A connoisseur of cuddly canine toys from way back, I surrounded myself with stuffed dogs in my formative years. Now that I’m well past childhood — but not necessarily, ahem, a grown-up — I still keep tabs on the latest in dog toy technology, always on the lookout for the ones with the gentlest expressions and most pettable hides. Whenever a baby shower or other child-gifting opportunity presents itself, I opt for a stuffed dog in the hope that the little giftee will grow up to love real dogs. If you’d like to do the same, here’s a handy resource list.
1. Steiff, the German company renowned for its heirloom-quality teddy bears, is equal-opportunity when it comes to stuffed animals, offering a veritable petting zoo of sweet species, from squirrel to giraffe. Some Steiff selections — namely, the ones covered in pricey “premium mohair,” such as Lielou Pug — are definitely not for very small kids. Classifiable as collectibles, these are status gifts for the child’s parents (and they definitely deserve protection from dogs who dig deconstructing plush toys).
Steiff is serious about capturing canine cuteness in a way younger Dogster readers can relate to, however, and the soft, cuddlesome, machine-washable Lumpi Golden Retriever ($130, above) and Little Floppy Lumpi ($32) make perfect plush starter pets.
2. “Is it real … or is it Hansa?” is the slogan of Hansa Toys, which calls its animal reproductions “portraits in nature.” That’s no exaggeration. Not long ago, someone regifted me a Hansa Papillon ($75), which turned heads while he lived with me (and before he got re-regifted). Upon seeing that pretty, plush plaything, visitors would invariably do double takes and exclaim, “I thought that was a real dog!”
Another notable and quite lifelike breed likeness is the handsome Hansa Husky, available in small ($33) and life-size ($375) versions. Meanwhile, with a price tag north of $600, Hansa’s Harlequin Great Dane is over the top.
3. Melissa & Doug are a toy-designing couple whose company produces an impressively broad range of canine likenesses, from Beagle to Border Collie, Basset Hound to Boxer. M&D get extra credit for creating a cuddly stuffed Rottweiler, a lovely breed that isn’t always perceived as cuddly.
And, as a longtime fancier of stuffed Poodles, I must say I’m smitten with the M&D Standard Poodle ($59.99), who stands proudly at attention. Sporting a butch coiffure, he’d be equally welcome in a boy’s or girl’s room.
4. For little kids who are irresistibly drawn to big dogs, the gift of an oversize (60-inch) plush canine is just the ticket. JooJoo’s Jumbo Bernese Mountain Dog ($86) was created to stay permanently in the “relaxed” position (i.e., lying down,reclined to resemble a cross between a rug and a pillow) and is extremely soft with friendly features.
This dog also conveniently doubles as a neck and back rest, offering support to little ones reading their favorite comic books (or least-loved school books).
5. Gund has been making what it modestly calls the “world’s most huggable” stuffed animals since 1898. Among its offerings are a cute white-and-brownmutt puppy named Daisi Daisy Dog ($18), and a convincing likeness of a famous Pomeranian named Boo ($20), aka the fluffy Facebook phenomenon billed as “The World’s Cutest Dog.”
In this case, the stuffed dog looks arguably more realistic than the too-cute, flesh-and-blood canine it’s modeled on!
6. Advocates of shelter dog adoption will be pleased to know that Webkinz uses highly evolved lingo — when you acquire one of its plush dogs, you “adopt” (nice). Plus, profits help support Webkinz Foundation, a charitable organization focused on supporting programs for children worldwide. The Shar Pei ($29.99) sports just the right wrinkle ratio, while the Bull Terrier ($49.95) will score a bullseye with fans of bully breeds.
What’s more, every pet comes with a secret code that grants access to Webkinz World online, where kids can feed and care for their virtual pets and earn KinzCash to pay for clothing and treats. Aw!
7. FAO Schwarz, New York City’s famously fabulous Fifth Avenue toy mecca, puts its house label on two very convincing toy breeds: the Maltese and the Yorkie (each $21.99). Dog toy or toy dog? You decide: Cradle this arm candy and you could definitely fool passersby into thinking it’s the real thing.
As befits miniature canine urbanites, these two sport fashionable topcoats, so they’re ready for a promenade along any high-profile city street.
Can you recommend more drool-worthy stuffed dog toys? Please share your faves in the comments.