Puppies and play kind of go together like fish and chips. Puppies need to play a lot. Yes, because, well, who doesn’t like to play? But puppy play has way more benefits that you probably didn’t know about before:
- Bonding: Playing together is the best way to bond with your puppy!
- Exercise: Play is a form of exercise that does wonders for letting some steam off in a fun way.
- Keeps everyone happy: If they’re chewing on a toy, it means they’re off your shoes! Play keeps pups’ minds busy and away from chewing all your stuff, especially when in their teething phase.
- Helps learning: Playing is also helpful to learn about self control and manners… who needs finishing school?
- Brain power: Toys and games also help develop pups’ brain power and problem solving. Maybe we could learn from that ourselves.
In this article we’ll tell you all about :-
- What makes a great puppy toy and what you should be looking for
- Our favourite puppy toys and why we love them so much
Off we go!
What makes a great puppy toy?
So you’ve decided on a puppy toy shopping spree, but where do you start with the hundreds of different toys to choose from! Here’s a few things to know that will help you make the best choice.
Ask yourself ‘is it safe for my puppy to chew’ because they will chew it, puppies don’t treasure their toys like we would hope, they really just want to rip them to bits.
- Does it have sharp edges when chewed? (We avoid rawhide chews for this reason!)
- Can it be chewed and broken very easily?
- What is it made from? Is it safe if my puppy ingests parts of it?
- Is it size appropriate for my puppy? Too small and it might be swallowed, too big and your puppy might hurt themselves flinging it around.
Hard or soft?
Different puppies have different needs, some prefer a gentle and soft plush toy whereas others prefer a harder toy especially when they’re teething. Have a variety and learn what your pup likes.
Dogs’ mouths are shaped differently, depending on what they are bred to do, or hunt! A Whippet has a jaw that’s long and thin, ready to grab small prey and shake, whereas a Labrador has a wide cavernous jaw, designed to bring back a bird that’s already been killed, not damaging the meat on the way.
So, a whippet is going to prefer thinner toys, and the labrador larger more ball like shapes.
Noisy or not?
Some dogs will go crazy for a crinkly sounding toy, whereas others go mad for something squeaky. Of course, for some humans this noise will drive them up the wall, so it’s ok to prefer non squeaky toys if you’d rather.
One player or two player toys?
There are toys that you leave with puppies to play with by themselves, toys that need two people to play with (like tug toys) and toys which are best played with together, at least at first such as the puzzle and enrichment toys.
The best puppy toys
We’ve compiled some of our favourite puppy toys below, why we like them and also made it super easy for you to click ‘add to basket’ when you’re ready to buy!
Nylabone Puppy Teething Keys
A firm favourite in the Zigzag office, not only are these safe for puppies to chew (and potentially ingest) as they’re made from nylon, they also remind us of a baby’s teething ring. Awrr cute.
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3ddxcjz
Coffee Wood Root Chew
Puppies love the ‘give’ that chewing on wood provides, it’s extra soothing on their gums too – see skirting boards and dining chairs across the land. Real wood splinters so make sure you get them appropriate wood root chews like these.
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3DbEbEk
Buffalo Horn Chew Toy
Buffalo horn is made up of keratin so is softer than bone and will last a long time which is perfect for a chewing puppy – these ones can be stuffed just like a Kong or West Paw Toppl.
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3lu65oU
Tug-E-Nuff Chaser Tug
In our opinion, these are the best tug toys out there, and are wonderful at getting bitey puppies away from your hands and redirected onto a toy. Don’t leave them with your puppy though, I promise your puppy will find them irresistible and will shred them. One for the ‘two player’ toy box.
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3Ekdcb5
K9 Connectables Puzzle Pack
These connectable enrichment toys make an interesting puzzle for puppies to solve in order to get the food out, and will appeal to the Meccano or Lego enthusiast owners too!
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3pp5ZQu
Sharples and Grant Lickimat
Lickimats are a favourite of ours, well our dogs anyway. They’re so easy to use and to clean, and really slow down feeding. We also suggest using them if you need to groom or wash your puppy as it gives them something to do while you work on the rest of them.
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3ofpEDc
Nina Ottosson Dog Brick
Nina Ottosson is one of the original ‘Puzzle toy’ manufacturers and her toys are now sold worldwide, they are brilliant at getting dogs to problem solve and are easily washed. You’ll probably get a bit addicted to buying all of the different ones for your puppies.
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3GbRkPo
Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel
Dogs seem to go mad for pulling out the squirrels of this toy, perhaps it goes with the ‘dissect’ part of their hunting sequence. One to play with your puppy and encourage them to seek out the squirrels. Oh and yes, the squirrels squeak of course!
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3rvGb84
West Paw Toppl
These are reasonably new on the market and are a great toy for teething puppies or for stuffing with your dog’s meal. They have a wide opening so are less frustrating than other stuffable chew toys but dogs still seem to really love them. Bonus points from us is that they are happy to go in the dishwasher too!
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3oeMaMD
Kong Knots Fox
Cute colours, fun to fling around and gentle on older or younger gums, the Kong range of soft toys are also very durable and harder to dissect than most soft puppy toys.
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3G7WFrg
SPOT Ethical Pets Fox Mini Skinneeez
Skinneez Are probably the original makers of stuffingless dog toys, and provide a good quality toy that can’t easily be dissected but also made of safe materials.
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3Dlue7c
Mad about pets – Mallard empty toy
Not only is this duck toy empty so your puppy won’t be able to dissect the same as other soft toys, but it still has an excellent squeaker! Hours of fun. P.S you could of course choose the ‘Honking Duck’ or ‘Squeaky Pheasant’ variant, but these guys have stuffing in, just to warn you!
Buy from Amazon here: https://amzn.to/3dfbX0Y
The best puppy toys according to your pet’s needs
Puppy chewing toys
Puppies chew a lot, in their first chewing phase when teething, and then later on for jaw strength. Check out our article here all about puppy teething.
Our favourite toys to help with puppy chewing are the West Paw Toppl and Nylabone Puppy Teething Keys. They’re safe for puppies of all ages and can be washed easily too.
Puppy training toys
Puppies love to play so use toys like the Tug-e-Nuff range to teach them to fetch, drop, and tug, as well as work on self control while you’re playing. Why not try the Tug-E-Nuff Chaser Tug and see what you can teach your puppy?
Puppy soft toy
For those times your puppy just wants to cuddle up and play with their soft toys we recommend the SPOT Ethical Pets Fox Mini Skinneeez.
So there you have it, our recommended puppy toys. Of course, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money, for some puppies a tennis ball in an old sock tied in a knot is all they need, remember you are the thing they want the most, so get on the floor and play with them.
Want to learn more? We have a tonne of DIY dog toy instructions in the Zigzag puppy training app, as well as training games for you to play. Stuck for ideas? Contact our Puppy Expert Support team, they’d love to talk to you about puppy play!