When you introduce a new canine family member to your home, knowing the best toys for puppies can make all the difference in the world. While undeniably cute and lovable, your sweet ball of fluff may begin destroying shoes, clothes, and other possessions if you don’t provide them with the right kind of toy. This is especially important while your puppy is teething. Below, you can read more about the reasons behind your puppy’s chewing behavior and the best toys for your new companion.
Puppy Teeth Development
Puppies grow quickly and their teeth must grow quickly, too. At around two weeks, their first teeth will appear. By two months of age, your dog will have all or most of its puppy teeth as this is approximately when they are able to wean and begin eating solid foods. There are normally 28 of these first teeth, which are sometimes referred to as ‘deciduous teeth‘, and they are small and very sharp. It isn’t until a dog is around four to five months that their adult teeth develop, but by their sixth month, all of their permanent teeth should arrive.
As with human babies, teething can be both stressful and painful. Teething begins just as a puppy’s teeth begin to loosen and fall out, approximately around their fourth or fifth month. You may notice that they may begin to have trouble eating, your puppy may have excessive drooling, or you may see blood on their gums. If you haven’t already given your puppy appropriate chewing-specific toys, you should do so as soon as you see these signs, since dogs are compelled to chew as their adult teeth emerge.
Chewing offers relief in several ways. Not only does chewing help loosen puppy teeth and help them to dislodge, but it also massages a dog’s gums. Even before they are visible, adult teeth begin developing below a puppy’s gums which create pressure and pain. Chewing will help alleviate some of the discomfort, and your puppy will naturally gravitate towards objects that have certain textures that help massage their gums. This is why shoes, remote controls, and other household objects often fall victim to an adolescent dog’s urges. Even if you provide a good selection of toys, remember to keep your belongings out of reach during this time frame. But if cherished items are destroyed, keep in mind that your dog isn’t willfully trying to be destructive and that they are simply acting out of need.
What to Look for in Toys for Teething Puppies
Now that we’ve discussed the reasons why puppies chew, let’s take a closer look at the best chew toys for puppies. Unlike older dogs who may only have one or two favored toys, puppies should be offered a wide range of safe and appealing items. Not only will this help alleviate teething pain, but it will help redirect their chewing activities to a toy rather than your belongings. Many toy manufacturers make products specifically designed for teething pups, but there are several factors that you should look for when purchasing a chew toy for a puppy.
The best teething toys for puppies will be:
- Soft enough to provide relief
- Tough enough to last
- Appropriately sized
- Pleasant tasting to encourage use
- A good shape and texture
The first thing that should be considered is a toy’s softness. Most puppies enjoy toys that have a soft texture since they find the sensation of soft toys more appealing than harder items meant for fully grown dogs. Avoid things like deer and elk antler, animal bones, and hard plastic until your dog is older. While they are young, look for toys made from rubber or soft plastic. You can also offer them edible teething toys and rope toys, but keep a close eye on overeager youngsters to be certain they aren’t swallowing large chunks of material.
Resilience is the second thing to look for. Puppies like to explore different textures, and unlike older dogs who usually know how strong their bite is, may be overzealous with their toys. This is especially true of large breeds or dogs with particularly strong jaws. Any toy that you offer your pup that isn’t specifically meant to be eaten should be as tough and durable as possible. The last thing you want is for your puppy to accidentally chew apart and swallow chunks of their toy. Look for brands that advertise themselves as being chew proof and which are made from hard to destroy materials.
Along these lines, you should also look for toys which are shatter proof. Never give your puppy items which can splinter into shards or which may break if dropped. Most hard plastic toys meant for dogs are made from nylon which cannot shatter. Avoid other hard plastics which are not specifically labeled as being safe for puppies.
The next thing to consider is a toy’s size. As your puppy matures, they may rapidly outgrow their original toys. Items which are meant for small pups should be taken away if your dog goes through a growth spurt, since they may be able to chew apart and swallow their old toys. On the other hand, very young puppies and breeds which are likely to stay small shouldn’t be given over-sized toys. If they cannot position the toy or get their small mouth around it, they won’t be able to chew on it properly.
