How to Choose the Right Toy for Your Dog

New Pet Owners  •  Pam Karkow  •  Monday, September 27, 2021

My neighbor told me her dog loves his Kong toy, but she did not love their experience with peanut butter in the Kong. Tango made quite the mess with the peanut butter, so he doesn’t get to enjoy that treat anymore. When it comes to the right treat for your dog, the most important thing to know is his personality. Is he a vigorous chewer? Does he still have his puppy teeth? Does he like to remove every last piece of stuffing in plush toys? Does he need toys that will soothe his gums?

Once you have established the answers to these questions, you can proceed to choose the best toy for your dog. We can help by providing suggestions of toys depending on your dog’s age and activity level.

Toys for young puppies

Between 4-12 weeks of age, your puppy’s baby teeth are erupting. Though these teeth are needle-sharp, they are not very strong and can be damaged by toys meant for an older dog. During this phase, the best toys for your dog are small, soft toys. These toys can bring comfort and act as a snuggle-buddy to a puppy who has just left his brothers and sisters. The Go Dog Squeaky Plush Dog Toy is small enough for a puppy’s mouth and will provide that satisfying squeak as your dog’s mouth gets stronger.

Teething toys for older puppies

Weeks 12-24 are peak teething times for your pup. You may find tiny teeth in your puppy’s food or water bowl as the baby teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth. It is important to choose toys that will ease the pain of teething and also keep your puppy from chewing on furniture, shoes, or your fingers! Some good options are the Nylabone Teething Pacifier which has raised nubs that soothe sore gums. Another good option is the KONG Puppy Teething Stick. This one comes in three different sizes so you can choose the one appropriate for your dog’s breed. The teething sticks gently clean teeth while soothing sore gums.

Puppy toys for 24 weeks and beyond

Once your puppy is about six months old, he can be introduced to a variety of textures and types of dog toys. Since your puppy’s permanent teeth have grown in, he will have less interest in chewing everything that will fit in his mouth and become more inclined to play with toys. At this age, which roughly equates to a human second grader in terms of development, you may begin to discover different types of toys to match your dog’s personality or particular mood. Each type of toy, from rope toys to frisbees to comfort toys, will have its place in your home.

Toys for supervised play

The Chuckit! Classic Launcher Dog Toy is a favorite in our house, allowing for hours of good ol’ fetch without us ever having to touch the slobbery ball. Of course, you can’t go wrong with these rubber balls, also made by Chuckit. Unlike tennis balls, these balls are quite indestructible.

Distraction and chew toys

The KONG is pretty much our go-to for distraction purposes, but here’s where you have to know your dog. After Tango made a huge mess with the peanut butter in his Kong, I suggested the KONG Goodie Bone, which was so popular at our house one Christmas we had to get another for my parent’s dog. It’s easy to stuff a treat in each end and let your dog go to town trying to maneuver the treat out of the hole.

Comfort toys

Best for a puppy who needs extra soothing after being weaned, these toys can also come in handy for the dog struggling with separation anxiety or shyness around visitors. Just be sure these toys are well-sewn and always supervise your dog when he has access to plush toys. Our dog loves the squeak but also wants to destroy plush toys, so we invest in ones built for aggressive chewers. Our favorites? We love the Outward Hound Firehose Squeak N Fetch Dog Toy for its indestructibility.

A perfect match

Knowing what is age-appropriate for your dog and being aware of your dog’s personality can be important factors when choosing the right toys. And certain toys may suit some situations better than others. Be sure to watch your dog with new toys to keep him from destroying and swallowing the toy. No one wants a fun game to turn into an expensive unexpected vet bill, even if you have pet insurance to help reimburse costs! When it comes to picking toys for your dog, understanding your pooch is paramount!





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