We recently packed up 7 dogs for a 4000 km road trip, and brought and 7 StarMark Everlasting Fun Balls to help the dogs relax. All of the balls made it home, unlike several collars. I can’t imagine travelling without investing in some durable and entertaining chew toys. Don’t travel without them! Even better, bring several options for toys to play with and keep your dog busy, relaxed and quiet.
Dogs love to chew. Chewing is relaxing, it helps keep their teeth clean, and it can help keep them quietly occupied in their crate or ex-pen when you’re busy. It’s important to balance exciting play and stressful work with calming rest and relaxation. In addition to training your dog to lie down and relax, and providing age-appropriate exercise, chew toys are an invaluable tool to help dogs settle calmly.
One problem is that many dogs shred toys in no time. On the other hand, when you don’t offer suitable chew toys, the consequences may be memorable. (Does your dog prefer chomping on slippers or rearranging your upholstery?)
Whichever toy you choose, never leave your dog unattended and replace worn or damaged toys. Otherwise, your dog may ingest pieces that can cause choking, gastrointestinal obstruction, serious injury, or even death. No toy lasts forever. But in this list, we’ve weeded out many toys that didn’t outlast repeated testing. Here are our most entertaining picks:
DURABLE BALLS FOR CHEWING
- StarMark Everlasting Fun Ball – Our dogs enjoy eating dinner or treats from this green treat dispensing chew ball (large is shown in the photo), which has survived strong chewers who previously destroyed Kongs. The openings have rubber pieces you can cut out with scissors if you want the food to come out more easily. I want the challenge from keeping the toy intact so it lasts longer. Note that I fit 25 pieces of large kibble into one ball, and it occupies each dog for approximately 30 minutes. For puppies, the small size is easier to retrieve. Available on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Treat-Dispensing-Chew-Ball-Large/dp/B0009YD8NS/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=STARMARK+EVERLASTING+FUN+BALL&qid=1556660388&s=gateway&sr=8-4
- Kong Extreme – Kongs are easy to find in most pet stores, economical and clean up conveniently in the dishwasher. We prefer the stronger Kong Extreme XL black (while red can do in a pinch for puppies). Get a size bigger than you think you need. Plug the hole in the bottom with a big chunk of cheese or large piece of kibble, then stuff the remaining space and freeze. As your dog chews, it will gradually thaw and leisurely release the food. Once your dog is interested in Kongs, they’re also a great choice for indication training for scent dogs.
In Calgary, we find the best prices for many products at Dexter’s Pet Store on Ogden Road. Dexter’s sometimes offers better prices than amazon, and their frequently customer program is worth it when you buy lots of toys or treats.
Here’s the black Kong Extreme I use for my Brittany Spaniels: https://www.amazon.com/KONG-Extreme-Dog-Large-Black/dp/B0002AR0II/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=kong+classic&qid=1556660470&s=gateway&sr=8-6.
- Bully sticks are 100% digestible, natural parts of bulls (except if you opt for the “odor free” products). Negatives include a strong odor (that dogs enjoy but humans may not), and they are not as long-lasting as some of the stuffable toys. Try braided bully sticks to increase the lifespan. We like the high quality North American suppliers used by bullysticks.ca
- West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl Tough Puzzle Treat Toy for Dogs – Although newer to the scene, Westpaw’s high quality toys are durable, albeit expensive. Place a bully stick inside the middle hole and it will take your dog far longer to devour. https://www.amazon.com/West-Paw-Interactive-Dispensing-Guaranteed/dp/B01N29SD5A/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=west+paw+zogo&qid=1556660538&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull
- Nylabone is one of the most popular toys on amazon, and it certainly works. When it’s new, try scratching up the smooth surface and rubbing in some pate or peanut butter and your dog will find it more attractive to lick and chew. Select the flavored options for an added bonus
- My dogs prefer their Tasty Bone https://www.tastybone.com/range/nylon/nylon-trio-bone/nylon-trio-bone-bacon. It’s more expensive than nylabones, but it’s also very durable and the dogs love the feel of the nubbies.
- PetSafe Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude – Similar to Kongs, this durable toy can also be stuffed with kibble, and the adjustable rubber around the exits helps make it adjustable for your dog. https://store.petsafe.net/busy-buddy-squirrel-dude?_ga=2.20542840.1775905125.1556660917-1202157608.1556660917
PUPPY STARTERS: INTERACTIVE FUN, BUT LESS DURABLE
- Balls – Balls are great for interactive play. Even during a blizzard, playing fetch is a fun way to exercise. Think of it like an off switch: exercise is a daily requirement that helps your dog relax and be quiet around the house. But did you know that the fabric of tennis balls is very abrasive and can wear down your dog’s teeth? We far prefer to play with more rubbery, less abrasive balls. An economical option is STX White Lacrosse Balls, available by the dozen from amazon, if you have time to wait for shipping. Chuckit balls are fantastic and they’re widely available from pet stores. We love the durable, green Chuck It Erratic balls. We were pleasantly surprised with the new Chuckit Breathe Right balls, which have a mesh-like structure that maximizes airflow while he runs with the dog in his mouth. Dogs don’t seem to get a good grip on it, especially while running with it in their mouth, so none of our dogs have destroyed one yet. For puppies that strongly prefer squeakers, choose the Chuckit Ultra Squeaker. In the water, we love the Chuckit amphibious bumpers, but they don’t stand up to repeated fetch games like the balls.
Don’t forget that balls are an interactive toy, meant to enjoy together. Don’t leave any balls unattended with your dog, or they can quickly chew them to pieces and then have the dangerous risk of eating them.
- Tuffy plush toys incorporate industrial luggage material into multiple layers, covered with soft fleece, to produce the longest lasting fabric toys we’ve found. Our dogs enjoy tugging them together, carrying them around and they also make surprisingly comfortable pillows. For avid retrievers, try giving your dog one of these toys to carry during a walk, and hopefully less garbage will be returned to you. Tuffy toys come in a variety of shapes (e.g. dinosaurs, boomerangs) and each is rated on a scale from 1 to 10, to help you select appropriately for your unique dog. For example, I use their website to filter all their toys to 8 or 9 paws and see the toughest available.
- Outward Hound Kyjen Hard Boiled Softies Dog Toy – These penguin, hedgehog or bee toys feature a fabric skin around a large, tough, round squeaker in the middle. They make a low-pitched groan, delighting our testers. You may find the noise irritating, and don’t expect them to last as long as rubber toys. Alternatively, use Outward Hound’s Slow feeder bowls to dump your dog’s dinner into and the partitions will slow down his eating. Puppies love Outward Hound’s HIde a Hedgie, where a large plush tree contains smaller squeaking hedgehogs that the dog can pull out of it for interactive play. These are not durable enough for our adults to play with long-term, and since they’re small with no handle, it can be hard to hold onto this toy to tug with your dog. But to get puppies fascinated with toy play, this is a great place to start. Also good to get puppies started fetching and retrieving is Doggles plush balls with squeakers.
TIP: If you’re frequently losing some of your fetch balls, store and transport them inside a cheap white mesh bag used for laundering delicate clothes, which you can see through to know instantly how many you’ve collected.
For the ultimate in chewiness, give one of our top-rated dog chew toys a try, and enjoy some calm rest and relaxation with your dog. Our search continues for tough chew toys that we return to, again and again. If we missed your favorite, let us know in the comments below.