Taste and texture
The final two aspects are taste and texture. Both of these are somewhat subjective, and your dog may or may not prefer the same flavors and textures as other dogs. In general, flavored toys can help novice chewers by attracting your pup by smell and taste. This may help them learn to chew on the toy and can aid the teething process. Some dogs don’t seem to notice or enjoy the added flavoring, however. Texture is also a highly individual preference. Some dogs seem to really enjoy toys which have lots of nubs, ridges, or bumps. These may be especially enjoyable to teething puppies. But other puppies seem to like soft, minimally textured toys or may like the feel of rope toys instead.
No matter what your puppy prefers at the start, be sure to offer them a wide range of options and continue to re-introduce less popular toys as they age. You may find that as your puppy grows, their preferences change.
What to Avoid
While most toys sold in pet stores are appropriate for your dog, their strength, energy level, and size can determine which toys aren’t appropriate for them. There are also other reasons why a toy might not be a good choice for your dog. Some unscrupulous manufacturers who may sell cheap or easily destroyed toys or toys which have potentially dangerous ingredients. Below are a few things to avoid when purchasing toys for your puppy.
Things to avoid
- Cheap/badly made toys
- Plastics which contain BPA
- Toys that come apart easily
- Toys designed for children
- Toys too small for the breed
- Toys that look like household items such as slippers
- Wrong sized toys
Cheap/badly made toys
Cheap and badly made toys are one of the most common risks to a puppy. It can be difficult to afford high-quality toys if you are on a limited budget or if you have just spent hundreds of dollars on your puppy’s other needs like vet care, bedding, leashes, and more. But poor quality toys will often contain unsafe materials and will fall apart more quickly than quality toys. This may be hazardous if your puppy tries to eat broken or frayed sections of the toy. Opt instead for brands that are well-respected, and try to read reviews of toys before you buy them.
One of the other risks of cheap plastic toys are unsafe chemicals such as BPA. BPA – or Bisphenol A – is a compound used in certain plastics to make them tough yet resilient. It is often found in items marked with the Resin Identification Code 7. BPA is risky because it can leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals may impact your dog’s growth and can affect their reproductive health in the future if they are destined to be a show dog. While the effects of BPA are still being studied, it’s best to avoid it and only purchase toys marked as BPA free if at all possible.
Toys that come apart
The next risk to be conscious of are toys which fall apart easily. Young puppies can be very destructive, and their teeth are sharper than an adult dog’s teeth. For this reason, you shouldn’t offer puppies toys which can be easily pulled apart or ripped. This usually means that plush toys are inadvisable for puppies who can easily tear them apart. Even so-called chew-proof puppy toys may be destroyed by larger or more powerful breeds, so always observe your puppy’s play, and take away toys that begin to show wear.
Toys designed for human children are often offered to puppies, but they pose a risk for several reasons. Not only are you teaching your dog that destroying children’s toys is OK, but these toys are not designed to withstand the chewing of teething puppies. Stuffed animals and plastic toys made for babies can be easily ripped apart and swallowed. It’s best to stick to toys specifically designed for dogs instead.
Household item look-a-likes
Similarly, you shouldn’t offer your puppy any toy that resembles common household items. Sometimes, toy manufacturers design their products to look like certain objects such as slippers. While your puppy may enjoy this kind of toy, you don’t want to create any confusion for them. Understand that if they habitually chew on a toy that looks like a slipper, they may not understand that your shoes and slippers are not toys, too.
Finally, you should be sure to offer your puppy toys that are the right size for their breed. Chew toys that are perfectly appropriate for small dogs like terriers and chihuahuas may be accidentally destroyed or swallowed if given to more powerful dogs like Labradors or shepherds. Some companies specifically design toys for large dogs, and if you have one of these breeds, look for a toy that can withstand more abuse. Otherwise, most toys offer guidelines and suggestions by breed or weight which can help you select the best toy for your pup.
The 9 Best Puppy Toys
So – what are the best puppy toys on the market today? Check out our reviews below:
Puppy Sized Kong Toy
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Kong toys are both popular and well-respected in the canine world. The rubbery material is highly resistant to puncturing, tearing, or otherwise breaking which makes them a great choice for pups with overactive chewing habits. It’s also the perfect fit for dogs with powerful jaws.
