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Home Doggie Health and NutritionBasic Doggie Care Top Picks: Safe Chew Toys for Dogs and Buying Guide

Top Picks: Safe Chew Toys for Dogs and Buying Guide

by Dan Turner

As a dog owner, I’m always on the hunt for the perfect chew toy to keep my furry friend entertained and, more importantly, safe. It’s a jungle out there, with shelves and online stores packed with options, but not all toys are created equal. Finding the right one can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack.

I’ve learned through trial and error that the key to a good chew toy lies in its safety, durability, and ability to keep my dog engaged without risking their health. In this article, I’ll share some insights on what to look for when choosing a chew toy for your canine companion. Join me as we navigate the world of dog toys together, ensuring our pets get the joy and stimulation they deserve without any of the hazards.

Choosing the right size toy

When I embarked on this journey to find the perfect chew toy for my dog, understanding the importance of selecting the right size was a game-changer. It’s not just about the toy being too big or too small; it’s about ensuring the safety and enjoyment of your furry friend.

Firstly, the size of the chew toy is crucial for preventing choking hazards. A toy that’s too small can easily be swallowed or lodged in your dog’s throat. On the flip side, a toy that’s too big might frustrate your dog, making it difficult for them to get a good grip and effectively chew, which defeats the purpose of providing them with a chew toy in the first place.

Here’s a quick guide I found useful when determining the appropriate size chew toy for different dog sizes:

Dog Size Recommended Toy Size
Small Small to Medium
Medium Medium to Large
Large Large to Extra-Large

Remember, these are just general guidelines. Each dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.

Another aspect to consider is the durability in relation to your dog’s size and chew strength. A small, soft toy might be perfect for a tiny puppy but could be torn to shreds within minutes by a larger, more powerful chewer. This not only poses a potential choking hazard but also means you’ll be replacing toys more frequently than you’d probably like.

In my experience, observing your dog’s chewing habits can provide valuable insights into what size and type of chew toy would suit them best. For instance, my dog tends to settle down with his toys, gently nibbling for hours. Therefore, a medium-sized, durable chew toy works best for him. It’s large enough to prevent swallowing and sturdy enough to withstand his chewing sessions.

Moreover, many brands offer toys designed specifically for certain dog breeds or sizes, which can be a great starting point. However, always monitor your dog with a new toy before leaving them unattended. 

Through trial and error, I’ve come to realize that finding the ideal chew toy is a balance of size, durability, and, of course, your dog’s preferences. It’s all about keeping them safe while ensuring they’re engaged and entertained.

Materials to avoid

Not all materials are safe for our furry friends, and some can actually pose serious health risks.

First and foremost, avoid toys made from hard plastics or nylon. Initially, I thought these materials would offer the durability I was looking for. However, they can actually fracture my dog’s teeth or break into sharp pieces, risking ingestion or injury. These hard materials can also be tough on my dog’s gums, leading to discomfort or even bleeding.

Another big no-no is toys with small, easily detachable parts. These can become choking hazards surprisingly quickly. I remember buying a cute toy that had little plastic eyes. It wasn’t long before those eyes were nowhere to be found, leading me to worry they’d been swallowed. Thankfully, my dog was fine, but it was a wake-up call to carefully inspect toys for any small parts that could come loose.

Vinyl is another material on my avoidance list. Some vinyl chew toys release chemicals that can be harmful over time. Plus, they often contain phthalates and other toxic substances that have been linked to various health problems in dogs. I always make it a point to check labels for these chemicals now.

Lastly, let’s talk about rawhide. It’s incredibly popular, and I’ll admit, I was drawn to it initially. But rawhide poses several risks, including potential choking and blockages in the digestive tract. It can also be treated with chemicals I’d rather not expose my dog to. After learning this, rawhide quickly fell off my list.

Material Reason to Avoid
Hard Plastics Can fracture teeth, cause ingestion/injury
Nylon Risk of sharp pieces, gum damage
Vinyl Releases harmful chemicals, contains phthalates
Rawhide Choking hazard, digestive blockages, chemicals

Selecting safe chew toys for my dog has become easier with this knowledge. By avoiding these materials, I’ve been able to focus on toys that are not only durable and fun but also safe for my pup to enjoy.

Consider your dog’s chewing habits

As I’ve journeyed down the pet aisle more times than I can count, selecting the perfect chew toy often comes down to considering my dog’s unique chewing habits. Dogs, much like us, have their own personalities and preferences, especially when it comes to what they like to gnaw on. Some dogs are gentle nibblers, while others are powerful chewers who can destroy a supposedly indestructible toy in minutes.

First, let’s talk about the light chewers. These dogs treat their toys gently, lovingly even. They might carry them around or nibble on them gently. For these pets, softer materials are usually the best option. They’re less likely to cause dental damage and are often more enjoyable for this type of dog. Rubber or plush toys might just become their best friend.

