The Beginner's Guide To Buying Dog Toys

There’s no reason to buy any toys if your dog is not going to have fun with them. At the end of the day, we just want our precious fur kids to be enjoying themselves with these toys.

January 19th, 2019

Dog toys. Every good dog owner is sure to have a healthy collection of dog toys stashed up somewhere in the house (or lying all over the floor).

A good variety of toys is essential for a dog’s development and mental stimulation throughout an otherwise uneventful day.

If you’re getting a new dog, or you think your current dog toy arsenal needs a revamp, this guide will help you build and round out your collection.

Why Toys?

First of all, before we go toy shopping, we should consider what dog toys should do for our fur kids—why are we even putting so much thought into buying them in the first place?

I find that referring to our dogs as “fur kids” in this context is especially fitting. Dog toys are to dogs just as toys are to little children—they are physically and mentally stimulating, and often help develop creativity and problem solving skills in a casual, playful setting.

In addition, toys help curb unwanted behaviors in your dog. For example, dogs are much less likely to develop destructive chewing habits or attention seeking behaviors if they have some toys to pass the time.

Many toys promote dog activity. Toys such as balls and frisbees teach your dog valuable coordination skills and get them exercised.

Other toys can get your dog to calm down. A long lasting chew can keep your dog relaxed and occupied for hours while satisfying his teeth.

Finally, some special toys such as Kongs can act as puzzles. Dog intelligence has been compared to that of a 2 to 2.5 year old human child, so many dogs are eager for a challenge.

So all in all, there’s a dog toy for every scenario. They can keep your dog active or cool them down, and can help them develop all the right skills and behaviors.

One of Yuna's favorite toys is the Ikea Gosig Dog plush.

General Guidelines For Picking Toys

Now that we know what toys are supposed to achieve, here are some golden rules you must keep in mind when selecting toys.

1. Buy the toys you know your dog will enjoy!

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you always want to be paying attention to what your dog is most interested in and shape the majority of your toy box according to that.

For Yuna, this means soft fluffy plushies with “protruded” areas she can bite on. She also enjoys biting on bones and sticks that aren’t too large for her mouth—bully sticks do the best job.

She is not so much into rope toys, and is ambivalent on balls.

At the beginning, you likely will not have much idea what your dog is into. All you can do is experiment—try buying different types of toys with a variety of textures and introduce them slowly to your dog. Your fur kid is sure to pick out a few favorites.

Once you get to know them even better, continue to treat them with their new toys that they like every once in a while!

2. Frame your toy buying strategy around your dog’s age.

If you’ve got a young, teething puppy, your toy buying strategy will be drastically different from someone with a ten year old dog.

Usually, regardless of size and breed, a teething puppy will require a good amount of chew toys. Not only will you need to find a variety of chew toys to maintain your dog’s interest, but you’ll also need sheer quantity—some toys give in real fast.

On the other hand, older dogs may need softer toys since their jaw strength is weaker.

3. Take your dog’s size and chewing habits into account.

For certain types of toys, size matters a lot more than you’d think. For example, many rawhides come in the form of large bones which I can’t imagine some dogs fitting in their mouths.

I made this mistake when I got Yuna a bone for Christmas. She already was not that big of a chewer, and the fact that the bone I got was too large for her mouth did not really motivate her to work on it.

Since then we’ve been making slow progress on the bone, but I much rather would’ve preferred getting a smaller bone she’d be much more enthusiastic to gnaw on. She still prefers her bully stick.

Of course, this also depends on if your dog is a chewer. A heavy chewer would probably accept the challenge of a huge candy cane shaped bone, but it just shows that it really depends on the dog.

4. Variety is always preferred.

No matter which toy becomes your dog’s favorite, you cannot just rely on that one toy. There are many reasons why: your dog can get bored. The toy could break. Your dog could get possessive over it.

In order to keep your dog engaged, you should switch around the toys you expose to them during playtime regularly.

Not only will this preserve the lifetime of the toy, but it will also continue to keep playtime exciting.

And instead of just having one favorite toy, your dog can develop multiple favorites!

Types of Dog Toys

Now that we’ve established some basic rules, let’s look at the types of toys you’ll see in the dog toy aisles.

1. Balls

Most dogs enjoy balls. They bounce all over the place, and are easy to catch and fit in the mouth.

Balls are cheap and can be bought in bulk—likely a good idea because you may start losing them under couches and cabinets in the house.

The key with balls is to make sure you buy a good size for your dog. Your dog may accidentally swallow a ball that’s too small for their size. Dogs also won’t have a very fun time trying to fit a ball that’s too large in their mouth.

Balls are great for building the bond between you and your dog because it’s an interactive toy. The ball isn’t going to throw or bounce itself—you’ll need to get involved too!

2. Chew Toys

Chew toys are a very broad category. They can refer to hard nylon or rubber toys built to withstand hours upon hours of chewing. Or they can be long-term edible chews such as rawhides and bones designed to be whittled away over time.

Rubber Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Chew toy

Either way, your dog needs a chewing outlet. If you don’t provide ample chew toys, they’ll likely take it out on furniture and other things lying around the house.

As your dog grows, make sure you change the hardness and size of the chew toys you buy.

Chew toys should be the only toys you leave lying around the house for your dog to pick up anytime. Other toys require more careful supervision.