This toy comes in the classic Kong shape but has been sized down for puppies, and has been molded out of teething-specific rubber material. The hole in the middle of the toy can be filled with treats or food to help acclimate your new puppy to proper chewing behaviors. Most owners find that using Kong toys is also extremely useful when crate training puppies. Like the original Kong toy, the puppy Kong comes in a wide range of sizes so that your dog can have a toy that is neither too large or too small for them. The only downside to the Kong toys is that in some cases, puppies will gravitate towards other types of toys and simply aren’t fond of the rubber texture. For most dogs, though, this should be among their favorite toys.
Kong Classic Dog Toy – Small
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This is the toy that started it all! The Kong Classic is made from a natural rubber compound that makes it both enticing to heavy chewers and also extremely durable. Even dogs with strong jaws will have difficulty destroying this chew toy, and some owners report that their dog’s Kong has lasted for years and years. If you have a large breed or as your puppy becomes older, you can introduce them to this adult dog toy. This will be especially easy if they are already acclimated to the puppy Kong.
The classic Kong revolutionized the dog toy industry thanks to its unique shape and its ability to keep dogs entertained for hours. If you have a nervous chewer, or if you plan on crating your puppy for medium to long periods of time, try filling the hole with wet food and then freezing the Kong overnight. The frozen filling will keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated for hours.
Nylabone Ring Bone Puppy Dog Teething Chew Toy
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The Ring Bone Puppy Dog Teething Chew Toy by Nylabone is a great option for teething puppies. The varied textures on each of the interconnected rings help soothe their gums and as your puppy chews and roughens the surface of each ring, the nylon fibers of the toy act as a toothbrush. Like the Kong, Nylabone is a great option for large puppies or for breeds with powerful jaws, since it resists breaking or cracking.
To help encourage puppies to use the Nylabone rather than household objects for chewing, a flavor is added to many Nylabone toys. These rings are sold in bacon flavor, and both the smell and taste of the toy will encourage proper chewing behaviors. One thing to note is that small breeds may not enjoy the rather large rings. Additionally, the hard plastic texture may not be appealing to all dogs. Some puppy owners have also had trouble with this toy becoming wedged around their dog’s lower jaw.
Nylabone Key Ring Puppy Dog Teething Chew Toy
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Another great option from Nylabone is their Key Ring Puppy Dog Teething Chew Toy. The softer plastic of this toy isn’t meant for adult dogs or for older puppies who have their permanent teeth, but it’s size and texture make it one of the best toys for puppies. Since the texture is similar to certain household objects that often draw a puppy’s attention – shoes, remote controls, and other soft plastic items – they will find the mouth feel of this toy appealing.
Like other Nylabone toys, it is impregnated with flavor so that it is enticing to novice chewers. In fact, this toy is a perfect first chewing toy for small or extremely young puppies. Once your puppy is strong enough or large enough to require more resilient chewing toys, you should take this key ring away, however, since older dogs will be able to chew chunks off of it and may swallow the pieces.
Puppy Chew Teething Rope Toy
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Rope toys have a bunch of uses. Not only are they appealing as a chew toy, but they can also be used for a game of tog-o-war or for games of fetch. But many rope toys made for adult dogs are too large and cumbersome for small puppies.
Thankfully, this set of four small rope toys is both perfectly sized for tiny mouths and also offers a variety of textures to explore and enjoy. Unlike rubber or plastic toys, your puppy will not risk swallowing hard chunks of material. But you should still keep a vigilant eye on your dog as they play, since older puppies may be able to shred and chew off sections of string. If this happens often enough, it could cause problems. The soft cotton rope is specifically helpful for teething puppies since it will massage their gums as they chew.
N-Bone Puppy Teething Rings
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Have a fussy puppy? Even reluctant chewers will enjoy these N-Bone Puppy Teething Rings. Made with healthy ingredients and designed to both smell and taste great, most puppies will really enjoy chewing on these rings. The unique shape helps small or uncoordinated puppies hold on to the toy as they chew, and because they’re edible, dogs who reject other chew toys may enjoy them more than hard plastic or rubber chew toys.
