by our expert, who likes that it provides different textures for dogs to explore and is made from recycled plastics.
Our expert says that this dog toy is “open-ended” in terms of its use, which allows owners to interact with their dogs in several ways. This shark-shaped dog toy’s panels are woven together with double stitching and reinforced with a second layer of cloth for durability and to extend its lifespan.
Best eco-friendly dog toy: Green & Wilds Eco Dog Toy
Made from natural plant fibres
Toys such as this sustainable, jute bone toy are great for puppies or young dogs to play with and explore different textures, shapes and sounds, according to our expert.
This toy is great for throwing and tugging and consists of four layers of jute twine, stitched over recycled cotton and jute rope, before being covered in soft suede for durability. This particular Green & Wilds Eco dog toy is shaped like a bone.
Best dog ball toy: ChuckIt! Ultra Ball Dog Toy
A chase toy for all breeds
One of dog expert’s favourite chase toys, this fetch ball comes in a range of four sizes to suit the size of your dog and is made from an extra-thick natural rubber material to help it stand up to sharp teeth.
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This dog ball comes in an orange and blue design to help owners and dogs spot it when playing fetch and is designed to bounce high for added enjoyment. It is also buoyant, which is great for owners who enjoy taking their dogs to play in water.
Best dog toy for short snouts: Chuckit! Air Fetch Dog Ball
Designed to promote airflow
This fetch ball is designed specifically for smaller dogs and dogs with short snouts and features a hollow, lattice-like design to help dogs breathe when they have it in their mouths.
This dog ball toy is made from natural rubber and is lightweight (22.6g) to help small dogs to grab it. It is available to buy in four different sizes - small, medium, large and extra-large - depending on the breed and size of your dog. It also floats, which is great for dogs who like to play in the water.
Best food-dispensing dog toy: West Paw Zogoflex Toppl
Great for hiding treats inside
Our expert has found this food dispensing toy popular with the dogs he trains and likes that you can make it more complex for dogs to find the treats inside based on how it’s filled.
Our expert liked that this toy is made from rubber, which means it is easy to clean and can be put in the dishwasher. He suggests occasionally freezing wet or semi-moist food inside to make it more challenging for your dog to find the toy inside. The Zogoflex Toppl comes in small and large sizes for different breed sizes.
Best calming dog toy: LickiMat 2-Pack Classic Soother and Buddy
Great for encouraging dogs to settle
Ideal for hiding treats inside, our expert says this lick mat can be used in a range of ways - he uses them to provide enrichment to dogs of all ages, particularly puppies.
These mats have a textured surface designed to help promote “a pleasurable licking action”, which is said to help protect your dog’s teeth and gums. Our dog expert says he finds the mats helpful when taking dogs to the groomers or vets as they act as a positive reinforcer and distraction when being handled. He adds that they can also be folded up small enough to easily take to a dog-friendly cafe or restaurant to encourage your dog to settle.
Best soft dog toy: Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Plush Dog Toy
Gentle on teeth
This puzzle-style dog toy comes with six stuffed, squeaky squirrels, which you hide in the tree trunk for your dog to find.
This dog toy has a soft texture designed to be gentle on teeth and comes in four sizes depending on the breed and size of your dog. While its primary function is to mentally stimulate your dog, you can also use the squirrels that come with the toy for playing fetch, which our expert says is great for ensuring that exercise sessions remain fun for your dog.
Best meat-flavoured dog toy: Benebone Durable Wishbone Dog Chew Toy
Three flavour options
Available to buy in three flavours to suit your dog’s taste - bacon, chicken and peanut butter - this non-edible, wishbone-shaped dog toy is designed to give your dog something appealing to chew on.
This dog chew is available to buy in four sizes depending on its size - small, medium, large, and giant - and features a curved design to help provide a “paw-friendly grip”. Benebone says it only uses 100% natural ingredients to flavour its chew toys.
Best dog toy for teething: KONG Puppy Toy Natural Teething Rubber
This natural rubber puppy toy has an unpredictable bounce, which is great for keeping your dog’s exercises exciting and stimulating.
This toy is specifically designed for puppies' baby teeth and gums, and to help solve chewing, teething and boredom. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, our expert recommends supervising your dog at all times when you give it a chew toy so that there’s no risk of it digesting any material.
