As a dog owner, you’re probably well aware that a busy dog is a happy dog. But as much as we’d like to entertain our pups all day, the reality is it’s just not possible. Work, chores and other responsibilities get in the way. That’s why it’s so important to find just the right dog toy (or toys!) to keep your furry friend thoroughly occupied even when you’re not available to play tug of war or throw a ball over and over (and over some more).
There are a lot of dog toys to choose from, ranging from frisbees and balls to squeakers, puzzles and food-oriented toys. But as any dog owner knows, a toy can be hit or miss. Maybe your dog shows zero interest in it — or worse, it’s instantly shredded to bits. So how do you find just the right toy that’s sure to guarantee hours of engagement and play? We asked the experts: our dogs.
We surveyed the dog parents at CNET and rounded up their pups’ tried-and-true favorites. These toys have survived ferocious play, gone through endless chewing sessions, and provided hours of daily doggy entertainment — we even got three votes for the wildly popular ChuckIt. Since every dog has its unique quirks and preferences, you’ll find a wide variety to choose from here. Whether your dog is big or small, a chewer or a tugger, you’re sure to find something they’ll love on this list. These are the toys that our dogs actually go crazy for and come back to again and again.
When you have a dog that demands near-constant attention, you’ll do anything to keep them busy for a few minutes. I use this puzzle toy for just that. There are three swiveling trays where you can conceal treats, making your dog work for their reward. My pup has to use his snout to spin the trays to reveal the compartments, and I have to hope it keeps his brain sharp because he has to problem-solve to get all of the treats. I have the level two (intermediate) version and I would buy it again in a heartbeat.
To be honest, we get a lot of mileage out of gross old tennis balls that Molly finds in the gutter, but the ChuckIt Ultra Balls do much better at withstanding her efforts to rip them to shreds. They also are slobberproof, don’t pick up as much mud in the first place and are easy to wash. The only downside is they tend to disappear at dog parks.
If you have an active dog who likes to chase balls (like my Lab), then the ChuckIt is a must have for your games of fetch. You never have to bend down to pick up or touch a slobbery ball. This piece of inexpensive molded plastic picks up the ball for you and allows you to “throw” it over and over again with a flick of your wrist.
My pup will play fetch until the cows come home, so this launcher makes it much easier to tolerate long sessions. Not only is it great for those of us with below average throwing skills, but it also means less bending down to grab the ball. Every time I reach for the Chuckit Launcher, my puppy is beyond excited!
This toy is durable and covers all of the things that can keep a dog entertained forever. Inside is a rope and a few squeakers to gain and keep their attention, and it usually ends up being the toy my dog cuddles with.
Banjo gets anxious when he’s left alone, but like most Labs, he’s very food-driven. Mochi, our little guy, is just an extreme chewer. If he doesn’t have something to chew on, he’ll start nibbling holes in our living room rug. So when I know I’m going to be away for a couple of hours, I pull out the Kongs. I stuff them with mozzarella or peanut butter (or both), and lo and behold, my two doggos stay happy and occupied the whole time I’m away.
My dog is a beast when it comes to toys and has ruined nearly every single toy that we’ve given her within a day or two. That was until we met the Kong Extreme line, which has worked perfectly for her, keeps her entertained, and we can use it as a reward by filling with peanut butter when she’s been good for the day. There are a few different shapes and sizes of it, and she seems to enjoy them all!
Most plush toys are no match for my dog, Junebug, who tears them to shreds within minutes. But this Fluff and Tuff ball takes her weeks to even get a thread loose. Consequently, she is obsessed with it and carries it with her everywhere (even though it’s way too big for her little body — an adorable bonus). She stays loyal to it even after it’s nothing but a sad, shredded, hollowed-out shell. Eventually I throw it out and buy her a new one and the cycle starts again. She’s on her third beach ball in about a year! Well worth the money.
My pup, Alistair, has been crazy about his Dogobie flying disc for as long as we’ve had him, which is going on 14 years. A disc made of flexible silicone, it’s pretty much indestructible and as easy for me to toss as it is for him to retrieve, and it’s easy to find in the brush after an errant throw, thanks to its neon colors. Alistair is getting on in years, but he still gets excited any time he sees his Dogobie come out to play. Now if he’d only bring it back with as much enthusiasm as when he chases it.
My dog loves two things (besides her humans, of course): food and toys, and this puzzle blends both for endless fun. I received this dog treat puzzle as a gift, after months of rolling up towels and old t-shirts to make mentally stimulating toys for my chihuahua mix. Now, I use it whenever I don’t have a chance to take my pooch on her long evening walk.
All the moving plastic parts make it look complex, but it’s actually simple to set up. Just hide your choice of treats or kibble in the hidden cubbies, cover it with the plastic door, push the slider over to keep the door shut and that’s it. I found it to be a great indoor option for my dog to burn some energy and test her brain, too.
Do dogs really need toys?
It’s easy to overlook the importance of toys in a canine’s life, but toys are necessary for your dog’s well-being — and for your own peace of mind. A tired and mentally engaged dog gets into much less mischief than a bored pup. Toys can help modify bad behaviors, keep your dog mentally occupied, tire them out, and provide an appropriate outlet for dogs that are prone to chewing.
What kind of toys do dogs love the most?
Dogs all have different personalities and activity levels, so you’ll want to have an understanding of your pup’s individual needs to find the toys that will suit them best. Dog toys generally fall under three categories:
Active toys: Balls and frisbees, as well as ropes and woven toys for tugging, are great for interactive play and getting your dog their much-needed exercise. If your dog is very active, such toys can also be used as training motivators.
Enrichment toys: These toys keep your dog occupied and mentally stimulated. They can range from puzzles and treat-dispensing toys to durable, rubber toys that you stuff with treats like the Kong. By working to get at the treats, your dog is trying to “solve a problem,” which stimulates their brain and gives them something to do. These kinds of toys are designed to keep your dog engaged when you’re busy with something else or not able to with them.
Comfort toys: Did you have a favorite stuffy or doll when you were a child? Dogs aren’t all that different and can get just as much comfort out of carrying around a favorite toy. Anxious dogs in particular might benefit from having a stuffed companion. Just be careful since some dogs are aggressive chewers and shouldn’t be given soft toys. And avoid stuffies with squeakers, which can be easily removed and swallowed.
What are the best dog toys for chewers?
Chewing is a natural dog behavior, but if your pup tends to chew on things they’re not supposed to, it’s good to find suitable alternatives. Most of us know that cooked bones are a big no-no since they can splinter and break and get stuck in your dog’s throat or intestines. Your best bet is something that’s easily digestible and commercially available (like Greenies), or even better, a hard rubber chew like a Nylabone or Kong. As always, consult your veterinarian on the safest options for your dog.