Dogs love chewing. They just really, really love it. Chewing on stuff makes teething easier for puppies and keeps jaws strong for aging dogs. Canines also explore the world through sniffs, licks and nibbles, chewing their way to a better understanding of their surroundings. Chances are the first toy you bought Olly was a chew toy! News flash: Some are safer than others.
The 18 Best Chew Toys for Dogs That Are Vet-Approved
Toxins common in dog toys
Unfortunately, many dog toys contain nasty toxins like arsenic, phthalates, lead, formaldehyde and more that can cause illness (womp womp). Preventive Vet says at this time, there’s no overarching committee monitoring pet product manufacturers, so there’s no one ensuring these toxins stay out of chew toys. The only way to know exactly what you’re tossing into your dog’s mouth is by checking the materials on the manufacturer’s website of each toy you buy.
A Michigan-based organization called Ecology Center knows how hard this is. The org works hard to not only identify products containing harmful chemicals, but to let people know which chemicals could be hiding in plain sight. In one study, Ecology Center reported 48 percent of tennis balls tested “contained detectable levels of lead.” On top of that, tennis balls designed for pets were more likely to have lead in them than those found on the court at Wimbledon.
Other chemicals, like phthalates, are even sneakier. They pop up in tons of different types of plastics for their ability to add some resilience to products. Since it’s so difficult to determine what exactly is in all your dog’s toys, you best bet is going with brands that are transparent about their product materials or asking your vet for specific recommendations.
Dog size and chew style
Another thing to consider when purchasing chew toys for your dog is your dog’s size and chew style. First, any toy that can fit completely inside your dog’s mouth is off-limits (big choking hazard). Second, if your dog loves to rip soft things apart and eat the remains, steer clear of plush and rope options. Third, anything too hard may break your dog’s teeth, so opt for durable rubber that gives a little. Never give a puppy chew toys made for adult dogs! This could chip or break their teeth, resulting in a painful vet visit. There are tons of toys designed specifically for puppy mouths. Finally, the Humane Society strongly advises checking with a vet before giving your dog rawhide. Depending on the pup, rawhide can be dangerous.
To get you started, here is a list of items Olly will love—mostly because they are formulated by pet experts or have gotten the OK from veterinarians.
1. Kong Classic
Honestly, the Kong pretty much does it all, which is probably why it’s been a best-seller since the 1970s. This toy is made from strong rubber and comes in various sizes, depending on your dog’s needs. The goofy snowman shape makes playtime fun and chewing on it can relieve stress. Plus, you can fill it with treats and give their brain a puzzle to solve.
2. Starmark Bob-a-lot
StarMark Training and Behavior Solutions develops dog products based on the preferences of the thousands of dogs its experts observe and train every year. This Bob-a-Lot treat dispenser is perfect for entertaining Olly and rewarding him with a snack. It’s made to be played with and chewed on while offering up some mental stimulation. Another reason dogs love this toy? It stimulates their natural hunting and foraging instincts. You could even start mealtime with some dry food in this thing!
3. Starmark Chew Ball
For rough chewers in need of a treat dispenser that’s a little heavier duty, go for the StarMark Chew Ball. Available in three different sizes, this toy is dishwasher-safe and boasts its indestructibility right on the packaging. Use it at home, in the yard or even at the lake (it floats!). Plus, this treat dispenser is free of latex, vinyl and phthalates.
4. West Paw Zogoflex Quizl Treat Dispenser
Introducing the Zogoflex Quizl, Best New Product winner at the 2017 Global Pet Expo! This toy is made for tough chewers and comes in several sizes and three wild colors. The manufacturer, West Paw, makes eco-friendly dog toys (which is great, because dogs can go through them quickly) and is one of the founders of the Pet Sustainability Coalition, an organization dedicated to making the pet industry better for the planet, people and pets.
5. Kong Extreme Goodie Bone
In the market for something more…intense? The Kong Extreme Bone is made for hard core chewing—and lots of it. Part of the brand’s extreme line, this bone is super durable and cleans teeth while your dog plays. You can add treats to most Kong products, and this is no exception. Stuff treats in each end to extend - and reward - playtime.
6. Nylabone Power Chew Dental Dinosaur
While this dino won’t dispense treats, it does taste like chicken. It also massages gums and cleans teeth as your dog chews (two things that are incredibly important to doggie health). Nylabone’s products are vet-recommended, so any chew toy from this brand will be a solid bet. They also have a puppy version of this dino, if you’re in the market.
