The Best Types of Toys for Your Dog

Are you trying to find great gifts for your dog amongst the millions of dog products on the market? Perhaps you're having difficulty selecting toys your dog will love? A brief introduction to some favorite dog toys and dog supplies will help you choose the best dog toys for your canine companion.

Food-Dispensing Toys:

Kongs: A Kong is a snowman-shaped rubber toy that can be stuffed with a variety of treats. Frozen Kongs are long-lasting and great for hot summer days. Kongs can be filled with canned dog food (mixed with kibble, if you like), cottage cheese, yogurt, peanut butter, ground raw meats, biscuits, meatballs, etc. Buy at least two Kongs, so one can be in the freezer at all times. Kongs are made in a variety of sizes and chewing strengths - from puppy to senior, "regular" red Kongs to black Kongs for power chewers (and blue Kongs, for the strongest of chewers), in sizes for dogs from 5 to 200 pounds. Dishwasher safe.

Tug-a-Jug: The Tug-a-Jug (TaJ) is a transparent plastic bottle which is filled with kibble. The bottom of the TaJ has small holes through which the kibble can be scented. At the top of the bottle is an opening through which a rubber rope is threaded - this rope rolls around sporadically as the dog pushes the bottle around, releasing kibble as it goes. Dishwasher safe.

Buster Cubes: Buster Cubes are plastic cubes (coming in small and large sizes) containing a number of internal chambers which hold kibble. The Buster Cube's level of difficulty can be adjusted according to the individual dog's proficiency. Buster Cubes can be very loud when rolling around on hardwood floors (as can TaJs), and are somewhat less easy to clean than Kongs and TaJs.

Nina Ottosson Toys: Nina Ottosson (N.O.) toys are the Cadillac of food dispensing toys. With a relatively diverse product line, the interactive Nina Ottosson toys come in plastic (dishwasher safe) or wood models, and are divided into three different levels of difficulty - easy, medium, hard. Is your dog the destructive type? Don't leave her unsupervised with these great puzzle toys!

DIY TaJ: Only give this toy to your dog when supervised. Drill kibble-sized holes into a clean plastic bottle. Insert kibble, screw on lid, voila! Home made TaJ!

Yard or Home: Throw away those food bowls! Dogs should earn food through training, toys, and scent games. Hide your dog's meal of kibble throughout your living room, home, or yard and let him "hunt" for his meal by sniffing it out!

Tug Toys

Without question, CleanRun.com has the best selection of tug toys. They have leather tugs, rubber tugs, furry tugs, and even food-dispensing tugs! Some dogs like rope tugs - these can also be soaked in low-sodium chicken broth, frozen, and given to teething puppies (under supervision, of course).

DIY Tug Toy: One yard of three foot fleece fabric, cut into three strips (smaller strips may be needed for smaller dogs). Knot one end, braid tightly and knot at other end. Tie one additional knot in the middle.

Many worry that tug toys can cause aggression - this will not happen if rules are in place for play. With the DIY tug, one end of the toy is yours and one end is the dog's. If the dog's teeth travel above the knot, game ends. Always initiate play - the tug toy should be sacred and not left around; it is a powerful reward. Train a reliable "out" on cue, and don't be afraid to let your dog win...how long would playing any game be fun for you if you never won?

Fetch Toys (Do Not Provide Unsupervised)

Tennis Balls: For fetch only, not for chewing. The Kong company has a line of Air Dog toys which are made of tennis ball type-material (in a variety of shapes and sizes) but much friendlier to dog teeth than traditional tennis balls. As a bonus, Air Dog tennis balls squeak!

Frisbees: Consider getting a soft, rubber-like frisbee as opposed to a hard plastic one which may hurt dogs' teeth.

Other Recommendations: Planet Orbee toys, Zogoflex's Huck and Hurley toys.

Chew Toys (Do Not Provide Unsupervised)

Bones: Marrow bones are not recommended for power chewers, and should not be provided to dogs unsupervised. Cooked bones are not recommended for dogs.

Rawhides: Always choose pressed rawhide, preferably made in the U.S.A.

Antlers: Antlers can be expensive, but are long-lasting chew toys.

Other Recommendations: Nylabones, Bully sticks

Stuffies

Some dogs love stuffed animals. If your dog loves stuffies but destroys them, check out Tuffy's dog toys.

DIY Flirt Pole

Does your dog have an intense prey drive? Try making a flirt pole, the backyard lure-coursing toy! Check out this thread for great tips from Dogster Nick on how to make your own flirt pole for a quick, fun, and inexpensive DIY toy making project!

Photo: Mario Anima