3. Plushes

Many dogs enjoy a nice soft plush to chew on and tug.

They are ideal for young puppies who have yet to fully develop their teeth, and older dogs who don’t have as much teeth strength.

The danger with plushes is that your dog may eat the stuffing once they rip apart the toy. For this reason, you should always closely supervise your dog when they’re playing with plushies, and never leave them lying about. Surgery may be required if ingested.

Alternatively, some plushes today are specially made to contain no stuffing, so see if your dog is interested in those.

Plushes are likely the least cost-effective toy you’ll come across. By far they break the easiest… and they’re relatively expensive to begin with. Additionally, if you choose to stock up on plushies, you’ll likely have to buy multiple to make up for their short lifetime.

Regardless, many dogs consider plushes their favorite! Yuna definitely loves her plushes.

4. Rope/Tug Toys

The go-to toy for tug of war is a nice rope toy. Based on experience, it seems like most dogs I’ve interacted with either love or hate rope toys. Yuna definitely does not care much for them.

Most tug toys are super durable and can thus act as chew toys as well, but they can still fall apart relatively easily for aggressive chewers.

In fact, since rope toys are not edible, heavy chewers should always be supervised when playing with them to ensure they don’t ingest them—it can lead to a gastrointestinal blockade.

Do not leave them lying around the house. Rather, bring them out for a nice game of fetch or tug-of-war if your dog is feeling especially active.

5. Special Toys

It’s always fun to watch dogs interact with other various special toys. We’ll introduce a few of them here.

The frisbee. Like rope toys, many dogs seem to either love or hate the frisbee. In either case, a frisbee is something your dog will likely need some time to warm up to before you’re able to gauge their interest.

A frisbee works best for active dogs who love an extra challenge when it comes to fetching and catching things. Frisbees have a weird path of flight which will definitely throw your dog off at first, but watch as your pup becomes a master frisbee catcher with consistent practice.

The Kong. The Kong is a classic puzzle toy that dispenses food. Rather than feeding their dogs kibble or treats directly, many dog owners opt to stuff a Kong with food and let their dogs go to work.

The Kong allows for autoshaping—your dog is training itself the idea that the more they work, the more food they get out of the Kong. Just be sure to set it up properly—many YouTube guides out there such as this one do the trick.

Squeaky toys. Okay, squeakers are not really “special” toys—in fact, many if not most dog toys now have squeakers in them. But toys that squeak illustrate a very important principle with toys.

Dogs enjoy toys that react when they interact with them. Dogs like to play with humans and other dogs because we react to things they do and it’s mentally engaging.

Ideally, a good dog toy will do the same. If they chew on it or push it around with their paws, if there is a reaction, your dog is more likely to be interested in it.

A squeaky sound is only one of many ways toys can accomplish this. Some toys light up. The mechanism doesn’t have to be complicated—a ball is very interactive simply because it bounces and rolls around.

Consider buying more toys for your dog that are inherently interactive.

Quantity of Dog Toys—How Much Is Enough?

Maybe you’re wondering how many toys is a good benchmark to have.

Some people argue fervently against having too many toys. This article claims that most people have too many toys readily available for their pups, and cites that if you have more than ten toys lying around you probably have too many.

This article sums it up pretty well—it’s better to have a few toys used well than a lot of toys not used at all. Retire the toys that are broken and the ones your dog has no more interest in, and replace them with fresh ones only if you have to.

I tend to think that at any given time, having about ten to fifteen toys is a good number. They should be scattered around the various categories of toys we went over, and should be pretty different in texture.

The majority (at least five) of your toys should be of a type that your dog really enjoys. For Yuna, this would be the plushes (we actually have much more than five plushies haha).

But all in all, it’s more important to make sure that your toy box covers all the points we discussed in the beginning of the article, rather than worry about the quantity. Toys serve a very multifaceted purpose in our dog’s development.

Dog Uninterested In A Toy? Don’t Give Up Yet…

If you bring home a new toy and your dog is not interested in it, don’t just give up on it! Your dog may just need time to warm up.

It’s common for dogs to ignore foreign toys in favor of familiar ones especially in the beginning. Slowly introduce the toy to your dog over a week or two to pique his interest and be as enthusiastic and engaging as you can.

Bring the toy to life! Drag it over the floor, hold it above your dog’s head, and do everything you can to make it seem interesting to interact with.

If all still doesn’t work, try throwing the toy in with your dog’s other toys for a few days. This will slowly give the new toy the scent of all the other toys in your dog’s toy box, thus making it seem more familiar.

People have also tried rubbing treats onto a toy to make it seem more appealing, or tossing the toy into their closet to make it smell more like their owner.

In any case, our dogs have an insane sense of smell so try to use that to your advantage here.

Finally… It Should Be Fun!

Remember that while it makes sense to optimize your toy box, toy should ultimately just be a way for your dog to be a dog.

There’s no reason to buy any toys if your dog is not going to have fun with them. At the end of the day, we just want our precious fur kids to be enjoying themselves with these toys.

Always a fun time when the derp faces come out!

We hope this gave you some insight into dog toys and the major types of toys out there! What is your dog’s favorite toy? Let us know in the comments.

Be sure to check Yuna’s Instagram for free useful dog tips and daily updates!

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