Dogs love toys: That is undisputed. The dog toy industry is booming: That is also undisputed. Sadly, there is no regulation in the dog toy industry. This means the materials don’t have to meet safety requirements, and neither do the finished toys. So there are safe and unsafe toys out there, and it’s up to pet parents to become savvy shoppers. We’ve got some great tips so you can find safe toys that are also fun for your dogs.
First of all, you need to consider your dog’s size and breed before you buy any toys. A Rottweiler may love large Kong squeaky balls, but if you accidentally buy a cocker spaniel size ball, your rottie could choke and perhaps even die.
Terriers, like Jack Russells, have a ‘shake ‘em until they’re dead’ approach to playing. They need soft toys that can withstand vigorous whipping around and the occasional burial. However, the toys shouldn’t be so long they can wrap around your dog’s neck. Nor should they have hard pieces that will hurt during a whip-round.
Some dogs really like to chew and they may be particularly fond of chewing all the fuzz off tennis balls. While it’s a great way for them to pass the time, the fuzz is not good for their teeth. So hard rubber balls might be better for your chewer.
Avoid toys that have bits that can be chewed or pulled off, because they can easily be swallowed and can cause an obstruction that is both painful and dangerous.
Keep any injuries or health problems in mind when you buy toys. For example, if your dog has back or neck problems, then rope toys and tug games may worsen the condition.
Don’t let your dog play with:
- String, ribbon, pantyhose, rubber bands or socks (another good reason to break your puppy’s sock stealing habit as soon as possible). Your dog could swallow or partly swallow these bits and choke. Or they could cause an obstruction in her digestive tract.
- Anything stuffed with beads or beans – so keep your microwave beanbag well out of reach.
- Buckets or other containers which are just big enough for her to stick her head in. It might be funny to watch your dog try to shake it off, but there is a real danger that it could get stuck and your dog could suffocate.
- Rubber toys with a hole on only one end. They can easily form a vacuum while your dog is licking or sucking and her tongue can get stuck. Not only is it incredibly painful but it can also be fatal.
- Rawhide is dangerous because when it gets soft enough for your dog to break bits off, they can be swallowed and cause obstructions in your dog’s tummy or intestines.
- Stuffed toys that haven’t been labelled safe for children under 3 years old. The stuffing can contain toxic chemicals which can poison your dog if she likes to dissect her toys and some accidentally swallows some of the filling.
Toy safety tips
Let’s look at how to keep your dog safe during play time.
- Monitor play with certain toys; for example, squeaky toys that your dog likes to dissect.
- Keep an eye on your dog if she likes to play with and chew sticks, because it’s easy for her to choke on a piece that comes off or to stab herself when running with a long stick.
- Read the labels on toys carefully. We’ve said that pet toys aren’t regulated, so it’s not uncommon for them to be made with dangerous materials like BPA, BPS, lead and formaldehyde.
- Smell the toys. If they smell strongly of chemicals, don’t buy them.
Recommended pet toy brands
While no pet toy manufacturer can guarantee that 100% of its toys are 100% safe, some brands have earned a reputation for quality, durable and safe toys that keep dogs mentally and physically stimulated. Some of the best brands (recommended by Sheila Pell) include:
- Kong. Kong manufactures a wide range of toys, including interactive feeders, plush toys, rubber toys, and puzzle toys.
- Nina Ottosson. Nina Ottossan manufactures a range of toys that are designed to get your dog’s brain working and keep her mentally stimulated and engaged.
- Planet Dog. Planet Dog manufactures a range of non-toxic toys designed to suit each stage of your dog’s life (from puppy to senior).
- West Paw Design. West Paw Design is an ethical toy manufacturer, which uses non-toxic materials to make a range of recyclable toys.