They come in all shapes and sizes and can range from free (check out our homemade suggestions) to the price of a small car (well, OK, not quite but you get the picture).
So, before you buy another flinger, rope, squeaky animal, ball or puzzle, read our guide to (almost) everything you need to know.
Why does your dog need a toy?
Dogs love to play. Even the most laid back of pooches enjoy the occasional game. But, not all dogs love to play the same way. Which might be why there is a seemingly endless variety of dog toys designed specially for a particular style of play. Well, that and the fact that it's fun to spoil our furry friends.
There's science behind the fun too. Some dogs are instinctive retrievers, some need the mental stimulation of interactive toys to redirect otherwise destructive behaviour. Some like to chase, others to find and guard (does anyone else have a Boxer who loves to chase the ball & then stand over it to keep it safe until you get there to throw it again?) And for each behaviour, there's a toy.
What can a Dog Toy teach my dog?
We absolutely love the Blue Cross and as usual, they have some spot on advice about play and how to teach your dog to play in a way that keeps you in control.
Read their expert advice..."Dogs are social animals and one of the ways they build and learn about relationships and communication is through play. Playing with your dog regularly will teach you about your dog’s personality and strengthen the bond between you. By preventing boredom, providing exercise and giving an outlet for your dog's natural instincts, play can ensure inappropriate behaviour does not develop....read more here
And if you want more ideas, read our post 10 games to play with your puppy, here.
What's the best type of toy for my dog?
The Dogs About Town chief toy testers, Dexter, Charlie & Maisie all love to play and have quite different styles....
Dexter is a 5 year old Boxer. He absolutely loves a latex rubber toy, preferably a hippo, but he'll go with pig or space hopper if he has too. As far as he is concerned, they are for breaking. In as short a time as possible (I think he might actually award himself points for his fastest times). The quicker he can chew that fantastic rubber, get the stuffing out and then the squeaker, the better. So he doesn't get them very often and he's never left alone with one.
On the other paw, he can make a tennis ball last forever (long after it's soggy and gross) and he never tires of chasing one and then standing over it until we get there to throw it again. The same can be said of anything that can be thrown, flung & chased over and over again.
Charlie is 3 and is a Standard Schnauzer. His current favourites are his K9 Nose-It! and the Giant Snake Toy which has multiple squeaks & crackles and it's big enough to be tugged by his humans so he gets to play with them as well (his absolute favourite pastime).
Our newest recruit, Maisie is just coming up to one year old, she's also a Boxer but quite different to Dex. She likes ball for a bit and then gets bored, but give her a puzzle or something she has to work at, and she'll play for hours. So the K9 Nose-It is a big hit with her. She's also currently testing a new, filling free plush toy.
Terriers, Hounds, Working Dogs, Giants, Toy breeds - dogs are wonderfully diverse and so are their play styles. we searched high and low for a definitive list of the types of toys that suit certain breeds and we like this one from the Animal Hospital Of North Asheville
What are the different types of Dog Toy?
Plush Toys - furry toys with or without stuffing and a squeaker. Some dogs often like to nuzzle these toys and often sleep with them whilst others (Dexter included) like to play little rougher and can rip them to get at the stuffing and the squeaker.
Rope / Tuggy Toys - can be good for interacting with your dog while they play but remember that you need to "win" the tug of war otherwise behavioural issues can result. They can be a great way to train "leave it" in a puppy.
Balls - they can flash, squeak bounce really high or in odd directions but most of all, they can be chased. Remember to get an appropriate size for your dog so that it can't be swallowed but it's not to big to be picked up.
Interactive / Treat dispensers - some dogs need a little more mental stimulation than others and a treat dispensing toy that the dog has to manipulate (usually by rolling it around the floor) is a brilliant way to keep them entertained.
Frisbees, flingers, stuffed toys than can be catapulted - much like balls, dogs love to chase these toys and if you're lucky, bring them back for you to fling again.
Rubber / Latex animals - again, these usually have a squeak which dogs love (particularly if they have a high prey drive)
And the one type of dog toy that doesn't exist?
Indestructible ones. Many are sold as such but none can be guaranteed so if you've got a tough chewer be sure to keep a close eye on them even if the toy is marketed as indestructible.
They don't need to cost the earth
Whether plush, interactive, bouncy of flingable, you could spend a lot on dog toys, but with a little innovation, there's money to be saved as well. And sometimes, its the simple things that can keep your pup entertained for hours...
Check out this list of homemade dog toys from Barkpost
We're definitely going to be trying the T-short covered water bottle one and we play hide & seek with ours. This is a great way to train in recall as well - we start in the garden until we're confident that they will come back and then move it out to the walks (we only play when there are two of us and one can always keep an eye on the dogs).
Good Dog Toy Housekeeping
- Never leave your dog unattended with a toy
- Check toys regularly to make sure there are no bits coming loose, fraying or generally deteriorating. Remove all toys that are past their best
- Choose appropriate sizes and styles for your dog's size, breed, age and play style
- Clean / wash your dog's toys to prevent them becoming bacteria breeding grounds
- Always follow the manufacturers instructions to prolong the life of the toy
- Rotate toys weekly to stop your dog becoming possessive or bored with them
- When your dog gets a new toy, donate an old one to a local rescue or shelter if they are still play-worthy and recycle the ones that aren't.
- Teach your dog to today up afterwards (we haven't managed this one!)