The best puppy toys teach good habits that will last a lifetime and they keep you both entertained in the process. A puppy busy with a toy isn’t busy with the chair leg, your wallpaper or the sneaker. Here are a few of the best puppy toys I know, ones I have used for years on a wide variety of puppies with great success.
Dog Puzzle Toys
Puzzle dog toys are anything the puppy has to work at to get the reward. Used well, these teach your puppy to focus for a good long time. This is an excellent life skill in general and these toys can be used to help prevent separate problems in the future. Some of my favorite, puppy-durable puzzle dogs toys include PetSafe Busy Buddy Football, Kong Classics and other top food dispensing dog toys.
My current favorite is the PetSafe Busy Buddy Football because it takes under five seconds of mess-free, simple prep then hand to your eager pup. Just insert a biscuit into the larger opening and a smaller treat above and you’ve created an instant puppy project. And I love puppy projects!
AVOID: The adorable soft puzzle toys for now or use them like any other soft toy, as below. These are not good independent puppy projects.
Dog Chew Toys
Use chew toys tactically to teach your puppy to focus on these when they have them. Pups I raise take these, lie down and chew giving me a precious 10-15 minutes to sip a cup of tea or call back a client. My favorite items for this are Free Range Bully Sticks, Himalayan Dog Chews and Tendon Chews.
When I take these away from the pup after 10-15 minutes, I always give them something truly delicious at the same time. This helps create a delightful tail-wagging response to toy removal. If your dog covets any of these – won’t release, runs away from you with them, clamps their jaws, growls or snaps – then skip them until we get that under better control.
AVOID: Items made in China until further notice.
Most puppies adore a soft toy with a squeaker. Great toys for puppy fetch where you want whatever is thrown to land and stay put, which allows you to control major slipping on slick surfaces that can strain growing bodies. And pups often enjoy playing by themselves with these toys though you need to help them learn how to do so properly. Just like you teach a toddler not to rip out the pages of books with gentle interruption, removal and redirection, you do exactly the same thing with pups. If (okay, when) they start to gnaw the toy, remove it and encourage them to work on a crate toy or other chew toy. As they do, put the soft toy out of reach until next time. This prevents pups from learning the joy of destuffing – a joy that once learned will lead to the quick demise of future soft toys. Not a crisis but nice when it can be avoided.
AVOID: Noise making toys other than squeaks. Battery operated toys sound fun but, if the pup gets it apart, can have sharp plastic or the batteries to swallow.
Dog Crate Toys
These are toys I leave in crates with pups. These must be durable and safe. Here are a few of my favorites: Goughnuts Toys, Nylabone Dura Chews, or Kong classics. Give these when you are home to make sure you don’t have some variant on The Jaws of Life who can destroy these toys. The Goughnuts last a lifetime – guaranteed. They have a red core and if you ever see it, they replace it! Nylabone Dura Chews last and last. Teaching your dog how to chew on one of those is another excellent life skill. And kong classics are, well, classic. Read here how to stuff one so your pup will be busy for a bit.
AVOID: Soft toys, edible chews, or toys they can chew hunks off of easily. Those are not crate toys.
With a few of these very best puppy toys on hand, you can teach your dog to focus on toys rather than furniture. And that is a win for everyone.