Since they are a food treat as well as a toy, you shouldn’t offer your puppy too many within a short period, since they may upset delicate tummies. but offered occasionally, the added calcium and DHA will help fulfill your puppy’s nutritional needs. Keep in mind that larger puppies may be able to chew through them in only a few minutes, so they may not keep big breeds entertained for long.
Benebone Peanut Flavored Dental Chew Toy
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The Benebone Peanut Flavored Dental Chew Toy isn’t specifically designed for puppies, but it has several appealing characteristics that might make it the perfect choice for older puppies. The unique shape allows dogs to firmly grasp this toy, and the textured ends help massage gums. Benebone is made from just two ingredients – nylon fibers and peanuts. This is perfect for families that want to avoid questionable plastics such as BPA, but if anyone in your household has a peanut allergy, steer away.
That being said, the pleasing aroma of the Benebone will help draw your dog’s attention. The firm texter is best suited to larger puppies or to breeds with strong jaws. And while the nylon material in this toy resists chewing and cracking, be sure to take the toy away if your dog’s teeth begin to create grooves in it.
Kong Puppy Goodie Bone
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The Kong Puppy Goodie Bone is another excellent option from the Kong puppy line and is especially well-suited to small breeds. Like other Kong puppy toys, it is made from a specially formulated teething rubber compound that is soft yet resistant to wear. Each end of this bone-shaped toy has an opening that can be used for treats or food. Even heavy chewers will find it difficult to destroy this toy, and unlike the classic Kong which can be hard for small breeds to carry and hold, the long and thin shape of this toy make it easy to grip.
Compared to other puppy toys, it is expensive for its size, but it’s likely to last longer than just about any other item you get for your pup. Just be aware that the material and shape of this Kong make it unsuitable for strong chewers since they may be able to shear pieces off and swallow them.
Nylabone Romp ‘N Chomp Dog Treat and Chew Toy
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The Nylabone Romp ‘N Chomp is an interesting hybrid between a nylon toy and an edible chew toy. The central compartment can be refilled over and over again with soft foods like peanut butter or wet canned food or can accommodate a section of round rawhide chew toy. Not only does this help encourage novice chewers to explore the toy, but it will help keep your pup interested day after day.
Like other Nylabone products, the raised nubs and bumps help massage your dog’s gums which may aid teething. Unlike some of their other chew toys, however, this one is made of a softer, gummy material. This makes it best suited to small puppies or to light chewers. The company sells treats meant to fit inside of this toy, however, most owners find that they do not fit snugly enough inside the toy and are instantly devoured and not worth purchasing.
How to Keep Your Puppy’s Interest
Even if your dog has a specific toy that they favor, it’s important to know how to keep your puppy interested and engaged with their toys. Not only does this prevent them from targeting your shoes and other belongings, but it will help keep them entertained for longer periods of time and may help ease boredom and anxiety while you’re away.
There are two main things that you can do to help keep toys interesting. First, you should keep multiple toys on hand and split them into more than one group. These can be similar as far as their shape or texture if your puppy has a strong preference, but try to keep a variety of toys on hand. Offer your dog only one group at a time. This helps keep their toys novel and interesting for longer and can help prevent toys from getting worn out prematurely.
The other thing you should do is purchase toys which are interactive. This may be as simple as buying a rope toy or a ball that you and your dog can play with together. Or, your dog may enjoy foraging toys like the Kong. Simply fill it with food or treats, then freeze it overnight. In the morning, your puppy can enjoy the challenge of trying to extract the frozen food. This can keep them occupied and mentally stimulated for hours.
No matter your puppy’s breed, they will need suitable chew toys to keep their mind and mouths occupied. Although the right toy for your pet will depend on their size, age, and energy level, there are plenty of options out there. Hopefully, this guide will help you learn a little bit more about the choices you have since knowing which toys are dangerous and which are the best toys for puppies will help you select products which teach your dog appropriate chewing behavior. It will also help you bond with your companion and will help guide both of you through the difficult teething process.