7. Leaps & Bounds Romp And Run Spiny Ring
According to Dr. Whitney Miller, director of veterinary medicine at Petco, this spiny ring supports healthy gums and is a great choice for dogs constantly on the prowl for a game of tug-of-war. (Whether you want to grab onto the other side of a spiky ring or not is totally up to you.) Due to its size, this toy is probably best served to smaller breeds.
8. Playology Dual Layer Bone
This bone activates your dog’s sense of smell as he chews. Scent options like chicken, beef and bacon last up to six months (even after washing). It’s meant to be treated roughly by dog jaws and is manufactured with animal-friendly materials. In fact, it meets ASTM (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials) safety guidelines for kid’s toys and the CPSIA (Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) standards for toxins, including lead. It’s also dishwasher safe.
9. Beco Pet Rubber Bone
Another rubber bone built to last, free of toxins and eco-friendly is the Beco Bone. This one is made from rice husk rubber (who knew?) and is vanilla scented. You can easily sneak treats into its center so your pup can earn small rewards, keeping him entertained and satiated. This price point is also hard to beat for an eco-friendly dog toy. Beco Pets also makes compostable poop bags and plush toys manufactured from recycled plastic.
10. Preventive Vet Fetch Toy
Preventive Vet, a cohort of vets and animal specialists, developed the Best Fetch Toy. This sounds like a bold statement, but check it out because we’re convinced this is better than sliced bread. It floats (hello, dog beach), is light enough to throw but heavy enough to mimic a real stick, doesn’t splinter, is washable and is soft on teeth. Let your dog sit and chew or toss for interactive fun!
11. Leaps & Bounds Rope Tug
Rope toys can be tricky. Some dogs—especially chew maniacs—can rip them apart and ingest the fibers, causing upset stomachs and digestive issues. Avoid rope toys if Olly falls into this category. If ropes are good to go, Dr. Miller at Petco suggests this knotted toy due to its exceptional durability. Once you notice fraying, it’s time to replace the rope toy.
12. Outward Hound Fire Biterz Lizard Squeak Toy
Plush toys and chewing typically end in some poor stuffed animal’s innards floating around your living room. One alternative is this Outward Hound Fire Biterz squeak toy. Manufactured with the material used to make fire hoses (aka, durable stuff), this toy doesn’t even have stuffing. Even if your dog bites through the fabric, the lizard will keep squeaking. They also rinse easily in case your pup drags it through some mud.
13. Tartar Shield Soft Rawhide Chews
Check in with your vet before buying rawhide, as it’s also not for all dogs. Banfield Pet Hospital states you must buy high-quality rawhide and monitor your dog while he’s chewing it. Rawhide tends to crack and can get lodged in throats or stomachs. If you want to try some for your pup, try Tartar Shield’s chews (be sure to purchase the right size for your dog!). This brand has earned a seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council for tartar control, which is a huge plus.
14. Goughnuts Virtually Indestructible Stick
Goughnuts designs dog chew toys with the same rubber used by astronauts, so you know your pup is getting a lifelong product. The company says although no chew toy is totally indestructible, they guess this’ll be the last one you’ll need. In fact, their largest size is advertised as “too big for most dogs.” Not to worry, they make sizes for all types of chewers, all manufactured with natural rubber. The smaller options also have red cores, so you can tell if your pup is getting close to chomping it in half.
15. Bully Max Indestructible Ball
Instead of using tennis balls when you play fetch, try this indestructible ball from Bully Max. It is non-toxic and industrial strength, so chewing post fetch won’t result in pieces of tennis ball getting stuck in your dog’s throat. Bully Max uses eco-friendly natural rubber in their products and this ball is safe to toss in the dishwasher (so no worries if your pup is a heavy drooler).
16. Barkworthies Odor-free Bully Sticks
If your dog likes to eat after chewing, it’s wise to give them something super strong or totally edible. These bully sticks are made from free-range, grass-fed beef with no artificial preservatives or additives, which means lots of protein and easy on the tummy. Plus, chewing them works on your pup’s gums and removes plaque.
17. Kong Puppy Tire
Again, puppies need specialized toys designed for their delicate puppy teeth. Not only can you modify this toy by smearing peanut butter inside its crevices, you can toss it in the freezer to cool it down before giving to your pup (the cold soothes gums while teething). Chew toys early on teach good habits; this tire is durable and will probably last into adulthood.
18. Bark Box Super Chewer Subscription
Got a chewer so super they go through chew toys on the reg? Time to subscribe to a program like Bark Box. The company’s Super Chewer plan delivers a box each month that is full of toys and treats designed specifically for canines who constantly chomp. Strong rubber and nylon go into these toys and safety is always Bark Box’s top priority. Also: the environment. They’ve partnered with the National Park Foundation and have committed to giving at least $100,000 by 2023 to the organization in support of national parks.