Types of Toys for Dogs

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on March 06, 2023
3 min read

Dogs love to play and chew. While some canines enjoy these activities more than others, toys are essential tools in any dog owner’s home. They provide an outlet for your dog to express natural instincts safely. Without them, your four-legged friend could become bored or destructive or develop other issues. Choosing the right types of toys for your dog can help keep them engaged, mentally stimulated, and happy.  

Like people, every dog is different. They each have their own preferences. Even dogs in the same household may enjoy different types of toys. 

Squeaky toys. Some dogs love the sound of toys that squeak. The sound simulates prey, and it can be exciting for them to hear it. These toys come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Thinner materials tend to be cheaper, but they may not be durable. While they may be fine for smaller dogs and supervised playtime, aggressive chewers may do better with a squeaky toy made from a thicker rubber material. 

Plush toys. Plush toys are popular with many dogs. Some dogs carry them everywhere and treat them gently, while others tear them apart like prey. If your dog fits into the latter category, keep an eye out for stuffing and the squeaker inside. These can cause blockages in the digestion system that can lead to serious issues.

Retrieving toys. If your dog loves playing fetch, retrieving toys may be right for him. They’re great for playing together with your companion and helping him to burn off extra energy. Several types of toys fall into this category, including:

  • Balls 
  • Frisbee discs
  • Floating toys (for playing fetch in water)

Try a couple of different options to see which one your dog responds to best. No matter which ones your pup prefers, playing fetch helps to keep your dog active, providing them with physical exercise and mental stimulation. These toys also help to strengthen your bond with your dog by giving you something to do together. 

Tugging toys. Scientists and dog trainers have a few ideas as to why dogs enjoy playing tug-of-war. Some say it strengthens bonds between dogs (or between you and your dog), and others say that it imitates predation. No matter what the reason, tugging toys provide physical and mental exercise. These toys include ropes and double-handled rubber toys that allow both you and your dog (or two dogs) to get a good grip and tug back and forth. Be cautious with rope toys when unsupervised as the rope material can cause severe gastrointestinal issues if your dog eats it.

Interactive toys. Interactive and puzzle toys provide an excellent source of mental stimulation for a smart dog while also satisfying their natural instincts. These toys vary in complexity. Some have a hole for placing treats like a cookie or peanut butter. Others have a variety of compartments in which you can hide treats. Your dog then has to work through the puzzle to find the reward. 

Choose the right size toys for your dog. When choosing toys for your dog, be sure to keep their size in mind. Giving a large dog a small toy could present a choking hazard. Toys that are too big for a small dog won’t be enjoyable. 

Check toys periodically for wear. While there are some tough toys on the market, no toy lasts forever. Over time, your dog’s toys may start to get dirty or deteriorate. Clean toys and check them over periodically for signs of wear. Soft toys may become frayed or ripped. Toys made from harder materials may become rough, or pieces may break off. Worn toys present potential hazards to your dog. Replace them to keep your faithful friend safe. 

Avoid too many toys at once. Too many toys can overwhelm your dog, which can lead to indifference or other odd behaviors like hiding or burying toys. To avoid this issue, try limiting the number of toys available to your pooch and rotate them occasionally to keep him interested. If he has a particular toy that he’s attached to, keep that one out.