For many pets, toys are a necessity. Dog toys help fight boredom and provide both physical and mental stimulation. Though toys are a huge part of our pups’ life there are no safety regulations for dog toys. This means that much of the responsibility for choosing a safe doggy toy falls on you, the paw parents.
Among the most common hazards are choking and stomach obstruction. Pieces of broken toys may be ingested, and dog toys made from toxic materials will also pose a health risk. Do be sure to supervise play with any toy, and remove toys that are broken, damaged or are no longer usable by your dog.
What to Consider When Choosing a Toy
Size of the toy
Buy toys of appropriate size for your dog. Pick a toy that is large enough for your dog to comfortably hold in his mouth but not too small that he can accidentally swallow it. Toys that are too small can easily be swallowed and become lodged in your dog's throat.
Materials for dog toys
Non-toxic & no sharp edges
Choosing a non-toxic dog toy is a no-brainer. It’s the most basic thing that all pet parents should look for. However, no matter how safe or durable the material is, we must remember that all toys can pose a risk if swallowed by a dog – in part or the whole toy. In addition, sharp edges can cause injuries during rough play. Play should be supervised. No matter how durable a toy seems, there is still a possibility that pieces can be chewed off and swallowed, and damaged toys should be removed and discarded. Dogs’ toys can be made from vinyl, rubber, or plastic. Durability varies, so choose wisely according to your dog's play habits.
Take note of the coating
Though paints and dyes are a larger problem in children’s toys than pet toys, we still need to be watchful. Some painted designs on children’s and pets’ toys contain lead and mercury. Dogs being dogs, they will chew, lick and the paint may come off and end up in your pup. Avoid toys treated with fire retardants or stain guard, as they may contain formaldehyde and other chemicals. Take time to study the labels and visit manufacturers’ websites for additional information. A responsible toy company will be transparent about its processes and materials used.
Check the type of stuffing
Some dogs absolutely adore their plushies, carrying them around for comfort. Puppies may even “chew” on their plushies during teething.
Traditionally, plush toy stuffing is made of cotton, kapok, polyester, and some may even include plastic beads. Any of these can be risky if they get out of the plush toy. They are a choking hazard. Stuffed toys can still be used, of course, but keep a close eye on the seams. Once the seams start to give way, remove, repair, or replace the toy.
Today, some companies that make pet toys have started offering un-stuffed plushies for dogs so pet parents like yourself need not worry about your pup accidentally swallowing the stuffing. Others are using special tear, cut & puncture resistance fabric like this Red Dingo Durables Wombat Dog Toy. Like other Red Dingo Durables range of plushies, this toy has been tested to the extreme and it has outperformed other fabric dog toys.
Consider your dog’s age
From teething puppies to seniors, knowing your dog also means selecting toys based on their life stage. A rambunctious adolescent craves different toys than a placid adult dog. The KONG Senior dog toy is customized for an aging dog's chewing and play needs. The unique, all-natural KONG Senior rubber formula is designed to provide a gentle and comfortable chewing outlet while offering enrichment and satisfying an older dog's instinctual need to play.
For aggressive chewers or teething pups, choose safe chew toys made with strong, durable rubber, like this Himalayan Pet Supply Jughead Chew Guardian Dog Toy. Take note of the different sizes and choose the right size for your pup.
Consider your dog’s play preferences
A fetch toy is a must-have. Dogs just love to play fetch. Many pet parents will throw their pooch a tennis ball but unfortunately, the tennis ball is not the best play toy for our pups. The material in tennis balls can cause the teeth to wear down. A better option would be the KONG Signature Ball (2 pack) Dog Toy. This toy will satisfy any dog’s instincts to chase and retrieve. It’s great for active dogs that love the outdoors.
Another type of toy that is very popular with pet parents is a food-dispensing toy. They offer fun, and mental stimulation, and are a great way for dogs to funnel their energy. These toys come in various shapes and sizes and are usually made of rubber or plastic. Because your pup is going to lick these toys, pay extra care to choose toys made from non-toxic materials.
Kong offers many good quality food dispensing toys and they are worth checking out. Another food dispensing toy worth mentioning is the Ruffwear Gnawt-a-Rock™ Rubber Treat Dispenser Fetch Dog Toy. It’s made from non-toxic natural rubber and it’s highly durable – chew resistant.
Tug-of-war is another game favoured by most dogs. Tugging is great for mental and physical exercise. It's a game that is highly interactive and involves a bonding interaction between you and your dog.
Tug toys are often made of rope and/or rubber. Tug toys should be durable enough to hold up to the strength of your dog's pulling. Be aware that many dogs can easily shred rope toys and may accidentally ingest pieces of them. This can lead to gastrointestinal obstruction. Never let your dog play with rope toys unsupervised and when the rope begins to unravel, discard it, and replace it with a new toy.
Finally, please remember that no dog toy, no matter well-built the toy is, is ever truly indestructible. Wear and tear happen. Remove, repair, or replace any broken toy for your pup's safety.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.