Dog Toys: Pros and Cons of the Most Popular Brands and Types
Walking in a pet store down the dog toy aisle, I was hit by how many varieties of toys there really are and was unsure about which ones to actually purchase. Several of the dog toys on the market claimed they are indestructible, unique and “The” toy to get for your dog. My challenge was to meet the needs of my puppy “the chewer” and my older dog who does not like dog toys but enjoys chewing on her feet, creating lick granulomas, a behavior many dog behaviorists claim can be avoided with certain dog chews and toys. I purchased several dog toys and tried each of them out on my puppy and dog to see if these claims are true and which products my pets actually like.
Kong toys claim to be puncture resistant and chewer friendly. Made of 100% rubber, Kong dog toys are one of the few unique “indestructible” dog toys on the market. Kong has 50 different varieties of dog toys to choose from. The original Kong comes in two varieties: red for the regular chewer and black for the more aggressive chewer and a variety of sizes: small, medium, large, extra large, king and puppy. It is shaped similarly to a snowman (larger round on the bottom, medium in the middle and topped with a smaller round). This toy can be filled with treats, bones, kibble, Stuff n’Paste or peanut butter.
In addition to the original Kong, Kong puts out a number of other lines: the Dental line, which are dog toys with patented grooves (which are fully cleanable) and assist with helping your dog maintain clean gums and teeth. These toys can be stuffed with Kong spray, treats or Zippies if they have hollow centers or the grooves filled with Kong Stuff n’ Paste to entice your dog with delicious flavors such as peanut butter, liver or breath (specially formulated to help with good breath); the Wubba, which is a squishy toy with tentacle like tendrils your dog can grab and shake while playing; Air Dog Toys such as the Kong Squeaker (a tennis ball with a squeaker inside), Air Kong Squeaker Bone (a yellow bone shaped squeaker toy), Air Kong Fetch Stick (a yellow squeaker cylindrical shaped toy) and the Air Kong Jumping Jack which is shaped just like the jacks you played with in your childhood and bounces around, adding to your dog’s enjoyment and Puppy Kong, toys exclusive for puppies: Puppy Kong, Kong Puppy Flyer, Puppy Kong Goodie Bone with Rope, Puppy Kong Teething Stick (this toy has ridges around the cylindrical shaped toy to promote healthy gums and good chewing behavior), Puppy Kong Goodie Bone (a dog treat shaped rubber bone with a hollow center in which long treats can be stuffed), and Puppy Kong Binkie (shaped just like a pacifier for babies, which is a good choice for the small pup). Special treats for puppies include Puppy Ziggies, which are specially shaped hard bones to stuff into your Kong toy and will last longer than a regular treat such as Milk Bone), Puppy Stuff n’Paste (similar to sprayable cheese, this treat comes in an assortment of flavors such as liver and peanut butter) and Kong Stuff n’ Puppy Snap Treats, specially designed treats to stuff into your Kong toy.
After much deliberation over the wide assortment of Kong toys to choose from, I selected the Kong Stuff a Ball, which is a round Kong toy filled with long grooves surrounding the entire toy. This Kong toy can be stuffed with Stuff n’ Paste and small treats in the grooves, and the hollow center filled with kibble, Kong snaps, Kong Ziggies or paste. I also purchased the Stuff’n Tots, which are tiny treats that are only one calorie a piece. These treats are all natural, made with no preservatives and are ideal for training, in which handlers tend to use many treats at a time. They price about $3.99 for a small 1.40 oz package, also shaped like a Kong ball. In addition, I selected a puppy ziggie to try out. I also purchased the Kong Stuff n’ Paste in peanut butter flavor (which my dogs love). The can is shaped just as a can of Easy Cheese is and the concept is the same -press down on the tip and out comes the paste. In addition to the Stuff a Ball and treats I selected, I also purchased the Kong Squeaker Ball and Bone.
Pros: My new puppy loves the Squeaker Ball and Squeaker Bone toys and she loves to chase either of them around. The squeaking sound is loud enough and clear enough and has been good to get her attention, although after a week of using it she is somewhat sensitized to it if she is more interested in another object (such as my flowers). We put a shoe string onto the Squeaker Bone and bounce it around for her to catch it and this has become one of her most favorite toys. Not only do we enjoy watching her run in circles trying to catch the swinging bone, but it is excellent exercise for her and is helping her paw-eye coordination develop nicely. My puppy also likes the Stuff a’Ball and really seems to enjoy getting the treats out of the ball, although she can do this fairly easily, so it does not provide “hours of entertainment” as the product and many reviews claim. She loved the Puppy Ziggie, but I found that it did not fit into the groove on the top of the ball as expected, so I gave it to her solo. I had to closely supervise her while she was chewing it, as even though it is marketed for puppies, you have to be very careful that they don’t choke and this product was VERY slippery once her saliva got all over it. I have to admit however, she spent a good half hour chewing on this and seemed in a trance while doing so! The Stuff a’Ball does seem to be good for her chewing and gums as she really has a go at it when trying to get the bits of kibble out that I put in the grooves for her. Her own kibble is too small to put inside of it as it easily comes out but when she is older, I will place larger kibble on the inside for her to try to get out of the opening.
