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How to Choose Non-Dangerous Dog Toys
There are such a mind boggling array of dog toys now available that you may well worry about the safety of some toys on offer. There are few hard and fast rules because different toys may be suitable for different dogs for example a small ball suitable for a chihuahua might be small enough for a great Dane to swallow or even get stuck and obstruct its breathing.
This guide will give you some aspects to consider along with recommendations of dog toys my dogs and I have been pleased with and found to be safe over the past 28 years.
Choosing Safe Dog Toys
Balls - should be too big to get accidentally lodged in your dog's throat. Tennis ball sized should be safe for medium dogs. They may be too big to manage for toy breeds such as Yorkshire terriers and chihuahuas. Large breeds would be safer with a grapefruit sized ball.
Plastic Toys - there is more to be learnt about the effects of molecules leaching from plastic dog toys into the dogs saliva and then bloodstream. Initial testing from the University of Texas indicates that bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates do leach out into dog saliva. In humans and rodents, BPA and phthalates have been linked to impaired development of reproductive organs, decreased fertility and cancers. However the effect on dogs hasn't been studies. It may be worth avoiding very cheap plastic toys of unknown provenance or you might choose natural rubber toys.
Rubber Toys - rubber dog toys tend to be more expensive, but also more durable than plastic toys and there is no risk of them leaching BPA and phthalates. Even if your dog chews off and eats small pieces these aren't abrasive and travel through the intestines without causing damage.
Soft Toys - Some dogs seem to enjoy the comfort of a soft toy and carry them round or take them to bed with them without damaging them. They can safely be left with the toys unsupervised. However if you have a dog who like nothing better than to de-stuff the toy, make sure you are there to clear up the stuffing and remove the shredded outer so that it doesn't get eaten.
Squeaky toys - If your dog is a destroyer of squeaky toys, be sure to remove the squeaker once it has been exposed so that it doesn't get accidentally swallowed by your dog. Squeaky toys are best kept for supervised play sessions.
Sticks - Although many of us enjoy the carefree activity of throwing sticks for our dog it is worth noting that some dogs have been injured by sticks puncturing the sides of their mouths. In the case of one dog I knew a stick punctured its chest because having been thrown the stick got stuck in mud point end up and the dog ran in to it. Choose smooth ended log like sticks to avoid puncture and splinter injuries. Be careful when you throw though - a hefty misthrown stick can do some damage if it accidentally hits your dog!
Ensuring Safe Play
- If you buy a toy for your dog that it hasn't had before only allow it to play with the toy whilst you are watching to start with. This will enable you to determine whether the toy will stand up to your dog's teeth and whether your dog is hell bent on destroying it, in which case you are on hand to clear up the pieces so they don't get ingested.
- Know your dog's play style. Is it a determined shredder or a gentle chewer? Buy toys which are appropriate for its behaviour and size. A dog's playing style may change as it ages. Older dogs often lose chew power, so you might revert back to puppy toys for the very elderly dog.
- Discard toys which are cracked or have developed sharp edges.
- If you are leaving the dog home alone; only put out toys which you 'tested' on your dog which you know will stand up to being chewed.
- Only leave soft toys with your dog if you know it is unlikely to shred them. Fabric and stuffing can cause blockages in the gut if ingested.
- Avoid any toy with a single air hole which can cause suction and draw the toy into the airway. Toys with two air holes or more are fine.
Durable and fun, my dog's love kongs
Rate the Classic Kong Dog Toy
Dog Toys which my Dogs and I Recommend
These are all dog toys which my dogs have enjoyed and which have stood up to games and chewing sessions.
Kongs - the Kong company produces a wide range of toys such as Classic Kongs, Dental Kongs and plush toys. Most dogs will enjoy a variety of these.
For sheer durability and standing up to chewing session when your dog is home alone, the Classic (or extreme) Kong style opposite gets my top rating.
This takes ordinary dog kibble and is a great challenge for a hungry dog.
Clix Dog Pyramid Toy - this stood up very well to daily batterings from my large young dog and took him 15 - 30 minutes to completely empty. The downside is that it's so solid it could damage furniture and skirting boards. It isn't the easiest thing to fill, but the lack of moving parts means it is fairly indestructible.
Good for tug of war and helps keep dogs' teeth clean when chewed.
KaleidoROPE Dog Toy by petrageous designs isn't a brand I've found in the UK, but comes generally well recommended through reviews on Amazon. It's worth supervising your dog whilst they play with rope toys, so that you can remove any strands which come loose so they can't swallow them.
Nylabone chews and toys have a range of chew durablity ratings so that you can pick the best one for your dog
Nylabone Chews - Nylabone chews have been around for a long time and have been developed with safety in mind.
Helpfully they state whether each item is suitable for puppies, moderate chewers, powerful chewers and also what size of dog. My dogs are moderate chewers and they have enjoyed the flexi chews in particular.
interesting puzzles of varied complexity for your dog. Ideal to get the canine brain working and for encouraging owner interaction too.
Nina Ottoson Interactive Puzzles - These are a diverse range of puzzles to encourage your dog to think about how to get the hidden treat rather than using brute force.
They are not made to be chewed assiduously and are only suitable for closely supervised play, but are entertaining for the dog and owner. Ideal rainy day activities.
Don't Worry too Much
Although it makes sense to follow these strategies when buying and giving your toys to your dog, I would urge you not to get into a state of worrying excessively about toys. Freak accidents do happen especially if the dog swallows something that gets stuck in their gut, but this can happen in all sorts of circumstances.
The four dogs that I have known of who swallowed things which got stuck (one dog was mine the others belonged to acquaintances) had eaten the following:
Dog 1) A towel and a pair of leather gloves.
Dog 2) A reel of cotton.
Dog 3) A silicon cup cake case
Dog 4) The top of a baby's bottle. This was found inside my dog - since I neither have a baby nor a baby's bottle it was a mystery where that came from!
Very often whatever they swallow does manage to pass through fairly painlessly. My first dog produced quite entertaining poo with blue 'fingers' in it after eating a pair of rubber washing up gloves.
The moral of the story is that you can only keep dogs really safe by keeping them confined to an empty kennel, but that would be mind numbingly dull for the dog and you so choose your toys sensibly and let your dog have lots of fun with them.