Our dog expert
Adem Fehmi is a CFBA registered dog behaviourist with over 15 years of experience working in the field. He is the owner of Dog-ease, a canine behaviour and training business based in Hertfordshire, where he and his team help dog owners to better understand their dog’s behavioural issues and teaches them how to overcome these issues in both 1-2-1 and group settings.
What are the best dog toys?
When choosing dog toys, Adem says he likes to break them into three main subcategories: explore toys, chase toys and food dispensing toys.
- Explore toys are most suited to the younger dog or puppy, he says. “Think of different textures, sizes, shapes, movements and sounds; toys that your dog can mouth and explore, helping them to not only play and release energy but also learn about the world.”
- Chase toys, on the other hand, are better suited to fully grown and adult dogs and will “help to protect your dog’s growing limbs and joints”. Adem suggests picking a chase toy that your individual dog values. “These range from small to large balls, airflow style balls for short-snouted breeds, to even flirt poles.” He adds that you should protect your dog’s physical health when you throw or move your chosen chase toy by avoiding lots of twisting, turning and jumping to catch. “I like to throw a ball or other chase toy close to the ground rather than up, through the air,” he says.
- Food dispensing toys, Adem says, can be used with a dog of any age and can provide “excellent physical and mental stimulation”. He adds: “Depending on your dog’s age, physiology and breed type, there are many to choose from, from lick style mats to rubber types, and even larger, more robust types that are suited more to outdoor use.”
What to avoid when buying a dog toy
When shopping for dog toys, “think about your dog’s individual likes and dislikes as well as their life stage”, says Adem. He recommends that owners avoid anything that is too small or large for your individual dog. “Small toys and balls can be a choking hazard for larger breeds, and a toy too big may discourage or prevent a smaller dog from playing.”
You should also ensure that any toy you buy is specifically designed for dogs and won’t be easily ingested. “ If your dog has a short snout, choose toys that allow them to breathe easily when carried to avoid overheating and obstructing their airway,” says Adem.
“Quality over quantity!” is also something that Adem says to bear in mind. “There are so many toys on the market to choose from,” he says, “but a small selection of carefully considered and used toys can be much more effective than a multitude of toys that your dog is disinterested in.”
What are the best dog toys for puppies?
According to Adem, puppies benefit most from a good range of toys, rather than a large quantity, “in order to enrich their day and provide vital opportunities to express their naturally playful and explorative nature”.
When shopping for toys for puppies, Adem recommends looking for different sizes, textures, shapes, sounds and movements and to rotate which toys you give your puppy to play with. “I would advise keeping these in a toy box out of the reach of your puppy so that you can rotate toys on a daily basis, presenting a small selection of toys at a time for them to play with,” he says.
“The rotation of toys helps to keep them fresh and interesting and can assist in preventing your puppy from becoming disinterested and bored. The more interested they are in the toys placed down for them, the less your puppy may be inclined to play with or chew items in your home that they shouldn’t.”
What are the best dog toys for aggressive chewers?
If you have a dog that is an aggressive chewer, Adem says that chase toys are “ideal for adding structure to their walk and ensuring that exercise sessions are constructive and help to expend energy”. He says to think of walking your dog like a gym session, with a warm-up, main activity, and a cool down. “The chase-style game can provide a much-needed physical outlet and help to ensure that exercise sessions are fun for most dogs and particularly those who are very active.”
Adem adds that it's important that owners don’t promote obsessions with chewing items such as balls or other toys. “Not only can obsessive chewing wear down teeth and affect dental health, but obsessive behaviours can quickly turn into possessive behaviours if not addressed,” he says. “Although you can find many ‘tough’ toys on the market, it is important that a dog who is known to chew and destroy toys is supervised at all times when given a toy so that there is not a risk of the dog ingesting any of the material. If you feel that your dog is an obsessive chewer, it is best to seek advice from an experienced and accredited behaviourist so that this behaviour can be addressed.”
Want to read more expert-recommended pet product round-ups? Check out our Pets page for a full list of recommendations, including our list of the best dog beds and best dog crates, as recommended by dog experts, as well as the best dog food, recommended by an animal nutritionist.
Luke Chamberlain is a Staff Writer for The Recommended, and interviews some of the world’s most knowledgeable product experts to help readers make smarter decision about the products they buy online.