By Jodi L. Hartley

It still brings tears to my eyes to see my dog, Dolly, play with toys. Rescued from a puppy mill when she was about one year old, she came to our house not knowing how to play. Lucky for her, she had a new big brother and new friends at Club Canine to show her the ropes. Now she’s an expert with toys, favoring fuzzy squeaky toys to throw, pounce on and squeak.

Toys and chews play a huge role in exercising, stimulating, training and satisfying our dogs. As more and more people have made dogs part of the family, the number of toys and chews available for the furry family members have skyrocketed. Understanding your dog and his needs as well as what to look for in toys and chews can help you select the safest, healthiest ones available.

Your Dog’s Size, Chewing Voracity and Play Style

Selecting toys and chews starts with figuring out what is appropriate for your dog. Take your dog’s size into consideration. You don’t want something too small that he can swallow or choke on, nor do you want the toy or chew so big that he can’t get his mouth around it or be able to carry it around. Dogs also vary in their chewing voracity and frequency. Puppies need to chew a lot, typically, while older dogs may only withstand a little chewing. How your dog plays or uses the toys needs to be considered as well. For instance, if he loves stuffed animals with a squeaker, but tends to tear them apart, then you may want to look for stuffed animals made with tougher materials.

Toy Safety and Health

Toys made of natural rubber tend to be among the safest choices. Companies like Kong® and Premier Busy Buddy® offer a variety of toys made from natural rubber. Both companies offer toys that can be filled with peanut butter and/or treats to challenge the dog into working for his food. They also offer some of their toys in varying “toughness” degrees for puppies and strong chewers.

Toys that have a strong chemical smell or brightly colored fabric usually are chemical-laden and should be avoided. Also, if your dog loves to chew up stuffed toys, he should never be left alone with that type of toy. Ingesting even a small piece of material can cause serious health problems or choking.

Bones and Chews

Historically, rawhide has been the leader in this category of chews for dogs, but it often contains chemicals like formaldehyde and has caused many choking deaths. Production of rawhide, according to The Humane Society of the United States, also has links to the cruel fur trade overseas. Fortunately, there are much healthier alternatives on the market today. Jones Natural Chews offers a large variety of yummy all-natural bones, chews and treats that are made of 100 percent USA meat products. Unscented Bully Sticks and Springs also make great all-natural chews.

With all bones and chews, it is necessary to supervise your dog while he’s enjoying them. It’s usually a good idea to take the treat away when it becomes small enough that he could swallow what’s left of it, making it a choking hazard.

What kind of toy or chew makes your dog go gaga? Let us know in the comments section!

Article References:

The Bark: Choosing Safe Dog Toys

Pet Expertise: Dog Chew Comparison – Choosing the Best Chew Toys for Your Dog

The Humane Society of the United States: Dog Toys

Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for Club Canine, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an M.B.A.