Cons: The Stuff n’Paste was not worth the money at all. I found that the peanut butter is not as thick as I had imagined (and would have preferred) and trying to fill the Stuff a Ball grooves with liquidy peanut butter creates quite the mess. I will keep the jar around for giving medication to my pups in the future, but instead of using this to fill Kong toys, I would suggest actually buying Easy Cheese (which would be much cheaper than the $4.00 I spent on this can). It would also be a lot less messy as it is a more solid filling. My vet by the way keeps a can of Easy Cheese in his office to use as treats for his patients. This paste is a complete mess and even if you can get it in the grooves, you have to be careful where you let your dogs play with it because it will get on your carpet and their dog beds and then needs to be cleaned up with a carpet stain remover. The Stuff n’Tots were useful for putting into the grooves of the Kong toy, but I had to really stuff them in there because if they just stuck out of the toy, it was too easy for my dogs to get the treats, thereby making the beauty of the line completely obsolete. The package is perfect for putting in your pocket, and the snap open door easily allows treats to be obtained for the owner. Several treats tend to fall out at once, which can make this annoying when you only want one. Kong would be better off making a smaller opening for a single treat to be shaken out. Cleaning is a bit of a pain with the Stuff a’Ball and I have to let it soak in a ball of warm water, especially to get the caked and stuck in bits of kibble out.
My older dog who is not much of a chewer found little interest in the Kong toys, except to lick the peanut butter paste off the sides and to roll the ball to get the treats inside, which was way too easy for her. After trying it several times with her, I realized this toy does not live up to its guarantee to appeal to any dog, and if my puppy did not enjoy it, I would have returned it.
While the Kong line DOES seem to be indestructible thus far, the bottom line is that it is not worth the excessive cost for the initial product or the additional costs the specially shaped treats will be. I do recommend that you use your own treats and kibble if you want to use the Kong toys and always supervise them when they are chewing this. The Squeaker line is fantastic. I also recommend going right for the regular size product your dog will be when fully grown, especially because this product is pricey.
Fire Hose Dog Toys:
Another line of dog toys, Fire Hose Dog Toys from Kyjen are dog toys that are soft yet durable and made of 100% real fire hose material (per the company’s statement). These toys have a rubber lining with several layers of tightly woven fabric on the outside. Just like a fire hose, these toys are red with black trim and have black paws decorating the toy. A bonus of this toy is that there are no exposed seams, so your puppy or dog can’t chew through stitches and play with exposed threads. Inside each of these toys is a squeaker.
Some have black cords attached to the top which can help owners toss the toy further or to be used as another game with your pup. The fire hose flyer is a great alternative to the traditional Frisbee or some of the other Frisbee type products out there for dogs. The material makes this Frisbee a soft and safer toy to use as it won’t injure your dog’s mouth as they bite down on it. Just as the Fire Hose Toss and Fetch toys, these Frisbees are made of durable rubber and come in red with black trim. This product also floats. These products have been proven to have excellent resistance to abrasion, chew marks and tears.
This company also manufactures pet travel gear, such as pet life jackets, pet back packs, travel packs for you to hold your small dog or pup in (both over the shoulder and in front styles for dogs up to 20 pounds), dog strollers and joggers, purses for you to carry your dog in, and travel lunch boxes to keep treats and the like in for your pet handy even when you are out. Automobile travel gear such as seat covers, dog harnesses, extend a seat, back seat hammock, window bumper (to protect your dog’s chin as they lean out the window when you are driving), pet waste clean up bags, rhinestone collars, travel bowls and finally, the pet pillow to provide extra support for your dog’s head, neck and jaw.
Pros: Sizes come in small, medium and large for about $5.99 from $11.99, depending on size at your local pet store. This toy is considerably cheaper than Kong products and one purchase is the end while you have to continually buy Kong treats to use with the already expensive Kong toys. The Fire Hose Dog Toy also floats, which makes this toy excellent for use in pools, lakes and ponds. It could make a great first retrieving dummy if you plan on training your dog to fetch or retrieve as it easily fits into the dog’s mouth without them having to bite down hard. My pup really enjoys fetching this toy and it easily fits into her mouth, enabling her to carry it back to me or maneuver it herself as she plays and chews on it. As compared to the Kong toys, the Fire Hose Squeak n’ Fetch toy seems to be more durable and has not gotten any teeth marks on it, while the Kong Stuff n Ball does have teeth marks on it, although the material has not yet worn with use. You can not stuff the Fire Hose toys with food, so they may be less appealing to dogs for this reason, but this is a toy you can safely leave in the house when you are not able to supervise your dog (for normal chewers who just gnaw, not tear the toy apart) or to place in their kennel as a softer alternative to a nylabone.
