One of the things you must have in order before bringing home your puppy is toys. Your puppy needs enriching toys of a few different types to keep his natural instincts satisfied. Puppies love to play, and as they do, they learn things about their environment and how to behave. Because of this, picking out toys for a puppy is an important part of making a good home for your new dog.
In addition to picking out the right kind of toys, you want to avoid some of the wrong kind. I understand that everyone is different and values different things. Some toys are controversial to some and not others. I’ll discuss some toys that I shy away from and why I do, and you can make your own decisions.
I have many suggestions about great indestructible dog toys, puzzle toys, and interactive toys that you and your dog can play with together. Let’s get started!
How To Choose Toys Your Puppy Will Like
This is a good place to begin because if you choose toys your dog doesn’t like, you’re just wasting money. If we spoke dog, this would be easier but since we don’t, we have to figure out our dog’s preferences.
Some dogs like to chase things. Other dogs prefer to bring items back to you. Still others enjoy digging, eating, or playing rough. Every dog has a different personality. Dogs also have some inherent traits that domestication bred into them.
Take A Clue From Your Dog’s Breed
Before you bring your puppy home, research the traits of his breed. Dogs like Labrador Retrievers possess the natural urge to bring back prey during a hunt. Therefore, it stands to reason they’ll like playing fetch.
My dog is a Border Collie, so she likes to chase things. She enjoys the psychological challenge of anticipating movements and cutting things off at the pass. She absolutely loves to play fetch, but it’s more about outsmarting the ball (and me) than it is about bringing the object back.
In fact, I suspect she only brings it back so she can chase it again.
Many terriers love to dig and catch small animals, so a heavy duty bed is a good choice for digging behavior. They may also enjoy chasing a laser pointer or small toys that move on their own.
As you can see, you can learn something from your dog’s genetics. Research your breed’s natural behaviors and look for toys that cater to those urges.
When you first bring your puppy home, choose a few basic toys and watch your puppy interact with them. Once your puppy is comfortable in your home, she will start to show you her personality. That’s the time to buy more toys.
In the beginning, you can get by with a few staples which I will list for you below.
If your dog falls in love with a toy, go back to the store and grab a spare! No toy will last forever. While it’s crucial to provide your dog with variety, it’s also helpful to have some popular standby toys in the arsenal.
Staple Toys Your Puppy Needs
I can’t guarantee that your dog will love these toys, but it is a very strong probability. Swerving out of these lanes may strike gold or may fall completely flat. When you have a good basic dog toy collection, you’ll feel much better about splurging on a new or creative toy.
Also, many of these toys technically share categories. A Kong toy, for instance, is indestructible, puzzle based, and a feeding toy. I’ve split them up as best I can to give a well rounded picture of the types of toys your puppy needs.
Indestructible Dog Toys
In my opinion, nearly all your dog toys should be indestructible or heavy duty dog toys. You will often see this distinction written on the packing of some toys. Kong Dog Toys are a standard example and what many people think of when they hear the term indestructible dog toy.
The original Kong Toy is a thick rubber beehive shaped object with a hollow center. It comes in several sizes and is a must have toy for your puppy. Kong expanded its line and now sells several additional types of indestructible toys.
I’m a big fan of all of them and you’ll see some in their appropriate spot in this list. I think the designs from Kong are always solid and frequently well received by dogs. They seem to do their job during research and development. I also find their products are high quality most of the time.
A Durable Dog Bed
Most dogs like to dig and there are few places they’re allowed to do it. If you decide to let your puppy play at digging in his bed, you will have to replace it more frequently. This is a compromise a lot of dog owners make, however. There isn’t a standard right or wrong answer to this so make a choice that’s right for you.
Either way, a Kong Dog Bed is a good investment. If your dog does dig in it, it will stand up to the abuse. If your dog only lounges in the bed, it will stand up to spills, stains, and normal wear and tear.
Conversely, you can make a nest of blankets for your dog to dig in. This has pros and cons as well, however. You may find with this method that your dog digs at all blankets including on your bed. Yet again, as so often is true, this is up to you and your dog.
A Rope Toy
Rope toys are in my new puppy toolkit, but you have to be discerning. Some dogs just can’t be trusted with a rope toy because they eat the string. Other rope toys are low quality. Try to choose wisely, and look for tightly packed fibers. You also have to watch your puppy as it plays with the toy to make sure he isn’t eating it.
Sometimes rope toys must be offered only under supervision. For dogs who play nicely with them, however, rope toys are lots of fun. Dogs like to chew, toss, play tug of war with, and shake rope toys. This one toy satisfies a lot of instinctual dog desires.
You can stimulate these behaviors through other toys if you choose toys with the same characteristics as rope toys possess. Long, limp stuffed toys or something like the Kong Wubba toy delivers a similar mouth feel to the dog.
They want to feel like they’re destroying, pummeling, or actually killing the toy. It’s a little gruesome, but it’s super fun for your dog.
A Soft Toy
Your dog should have a soft toy of some sort. It can be plushy or made of fabric. The Kong Wubba fits the bill, as does Marvin the Moose. Any soft toy that holds up to some abuse will work.
Like rope toys, soft toys must be checked regularly and play should be mostly supervised.
Squeaker Toys: Do Or Don’t?
I have a personal bias toward squeaker toys. Many dog owners use and love them and they certainly come in a variety of durability levels. My problem with them, however, is twofold.
