One of the best things about dogs is how playful they tend to be, especially in their younger years. Toys are an important part of your puppy's mental and physical development. What should you consider when choosing safe, fun and enriching toys for your puppy or dog?
Age and Stages of Development
Different stages of your pet's life require different types of toys, so keep the age of your puppy or dog in mind.
- Puppies up to 3 weeks old: These puppies will still have their "baby" teeth. Soft rubber or fabric toys are a good fit for gentle play.
- From 3 to 9 months: Your puppy will be teething during this time, so invest in a couple of special teething toys that they can chew on to soothe their sensitive gums. Talk to your vet about what type of teething toys they recommend for your pup.
- 10 Months and up: After teething, your young dog will have a full set of stronger adult teeth and a jaw that's strong enough to handle harder rubber toys. Balls and rope pulls are also great for energetic young dogs.
- Senior dogs (7 years and up): By the age of around 7 years, your older dog will have less jaw and tooth strength than they did as a youngster. It's important that you still help them to keep active with the help of some entertaining toys; these toys should be softer and easier to handle.
There are lots of great chew toys and rope toys available for dogs of all ages, with options to match your dog's size and personal chewing habits. Ask your vet for some suggestions.
Toy Texture and Durability
Different materials and textures suit different types of dogs depending on their chewing behaviours. Naturally, a breed like a petite Yorkshire Terrier is unlikely to chew their toys as hard as a big and boisterous German Shepherd or an enthusiastic Golden Lab.
Smaller breeds will need softer chew toys, while bigger and more vigorous chewers will need a tougher texture.
Toys that are too soft can break into smaller pieces and cause a choking hazard; don't give larger dogs toys that can easily be chewed into pieces they might ingest. Replace toys that are starting to show signs of damage.
The right size of toy is important as well. Smaller dogs will need toys that can be comfortably held in a smaller jaw. Meanwhile, bigger breeds will need something that can't be easily swallowed. As a general rule, any toy small enough to fit behind your dog's rear molars is a choking hazard.
Popular Types of Toys for Puppies and Dogs
Even with all this information, navigating the toy aisle can be a bit confusing. As you shop, consider these different toy varieties and your pooch's preferences, to help you find the perfect plaything.
- Balls: A classic option for keeping your dog active and enjoying games of fetch or catch. There are rubber balls, plush balls, tennis balls, foam balls, squeaker balls and more to choose from! Different types of balls bounce in different ways. Some are waterproof and designed to float, while some even glow in the dark. Think about your dog's playtime preferences, as well as their size and jaw strength, to help you choose a suitable ball.
- Tug toys: Tug-of-war toys are typically plush and made of materials like linen, leather or rope – be sure to choose one that suits your dog's jaw strength and isn't too easy to tear into small pieces.
- Chewables: Chew toys are made from durable rubber that's designed to withstand the rigours of pup playtime. There are even some hollow chew toys options that can be filled with healthy treats, for training and long-lasting entertainment. The right chew toy should be one that's soft enough not to damage your dog's teeth, but durable enough that it won't easily break down into small pieces. As your puppy grows into an adult dog, you'll find you need to change the size and durability of their chew toys to suit their age.
- Plush toys: Some dogs enjoy snuggling up with plush toys. When choosing cuddly toys, make sure you avoid any with small removable parts which could pose a choking hazard – like eyes, bells or ribbons.
Every dog has their preferences, and some will even have a treasured "favourite" toy that they refuse to part with. Choosing the right toys will ensure that your pet enjoys fun and safe playtime activities, and gets the most out of every play session.