Cons: One problem I have with the squeaker however is that it is very hard to hear unlike other toys where dogs can easily squeeze the toy and be rewarded by the sound. You really have to press it hard to get the toy to squeak and my pup has not yet been able to make this toy squeak herself. This product claims to have no seams, yet within a week of my puppy using this, red thread is beginning to unravel on the top, which she seems to enjoy just as much as the toy itself (but which of course could prevent a choking hazard) and needed to be cut off. This toy does not have a return policy or money back guarantee as Kong offers.
The bottom line on this toy is that it is not completely indestructible, but it appeals to me more than the Kong line. It is cheaper; is not a toy that needs to have money constantly put into it, has multiple uses; is easier for my dog to manipulate in her mouth and my puppy enjoys it more, even though there is no food to be had from playing with it. She often chooses this toy over her other ones to play with and she has actually spent big chunks of time with this toy alone. The Fire Hose toy can claim that they provide hours of entertainment while in my experience, Kong can not.
Nylabones come in a number of varieties now, from the traditional plastic dog bone shaped bone to bones dogs can actually chew and interactive toys such as bouncy toys and plush animals with squeakers in them.
Pros: My older dog who does not like to chew toys will chew on a nylabone on occasion especially if it has a good flavor like bacon, or is an edible one. This type of product is excellent for dental care and healthy gum promotion. Nylabone does not use preservatives or other unhealthy additives. They have a number of products designed to help with your dog’s dental hygiene chew style, which is important in the health maintenance of your pet. Especially if you do not brush your dog’s teeth, invest in a product such as Nylabone dental line to help your animal’s breath, teeth and gums. My pup has been using her nylabone for over a month now and it has survived very well, with only a few teeth marks in it, which has made it quite an indestructible toy for my aggressive chewing pup.
Cons: You have to choose the right size nylabone for your pet. If it is too small, you will worry that they could choke and if it is too big, your dog may not bother too much with it. Depending on how quickly your dog chews up one of the edible bones, it could be a costly purchase. If your dog takes some time to do this, it could truthfully allow for a few hours of entertainment for your dog. My pup chews on her nylabone while in her kennel and is also given it when she chews us and shouldn’t. She seems to be able to entertain herself while in her kennel with her bone but does not tend to go for this as a toy when having a choice among her other toys to play with.
Nylabone has been in the dog toy and bone business for over 50 years, so you can feel better assured that they make a quality product and are concerned about pet needs and care. I highly recommend using this product to keep in your dog’s kennel as a safe toy to chew on; to give to your pup when she tries to chew your hand; and for use with older dogs to help prevent boredom. If your dog does not like chew toys, try one of these out, especially the edible line.
These toys look like braided rug in the shape of a bone with threads hanging out of the sides. The threads are strong and act as floss to help your dog clean her teeth and gums. This type of toy can be tossed and used in games of fetch.
Pros: This colorful toy is pretty inexpensive and purchased for about $3 at nearly any store such as Target, or pet stores. My puppy likes to run after this when I throw it and spends some time chewing on the hard braid in the middle or on the threads on the side. The threads have thus far shown no signs of wear to my surprise. She is not as interested in this toy as her other ones but she does enjoy it.
Cons: This type of toy has the potential to be hazardous to heavy chewers and dogs should be supervised when using.
This is an inexpensive toy that has good dental hygiene benefits for your dog, while not requiring you to buy any additional treats to use with it. I recommend using this with an older pup or dog.
Small plastic balls:
I purchased one of these for $1.99 at Target in the kids toy aisle. While not a dog toy, it bounces, is made of very hard plastic and comes in a variety of colors and you can even find ones with Disney characters on it. Mine has Cinderella, Belle from Beauty and the Beast and some other princess type characters.
Pros: My dog can not put this ball entirely in her mouth which reduces the chances of her popping or ripping the plastic. She does however get a huge kick out of trying to get her teeth on it and pushing it with her nose or paws around the house or yard. It bounces, which gets her attention quickly when she is doing something she shouldn’t be and it is big enough so it doesn’t go under the sofa or tables where she can’t get to it. It is also extremely cheap.
Cons: This toy could possibly be popped with rough chewers and does not squeak. Dogs also have to be inclined to want to run after a toy and not just sit and chew to enjoy this type of toy.
It is possible that dogs and older pups can pop this type of toy especially if their teeth are sharp, but if you buy a ball that is larger than their mouths, the chances of them being able to do this are less likely. This is a very cheap toy and one that you would not mind terribly if it did get popped or ruined. It is also interactive as you can play with your dog by tossing it, throwing it, bouncing it, etc. Doggie in the middle is fun with this type of toy as well when you throw or roll the ball between two people, having the dog run between the two of you to get it.