One: Squeaking dog toys are like children’s toys that make noise. Do you really want more noise in your life?
Two: It’s possible your dog could choke on the squeaker.
If you choose a durable toy and supervise your dog’s play, in all likelihood you will be fine with squeaky toys in your life. It’s not worth the risk for me because I already dislike the noise!
One reason dogs like toys that make noise goes back to that predatory instinct. It sounds enough like a distress call to get your dog’s engine revving. So a squeaky toy does satisfy a doggie desire and I completely understand why many owners favor them. It’s also difficult to even find soft dog toys without squeakers inside them.
Many manufacturers understand the risk squeakers pose and they have changed the design to make it more difficult for your dog to swallow them. This is a good thing to see from the industry.
If you buy your puppy a squeaky toy, consider options like Outward Hound’s stuffing free toys, a squeaky rubber dog toy, or the Kong Cozies. While I can’t guarantee that they’re safe, they have a great track record.
A Chew Toy
Your teething puppy needs things to chew on. If you don’t give chew toys to your dog, he’ll make his own. You may not agree with his reasoning when your end table is in pieces.
Puppy toys for chewing should obviously be durable and made of something safe. You must check these toys regularly for wear as well. Like the rope toys, your goal is to keep your dog from actually eating the chew toy.
Some owners give rawhide or natural bones to their dogs. That isn’t for everyone and there are risks involved so I don’t recommend that here. Have a discussion with your vet about these types of chew toys and follow their advice.
Dogs and balls are a long standing match made in heaven. They’re great for fetch, they can be chewy, they can be thrown at some speed to prompt your dog to burn off energy, and they’re all around useful.
Unconventional Dog Toys
Once you have the standards covered, you can experiment with different toys for your puppy. These include interactive toys, puzzle dishes, and multi-purpose dog toys. Most interactive dog toys involve food in some way. It motivates dogs to check the toy out and interact with it.
Puzzle And Interactive Toys
When your dog has to work a little, it’s good for her. It stimulates her mind and keeps boredom at bay. Puzzle and interactive dog toys are great to leave around the house when you’re away. They’re also useful during busy times when you are on the phone or otherwise can’t focus on your dog.
Easy vs Advanced
Interactive dog toys often have a difficulty rating. Honestly, this is largely subjective. While puppies will probably have more fun with easy toys, your older dog may need the challenge that advanced toys provide.
So use these ratings as a guideline. If you find your dog figures out the puzzle of most interactive toys right away, test out a few advanced types. Conversely, if your dog loses interest in a puzzle toy, look for an easier one before giving the idea up altogether.
Puzzle Dishes And Their Effectiveness
Dog bowls seem pretty simple, right? You can throw your puppy’s food in any container and it will be fine. Believe it or not, it may not be so easy.
It’s true that most dogs use a boring old bowl with no problem, but they may still gain enrichment from a puzzle dish. Puzzle dog bowls are especially useful for dogs who vacuum their food up. There are foraging mats as well which are a really cool way to make your dog work a little for his food.
At least half of the dogs I know refuse to chew their food as if a hoard of zombies is on their way to snatch it away. It’s hard to slow them down, and a puzzle bowl can sure do it!
Eating too fast causes gas and digestive issues. Some dogs even eat so fast they throw up their food afterwards.
Most puzzle dishes are actually designed to slow down dogs who gulp their food. Whether or not your dog goes for it remains to be seen.
Just remember to stay with the course. Don’t give up too quickly. If your dog is hungry, he will try out the puzzle dish. On the other hand, if your dog really seems to struggle, you can incorporate other interactive toys into his life.
Regular Toy Check
The toy check is another necessary task for dog owners. Set a reminder for yourself in your calendar if it helps you keep up with this chore. It should only take you a few minutes.
For starters, set yourself up for success by only choosing toys that are appropriately sized for your dog. Then, make sure your dog plays safely by performing regular toy checks and rotating new toys in for old ones.
You’re on the lookout for fraying, chipping, pieces flaking off, and any rips or tears. If stuffing is coming out of a toy, remove it or sew it up. You can cut off some fraying strands of rope toys, but throw them away if they degrade too much.
Nylabone chews are popular dog toys, but they can become quite sharp after prolonged use. I like to remove these and replace them on a regular basis. Look for similar kinds of wear on your chew toys and toss them out if you see reason for concern.
Try to look all toys over on a weekly basis. When you do this, swap in a new toy and remove an old one. You don’t have to throw it away, just set it aside. When you reintroduce it, it will feel brand new to your dog or create excitement like a fond memory.
Your New Puppy Toy Box Is Complete!
Doesn’t it feel good to be armed with a starting point to shop from? I’m sure you’ll see tons of other toys in the pet store or online that you just have to have too. I admit I buy lots of dog toys just because I think they’re cute!
You also know how to make good choices in toys for your dogs. This will guide you to walk away from an adorable toy your dog will destroy in seconds. At least, it should work most of the time.
Don’t get frustrated if your dog destroys toys quickly. This is part of how dogs play. Life with a dog is a life filled with opportunities to shop and buying your dog presents is fun. All you can do is make safe, smart choices to prolong your investment and keep your dog occupied.
So grab yourself a good rope toy, a soft toy, a rubber toy, a chew toy, and maybe an interactive toy and play with your puppy!
Let me know what toy your dog loves best in the comments section. Share your dog’s breed with us as well so new puppy owners can learn some breed preferences. I’m looking forward to your feedback!