Man and canine have been keeping company together for tens of thousands of years. In fact, as The Atlantic points out, the success of homo sapiens in a world where everyone else seems to have longer claws, sharper fangs and better defenses has had a great deal to do with the help of Canis familiaris, the pet dog! While in past centuries, dogs were expected to work hard for their supper, today, a pet dog often doesn’t have any real responsibilities at all. But dog owners are still working hard all day, every day, which can translate into lots of alone time for the housebound and out-of-work canine. Luckily, a selection of plush dog toys can help fill that void while you are away from home. Here, find out about some of the best plush dog toys available today so you can choose some great toys for your furry best friend!
Why Plush Toys?
Perhaps it is because dogs have lived side-by-side with people for millennia that we often seem to share similar needs. For instance, at the puppy stage, pet dogs need to chew (for teething), cuddle (for comfort) and interact (to learn group social skills).
As adults, dogs, like people, need meaningful work and hobbies and equally meaningful relationships to thrive. In their golden years, both dogs and people once again need comfort and age-appropriate hobbies that go easy on old joints and jaws.
Plush dog toys can fulfill several of these key needs for a pet dog in ways that other types of dog toys cannot do.
Breed specific needs.
In some cases, the reason plush toys are so essential is purely breed-specific. For example, dogs like golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers have been carefully bred to cultivate a strong desire to fetch and retrieve. Dachshunds, which are bred to hunt burrowing animals, have a similar strong need to hold the prey in their mouths.
For these and other similar dog breeds, holding and carrying around a plush dog toy can help fulfill their breed-specific instincts in healthy and appropriate ways.
Puppies leaving their mom.
In other cases, plush toys can provide much-needed comfort as young pet puppies adjust to sleeping alone for the first time in their lives when moving to their new “forever” homes. Without the comforting presence of their litter mates, plush toys can fill in that gap and ease the transition for a puppy.
Young dogs teething.
The teething process can cause a lot of discomfort to a young dog. Not only are their baby teeth coming in and falling out, but just when that process ends, their adult teeth start to push on through. Talk about sore gums and jaws!
Plush dog toys can offer just enough resistance to ease some of the pressure and pain of the teething months, but not so much that there is a danger to the incoming teeth. As well, the best plush dog toys can often be frozen to offer some extra relief.
“Home alone” needs.
Dogs are very social beings like humans. Dogs that are left on their own for hours can get lonely. Having a plush dog toy as a stand-in won’t meet all their needs, but it certainly can help ease the loneliness until you get back home again.
What makes a good plush toy?
Even a cursory glance at the “plush dog toys” aisle at your local pet store will reveal just how many different types of dog toys are on the market today. With so many options, how are you ever supposed to choose which toys to bring home for your dog?
Here, it can help to know that the best plush dog toys will have some or all of these qualities:
- Well made and durable so they can stand up to mouthing and chewing.
- Made of dog safe materials.
- Offer extra features such as interior squeakers or the ability to be frozen during the teething stages.
- Cater to breed-specific needs like hunting and retrieving.
- Stuffing-free options for dogs that eat toy stuffing like it was kibble.
- Are designed to work well for both solo play and interactive (with you) play.
- Have interesting textures that give your dog multiple sensory experiences.
What to avoid
If you are a first-time dog owner, you probably feel like every day your head gets jam-packed full of new knowledge about your dog’s interests, needs, motivations and goals. Toys offer a great way for you to learn more about your dog’s personality, temperament and preferences.
But toys can also present certain critical safety issues. Plush dog toys, like other dog toy categories, have their own set of safety issues that you will want to be aware of:
- If the toys have stuffing in them, don’t let your dog use them without your supervision. Some dogs won’t eat the stuffing but others love it, and ingestion can cause intestinal blockages and other dangerous health issues.
- Squeakers can also be a source of concern if your dog is able to chew through the toy and access and swallow the squeaker.
- Different countries have different safety and manufacturing standards, which means you will need to scrutinize where each toy is made and what it is made of to determine if it is safe for your dog to play with.
- If you have kids, be sure it is clear which toys are your dog’s toys and which toys are your kids’ toys.
Top 5 Plush Toys
The following list of five plush dog toys are some of our favorites out of all the plush toys on the market today. And who knows – perhaps one or more of these toys will turn out to be your dog’s favorite toy of all!
1. Outward Hound Hide-a-Squirrel Interactive Puzzle Plush Dog Toy
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This highly rated and exceptionally popular plush dog toy comes economically priced at around $15, especially for all of the options it offers.
For example, you can choose between four toy types (squirrel, bird, bee, hedgehog) and four sizes (junior, large, ginormous, jumbo).
The toy caters to several of your dog’s needs all in one, including the need to hunt, fetch, retrieve and hear the squeaking sounds of their “prey.”
With one rave review after another from dog owners, it is clear that canines love this toy in all four of its different styles.
2. Multipet Duckworth Large Yellow Duck Plush Dog Toy
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Duckworth is a number one best selling plush dog toy. It is a large toy compared to some plush dog toys, but pet owners say even small dogs can enjoy it. And priced at under 10 dollars, this is a toy that can fit every budget.
Duckworth features a soft plush exterior and a plush interior filling complete with a squeaker. The squeaker makes it a fulfilling choice for hunting dog breeds, and the shape and size makes it a great toy for interactive games of fetch.
3. Zippy Paws Burrow Toys for Dogs
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Zippy Paws manufactures a number of popular and highly rated plush dog toys for dogs of all sizes and temperaments. For less than $10, this toy is sure to be a hit for your dog and for your budget!
Because Zippy Paws plush dog toys tend to get a lot of use, the company also offers replacement parts for different toys, including these squeaky pandas and their many animal counterparts.
Dog owners say that, hands down, these toys are some of their dogs’ very favorites. Dog owners also say that the toys are so beloved that they get destroyed quite quickly, so it is good to know you may have to buy replacement parts several times as the previous set wears out.
Each toy comes with its own squeaker and is made as an all-in-one plush toy in either medium or X-large size.
4. Zippy Paws X-Large Chipmunks Squeaky Hide-n-Seek Large Plush Dog Toy
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This highly rated Zippy Paws plush toy set is economically priced at a little under 15 dollars and features four pieces: a plush log and three plush chipmunks to hide inside it. Like Duckworth, this is a larger toy, but reviewers say even their small dogs really enjoy this toy.
Be aware if you have several dogs that this toy tends to inspire “guarding” behavior if a dog really falls in love with it, so you may need to buy more than one set. Be sure to supervise your dog during play to make sure the chipmunks aren’t swallowed.
As with other Zippy Paws toys, it is easy to buy replacement parts as the original chipmunks get worn out.
5. Zippy Paws Skinny Pelts No Stuffing Squeaky Plush Dog Toy
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These very popular no stuffing plush dog toys fall right in the middle of the price spectrum at around $10. You get three plush toys for that price in either small or large size.
Each toy contains three squeakers in total, which will appeal to dogs with a need for hunting and “killing” their prey.
One of the main perks of these toys is that they are stuffing-free, so if your dog loves to eat stuffing you won’t have to worry with these toys.
All five of these wonderful plush dog toys are designed to meet certain universal canine needs. However, none are designed to be “chew proof,” which means you should supervise your dog at first until you see that they can play safely with it on their own.
With economical pricing and even more economical replacement parts (where relevant), dog owners say these toys are worth investing in for your dog’s health, comfort, stimulation, wellbeing and entertainment.