Toys…toys…toys…. Your dog may have some favorites, but one thing is for certain — if he is like most dogs, he loves to play with toys, and it is important to choose toys wisely, because not all toys on the market are safe for your dog. Pet toys are not regulated, so they can be made with virtually any material (including those that contain toxic chemicals), and since there are no safety-testing requirements, most are cheaply made, and many of them contain BPA and phthalates, toxic chemicals that can harm your dog’s health. Other toxins sometimes found in dog toys include heavy metals (lead, etc.) and formaldehyde, and research has determined that old or weathered toys (such as those left outside) leach even higher concentrations of harmful chemicals, so the wisest option is to discard them. .

The safest toys are unbreakable, resistant to chewing and rough play, interesting to the dog, and do not have parts that can break off and be swallowed. Choose those made in the U.S, out of l00 percent natural rubber, organic cotton, or non-toxic materials, and always give them a sniff test: toys should have no smell…if the toy smells strongly of chemicals, it is NOT a good choice. Some are downright dangerous..

If you are a parent of two legged children, you probably learned to rotate your children’s toys. By stashing some of them out of sight for a while, and rotating them, even old toys seemed new. The same holds true for dogs—they can tire of the same-old toys, so the novelty factor is huge in maintaining their interest—toys that are in good condition can be brought back to life by putting them on rotation. Leave out two or three toys and put the rest away. In a couple days, swap them out and watch your pet’s new interest. Just washing the toys can also pique their attention…and toys need to be cleaned regularly anyway, and if they crack or start to come apart, they should be discarded.

Toys should always be appropriate for your dog’s size, chewing abilities, and activity level. VetDepot offers these tips:

  • Tug toys: Most dogs love a good game of tug, but use restraint, and if your dog has any neck or back problems, play with this type of toy should be limited.
  • Squeaky toys: Removing the squeaker from a squeaky toy is usually the goal for most dogs, so these toys should be allowed only under close supervision and the squeaker picked up as soon as it is detected.
  • Balls: Make sure that any ball isn’t small enough for your dog to swallow. Also, the fuzz on tennis balls can be overly abrasive on the teeth, and obsessive ball chewers can actually puncture the surface, leaving a tooth impaled in the ball.
  • Rawhide chews: Dogs love them, but they are definitely NOT good options. Most rawhides are processed in other countries using toxic chemicals, and even USA made rawhides are not easily digested. They can cause obstructions if large pieces are swallowed, and vets document that bacterial infections can be caused from them. (If you insist on giving your dog’s rawhides, close supervision is essential.)
  • Stuffed toys: Be sure to give your dog toys meant for canine use—no children’s toys which have eyes and other parts that can be chewed off and swallowed. If your dog starts pulling the stuffing out, remove the stuffing immediately.
  • Safe fun: two words that often collide in a dog’s world. As long as the toy industry is an unsupervised playground, it’s up to loving caregivers to keep their eyes on the ball… and squeaker…and stuffing, and…and…and…

Companies that make toys worth a woof include::

  •  Kong Company is based in Colorado, and sadly they are outsourcing some of their products, but the original Kong is a treat-holding, nearly indestructible object with a tantalizingly odd bounce, and is made in the United States. This tops my list for favorite toys for dogs. A couple stuffed Kongs can occupy a dog for hours!
  • Planet Dog, a Maine company, offers a full spectrum of fetching, nontoxic, recyclable U.S.-made toys. They offer something for every age dog.
  • West Paw Design focuses on environmentally friendly toys including the “Zogoflex,” a tough, yet flexible material that utilizes l0 percent post-industrial waste, and is non-toxic. Their dishwasher-safe Tux has an inner lip for hiding treats, adding an extra layer of fun and challenge.

 FINAL WORD: Remember that no toy is a substitute for personal interaction. Your dog will appreciate you more than any toys!