Tips for Buying Dog Toys

Tennis balls, Frisbees, rawhides, and Kongs.  Dog toys line the shelves of multiple aisles at pet stores.  With all of the choices, which toys should or shouldn’t you buy for man’s best friend?

a dog running on grass with a toy in its mouth

Dr. Mark Stickney, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of General Surgery Services at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said that when first giving your dog toys, buy a variety of toys to see what the animal prefers.

“They are going to have a toy preference the same way that children have toy preferences,” he said. “Once you determine their favorites, you can adjust your selection and your budget accordingly for the toys that entertain your pet.”

To help guide your purchases, Stickney said it’s important to make sure the toy is made of nontoxic material and the appropriate size toy for the animal.  A five-pound Yorkie, for example, will not be able to use an extra-large Kong toy made for a Rotweiller.  Kong toys, he added, are one of his favorite brands because it keeps the pets busy by challenging them to get a treat out of the small hole of the toy.

“Kong toys are fantastic because the animal has to work, but they are also rewarded for their hard effort,” Stickney said.  He explained that they are virtually indestructible because they are made of a durable rubber.

For most Kongs, an edible treat is placed inside the toy.  For treats, Stickney said, it is important to consider the amount of calories in the snack.  He advised that treats should encompass no more than five percent of the animal’s total diet.  It is important to limit the number of treats given so the animal does not put on extra weight.

Another edible toy for dogs is rawhides.  Stickney said rawhides are great for the animal to chew on because it will not damage their teeth.  He advises buying rawhides the animal can chew on for a few hours instead of a few days.

“When rawhides sit around for too long, they grow bacteria and can potentially make your pet sick,” Stickney said.

Ropes are a common toy that pet owners should avoid.  String can get caught in the animal’s intestinal track and cause a “linear foreign body.”  Stickney explained that when the animal continues to pass it, the string can end up “sawing” a hole through their intestines.

“This is similar to them getting a rope burn on the inside of their intestines,” he said. “It can kill them.  Nothing with string of any sort is good for them.”

After giving the toys to the animal, Stickney said it is important to monitor the pet for a few hours.

“You need to watch them to make sure they are not going to end up hurting themselves on it by tearing it into pieces, swallowing it, or cutting themselves on it,” Stickney said.

Once you know your pets can’t get into trouble with their new toys, it is fine to leave them alone with the toys.

“That is the beauty of having things that enrich their lives,” Stickney said. “This way, they have something to do when the fun people are out of the house for a while. It keeps them busy.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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