How to Choose Safe Dog Toys

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It really is a dog-eat-dog world out there when even playing fetch can be hazardous to your dog’s health!

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and Cynologist

It really is a dog-eat-dog world out there when even playing fetch can be hazardous to your dog’s health! Here are some hints on choosing safe toys for your dog.


Did you know that tennis balls and small golf ball-sized foam balls could be deadly for some dogs? Tennis balls are exactly the right size and shape to lodge in a large dog’s throat as he joyously leaps to catch them. Please make sure you buy balls suitable for your dog’s size and that they are made out of durable material. Immediately discard any balls, or other toys, that are showing excessive wear and tear. Result: asphyxiation.

Sticks and Stones

Ever tossed a stick for your dog? Think again! Sharp sticks can penetrate the delicate tissues of the mouth or damage the eyes. Fragments of wood can become lodged between dogs’ teeth. Stones can crack or break off teeth. Discourage your dog from playing with sticks.


Frisbees and dumbbells (used for obedience training) are your safe alternatives to sticks. Train your dog to “Sit! Stay” and wait for your command to “Fetch!” before allowing him to retrieve objects.


The original Kong brand dog toys make fabulous durable dog toys. You can stuff them with a peanut butter or cheese spread, freeze them, and give them to your dog for hours of fun. (They’re great for teething puppies too!) In addition to Kong brand toys, many other toys encourage your dog to entertain himself by searching for hidden treats.

Rope “Bones”

Knotted rope bones are popular dog toys. They’re safe for playing fetch and can be used for teething puppies. However, if you give your dog a rope bone, you must be mindful that some dogs chew and swallow the fabric. This habit can be deadly! If you see your dog eating his rope bone, take it away and only use it for games of fetch.

Cheap Toys

One of the cheapest and best toys your dog will ever have is a large plastic pop bottle or milk jug. (Be sure to rinse it out before you give it to him.) Best of all, after Fido destroys his new “toy,” the bottle can still recycle it and, you may even get your bottle deposit money back! The one drawback is that if your dog decides to chew the bottle, it can make his gums bleed, or he could swallow pieces of plastic. If your dog is a chewer, don’t give him a pop bottle. Buy him a Kong.


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