On the flip side, we have the aggressive chewers. My dog falls into this category, and it’s been quite the adventure finding toys that last. These dogs require toys designed for durability. Hard rubber and tough nylon are materials I’ve found to stand the test of time. However, even these materials need to be scrutinized for safety. Regular inspections for any significant wear and tear are crucial to ensuring they remain safe to play with.

Observing your dog’s behavior with their toys can give you valuable clues on what they prefer. Do they enjoy a rigorous game of tug-of-war, or do they prefer to settle down with a toy and chew away quietly? My dog, for example, enjoys both activities but certainly has a preference depending on his mood and the time of day.

Another critical point is understanding that some dogs may have specific chewing needs at different stages of their life. Puppies, for instance, go through a teething phase. During this period, they may require a variety of textures to soothe their gums. Senior dogs, on the other hand, might need softer toys that are gentle on their aging teeth and gums.

I’ve also learned that it’s essential to rotate toys regularly. This approach not only keeps my dog from getting bored but it also gives me an opportunity to inspect the toys for any signs of damage, ensuring they remain safe for use. A diverse toy box, filled with a mix of hard and soft toys, puzzle toys, and tug toys, can cater to your dog’s changing preferences and needs.

Look for durability

When I started hunting for chew toys, durability was at the forefront of my mind. My dog, like many out there, is an ambitious chewer who takes pride in dismantling any toy within reach. So, I learned quickly that not all toys are created equal.

Toys made from robust materials, such as thick rubber or durable nylon, have made a significant difference in longevity. I made a point of reading product descriptions and customer reviews closely, looking for mentions of “indestructible” or “long-lasting.” Of course, nothing is truly indestructible when it comes to dogs, but some materials come close.

I also had to ensure the toys were safe and wouldn’t splinter or break into hazardous pieces. I discovered toys labeled as “safe chew materials” or “veterinarian approved,” which provided some peace of mind. Still, constant supervision during playtime is mandatory to ensure any wear and tear doesn’t turn a safe toy into a hazard.

Durability Vs. Dog’s Interest

An interesting dilemma I faced was finding a balance between durability and engagement. It turns out, the most durable toys aren’t always the most interesting to dogs. For my pooch, the allure of a toy often lies in its “destroyability.” Toys too tough for him to make an impression on quickly lose their appeal.

To overcome this, I started looking for toys with Interchangeable Parts or those that feature a Reward System, such as spaces to insert treats. These types of toys maintain their durability while keeping his interest peaked. They provide a challenge and a reward, making my dog work a bit harder and stay engaged longer.

Keep an Eye on Wear and Tear

No matter how durable a toy seems, it’s essential to monitor its condition over time. I’ve set a routine to inspect his toys for any signs of significant wear or potential breakage. Small cracks can quickly become big ones, and I’d rather not take any chances. When a toy shows signs of excessive wear, I know it’s time to replace it before it becomes a safety issue.

Interactive toys for engagement

When I’m out hunting for the perfect chew toy for my dog, I always keep an eye out for interactive options. Interactive toys are fantastic because they do more than just stand up to chewing; they engage my dog’s brain, keeping him mentally stimulated and busy. This aspect is crucial, especially on days when we can’t spend as much time outdoors as we’d like.

The first thing I look at in interactive toys is whether they incorporate some form of puzzle or challenge. Toys that can be filled with treats and require some thinking to access the goodies inside are a hit in my house. Not only do they offer a rewarding chew session, but they also provide a mental workout, which is vital for my dog’s wellbeing. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone—my dog gets both physical and mental exercise.

Another aspect I consider is the toy’s ability to adapt to various play styles. For instance, some interactive toys are designed for tossing and retrieving, which adds another layer of fun and interaction between me and my dog. We’ve had some of our best playtimes with toys that bounce unpredictably or have a unique shape that makes them fun to chase. 

Durability in interactive toys is non-negotiable. I’ve learned that the hard way. My advice? Look for toys made from thick rubber or reinforced nylon. These materials are not only durable but also safe for vigorous chewers. They withstand the test of time and persistent chewing, which is essential for maintaining my dog’s dental health without compromising his safety.

I also value toys that offer adjustable difficulty levels. These are great because they grow with your dog, providing a continuous challenge as they become more adept at solving puzzles. This adaptability ensures the toy remains intriguing over time, continually stimulating my dog’s problem-solving skills.

To keep things fresh, I often rotate the toys, ensuring my dog always has something “new” to play with. This rotation prevents boredom and keeps him engaged with his toys, which is ultimately what every dog owner wants. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to regularly inspect toys for any sign of wear or damage.


Finding the perfect chew toy for your furry friend doesn’t have to be a chore. Remember, it’s all about keeping their safety, interest, and the toy’s durability in mind. By choosing toys that are not only fun but also stimulate their mind, you’re ensuring a happier, more engaged pet. Don’t forget to regularly check the toys for any signs of wear and tear and switch them up now and then to keep things interesting. Trust me, your dog will thank you for the extra thought you’ve put into their playtime. Happy toy hunting!


Dan Turner

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