Dogs love to play, whether it’s playing tug of war, chasing a ball, or making a squeaky toy squeak, but not every toy is suitable for every dog. With today’s active, hectic lifestyles, dogs are spending more and more time home alone, and they need boredom busters, but many commercial toys are simply not safe to be left with an unsupervised dog. Toys need to be carefully selected to be appropriate for your dog’s size, activity level, and chewing abilities, and all toys should be cleaned regularly…many of the quality toys are dishwasher safe!

Be sure that the toy is a suitable size for your dog. Don’t choose a toy that can be easily swallowed or become lodged in your dog’s throat. A tennis boll may not be the best option for a large Rottweiler, or a heavy, cumbersome rope would be awkward for a teacup size dog. The most common ball given to dogs is the tennis ball, but many animal welfare experts discourage giving tennis balls to any unsupervised dog. The fuzz that covers them is abrasive and can wear your dog’s teeth down, or be ripped off, or punctured and get caught on a tooth. A recommended alternative is the Air Kong Squeaker that looks like a tennis ball, but is covered in a non-abrasive material, and contains a securely-concealed squeaker for extra fun. Another great ball with extra features is the Huck Ball, which has a grooved shape that makes it jump in all kinds of crazy directions. It is made from a durable material which makes it a good choice for dogs that have a tendency to chew through a traditional ball. Avoid balls with single air holes, which can create a deadly suction trap.

Durability should always be considered. Some dogs do fine with soft, fluffy toys, and others will destroy them and eat the pieces, which can result in a dangerous gastro-intestinal obstruction. Avoid toys that have removable parts or small pieces such as plastic eyes, which the dog can chew off. Squeakers can also be dangerous. Most dogs love to play with toys that squeak, and some will chew until they destroy the toy and get the squeaker out…once the squeaker comes out, the dog can swallow it. Before leaving your dog unsupervised with a squeaky toy, be sure he is not the kind who will be tempted to get to the squeaker.

Public concern has increased about the safety of vinyl products for children, but there are no regulations regarding the safety of dog toys, leaving the dog toy industry unsupervised. The best way to avoid toxins from synthetic chemicals is to not buy synthetic products, but they are hard to dodge these days, and even natural things may be treated with nasty stuff. “Vinyl” is the common name for polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and manufacturers infuse the PVC with a number of additives to make the items soft, flexible, and willing to take colors. According to Greenpeace Research Laboratories, “You can end up with a vinyl product of which only a small proportion is actually PVC, with many additives that pose health risks. Before buying, use your senses. Strong chemical smells indicate residual chemicals If you can smell vinyl, then you, and your, dog are inhaling additives that are toxic. The stronger a vinyl toy smells, the greater amount of toxins it contains, so before you buy a cute little vinyl toy, give it the sniff test. They may look fun and colorful, but many toys on the store shelves are not good for your dog. It is important to check that you are getting a product that is safe and nontoxic. Remembering that NO toy is completely indestructible, and new toys should never be left with an unattended dog. A few companies worth checking out are, and

Keep a variety of toy types on hand and maintain your dog’s interest by rotating them, to make old toys seem like new again, but remember that no toy is a substitute for interaction. Your dog will appreciate you more than toys!