Buying toys for your dog can be one of the most fun jobs in the world, but when you’re just starting out, maybe you’ve got a new puppy or a new rescue dog who’s older, it can be overwhelming with all the options available.
We’ve put together this guide to help you pick the best dog toys in 2021.
Things to keep in mind
When searching for dog toys, there are some things to keep in mind. The first is the age of your dog! Sounds obvious, true, but it’s not always obvious why. Puppies teeth are softer and less capable of being rough, as with all baby teeth they’re easier to fall out but you shouldn’t give your puppy anything that accelerates this process.
Puppies also need to learn not to swallow objects they chew — some dogs are better at this than others — and toys with small parts that come off are definitely not good for puppies, or older dogs really!
Every dog is different. If you’re looking for toys for a new addition to your family, then a selection of different types of toys is a great place to start. Once you’ve played with each toy a few times, your dog will soon let you know which type they prefer.
How to decide between toys for small dogs vs large dogs
It’s also important to consider how large your dog is. If you have a large dog, a breed like a German Shepherd, Doberman, or Husky, then you’re going to want larger toys that aren’t small enough to fit down the dog’s throat. Larger breeds typically have stronger jaw muscles, and you want to consider whether the material of the toy you give them is also appropriate for them.
Smaller breeds, anything smaller than a Cocker Spaniel, for example, will need to have smaller toys — again making sure that the toy isn’t small enough to travel down their throat — because a larger toy won’t be fun if your dog can’t chew on it at all!
Smaller breeds can’t run as far, as fast, as larger breeds can but they also won’t tire out quite as quickly. Keep that in mind when playing with your dog; especially if you’re in a mixed dog environment. All dogs can be different from the breed overall, though, so some time with a dog will let you know their personalities.
Best toys for puppies
Buying toys for puppies can be quite overwhelming. Puppies require a lot of stimulation so the puppy toy market is rather large. Be mindful of what we’ve already suggested: soft toys, don’t play tug of war, and nothing that is made of toxic material.
Puppies will put everything in their mouths, including hands and fingers. When playing with a puppy, you will need to teach them the boundaries of when playing is okay and when it’s over. Any mouthing, where the puppy will take your hand into their mouth and lightly chew, is a comfort thing for the puppy but bear in mind that if you don’t wean them off it, they might continue doing it for a long time.
Teething is a particularly tough time for dogs as their gums itch and they will chew anything to stop it from itching. This will include your furniture and clothing if you don’t give them an alternative. Chew rings and bones for teething are often designed quite well, but please always supervise your puppy when they’re playing.
Best toys for quiet dogs
Quiet dogs, or the less overtly enthusiastic ones, will still enjoy a toy. They’re less likely to want to play tug of war, but a soft plushy teddy bear or cute and cuddly elephant will be ideal for the quiet dog that loves to collect toys in their crate or bed.
When a dog is particularly attached to a toy, taking it everywhere with them, you should ensure that you don’t remove the toy from where they placed it. Dogs like to “hide” objects they’re fond of, and if you remove them they can be distressed until they find it again.
A quiet dog won’t always need much, but they’ll probably be very attached to the toys you do get for them.
Best toys for big dogs
Big dogs need big toys. If your large dog is a chewer, you have to ensure that they can’t easily swallow the toy you’ve bought for them. Particularly tough chewers should get something from a tough toy range rather than regular versions.
Big dogs also have a lot of energy or need more exercise than their smaller counterparts. For this reason, it’s often a good idea to have something like a KONG extreme flyer large.
This is basically a frisbee for dogs, made from extremely tough rubber that they are less likely to destroy quickly. A frisbee is great for larger dogs because they’re easier to throw long distances, so your dog will get more exercise by running for the flyer!
Of course, dogs sometimes enjoy playing closer to their human than farther, so you could also consider a tug toy like this Goodchaps XL rope pulley.
A rope toy like this is ideal for the larger dogs that want to play with their human, rather than run around. Of course, big dogs are tough to win against in a tug war! Don’t hurt yourself playing with them, but they’ll love it if you do.
Best toys for outdoors
We’ve already mentioned the KONG extreme flyer, as good for bigger dogs, it’s obviously one for the outdoors though. A trend in recent years has been ball launchers that allow us to throw a ball much further than we would normally with very little effort on our part.
A launcher like the Chuckit Pro 26 uses a slightly springy plastic arm with an ergonomic grip to fling a ball forward.
Dogs can’t always follow a ball that moves very high, especially on sunny days, so either learn to launch the ball in a way your dog can follow or be prepared to pantomime the direction the ball has gone for them!
Best toys for your dog in 2021
Overall, these kinds of guides are only suggestions. You’ll need to work with your dog to figure out what they like the best; especially if they’re a new addition to your family. Be prepared to try multiple things until you’ve found the thing they like the most, and remember that you should always supervise your dog when they’re playing. This is doubly important if they’re chewing something.
Swallowing a piece of plastic can be enough to force thousands of pounds worth of veterinary bills on you, so please be careful in your adventures.
We hope that you’ve seen something useful in our guide to the best dog toys of 2021, and don’t hesitate to look through our collection of toys. Enjoy playtime!