Dog Toy Safety: What Owners Need to Know

Practical tips for choosing the best, and most importantly — safest toys for your playful pup!

Jan 10, 2024By Lauren Rey
dog toy safety what owners need to know

From frisbees and bouncy balls to squeakers and “stuffies” to even high-tech toys and interactive puzzles, there are more dog toys on the market than ever before! But, like most pet products, not all toys are right for all dogs. When it comes to choosing the right toy for your canine companion, there are some important things to consider to keep them engaged, entertained, and most importantly — safe!

Choosing The Right Toy for Your Dog

choosing the best dog toy
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Whether you’re strolling the aisles of a store or scrolling your online feed, you’re bound to see new and interesting dog toys popping up all the time. In fact, the pet toy market is a billion-dollar industry and growing. Of course, not all dog toys are created equally! There are some key things to consider when picking out a new toy for your pup to play with.

Always choose appropriate-sized toys for your dog. Some toys will come with a chart describing the sizes or weights they were made for but with some toys, you may have to take your best guess. For larger dogs especially, it can be dangerous to give them toys, chews, or bones made for smaller dogs as they can quickly become a choking hazard or gastrointestinal obstruction. As for our pint-sized pups, we don’t want them chipping a tooth or straining themselves trying to chew on or carry around a toy that’s too big.

dog with squeeky toy
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It’s also important to take into consideration your dog’s personality and habits when it comes to toys. Is your dog a chaser or a chewer? Do they love to play “tug-o-war”, or do they go for total toy destruction? Do they love to carry around and cuddle their “stuffies” or do they immediately shred them?

If you have a new four-legged friend and you’re not sure yet, you may have to go through a trial-and-error phase to see what types of toys your dog likes best and what they do with them. Once you know these things, you’ll save yourself some time and most importantly — money!

Lastly, when shopping for dog toys, always look for toys made with pet-safe, non-toxic materials. While this may seem like a no-brainer and all pet toys should automatically come this way, sadly, they are not regulated! Especially when purchasing online, a toy’s origin or materials may not be disclosed. If you are not able to verify if a toy is non-toxic, it may be best to skip it.

Different Toys for Different Types of Play

dog ball beach
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While your dog may love to chase a ball at the beach or play frisbee at the park, at home, some dogs may try to turn these into chew toys. This can create problems if they break off pieces, or sadly, tennis balls can get lodged in dogs' throats and create life-threatening emergencies.

Rope toys, which many dogs love to play “tug-o-war” with, should be used with caution and supervision. Once the game is over, some dogs may try to take these apart and end up ingesting threads. This can create dangerous intestinal blockages.

It’s always a good idea to consider what toys are better for outings or games versus at-home play when giving your dog access to toys. There are many great options for at-home enrichment like Kongs and other “stuffable” toys, puzzle toys, and more.

The Chew Toy Conundrum

dog chew toy
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It’s no secret that dogs love to chew. If left solely up to their own devices they’d pick the biggest bone or stick and wouldn’t let it go until they’ve gnawed it down to nearly a nub! Unfortunately, this can lead to all sorts of problems from tooth fractures to gastrointestinal blockages.

Owners often find themselves faced with the conundrum of wanting to give their dogs something to satisfy their need to chew while also keeping them safe. Unfortunately, there are many potentially dangerous toys and chews on the market. Dog owners should use caution or speak to their veterinarian before giving their dogs anything made with rawhide, real bones, or certain types of “edible chews” often made from pig ears, hooves, and other animal parts. While dogs love them, these types of chews have caused choking incidents and gastrointestinal obstructions.

dog with bone
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While artificial bones made from nylon or rubber have become popular “safer” alternatives, these are also not without risks. Depending on the type of toy or chew and how vigorously your dog chews on it, these can wear your dog’s teeth down or even fracture them. The softer variations can break off into pieces your dog may accidentally ingest.

Overall, when it comes to chew toys, there are no guaranteed, 100% safe options out there. Some dogs will find ways to break or swallow pieces of their toys no matter how “safe,” “indestructible,” or “vet-recommended” they are advertised as. What works for one dog may not work for another so it’s important to consider your individual dog’s “chew style” when choosing a chew toy for your dog. While some dogs can be fine with certain toys, others can and will swallow pieces or break a tooth on one so supervising your dogs with chew toys (especially new ones) is an absolute must!

The Dos and Don’ts of Dog Toys

dog with kong toy
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A few simple dos and don’ts to help keep your pup safe during playtime!

Dog Toy Dos:

  • Always supervise playtime
  • Give your dog size, age, and species-appropriate toys
  • Rotate toys so your dog doesn’t get bored
  • Regularly inspect your dog’s toys for signs of wear or loose pieces
  • Take away broken toys or if your dog shows signs of inflamed gums or bleeding

Dog Toy Don’ts:

  • Don’t give your dog children’s toys or toys meant for smaller dogs or cats, many have small pieces that can present a choking hazard or gastrointestinal obstruction risk
  • Don’t leave your dog unsupervised with a new toy, especially if they are known to easily break toys or ingest objects
  • Don’t allow your dog to keep playing with broken toys or toys that have loose threads, stuffing coming out, etc.
  • If your dog does swallow a piece of a toy, don’t brush it off — call your vet right away
Lauren Rey
By Lauren Rey

A lover of all animals, Lauren’s background is in the veterinary world, but she is now a content writer on travel, wildlife, and all things pets! She’s based in Florida, but when not writing, she’s usually plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime. Pickles is a mixed-breed rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks just as much as her mom does!