Features March 2016 Issue

Must-Have Chew Toys

[Updated December 10, 2018]

The secret to happy chewing is variety. Be creative… think rubber, plastic, rope, wood, body parts (pizzles, pig ears, cow ears, chicken feet, chicken necks), fuzzy things, leather things, carrots, oranges, and more. There are advantages and disadvantages to each – they can all break, splinter, shred, be ingested – so it pays to have a chat with your vet about what to watch for when you choose your chews.

Here are some tips on selecting the best chew toys for your own dog. For a chew toy to be effective it must meet three criteria:

1. It must be attractive to the dog. The dog must want to chew it, or it is useless.
2. It must be durable. If it only lasts 30 seconds it won’t help with a long-term chewing problem.
3. It must be safe. It must not contain toxins, or easily break up (or break down) into pieces that can cause the dog to choke or suffer internal blockage or damage.

It’s important to look at individual dogs when deciding which chew objects are safe. Aggressive chewers can splinter objects and swallow large pieces that can choke a dog, cause life-threatening bowel obstructions, or tear the lining of the intestines. Delicate chewers can safely be given items that would be deadly for some dogs. A veterinarian friend gives her greyhounds rawhide chips, which might not be safe for more aggressive chewers. Aggressive chewers and dogs who must be left alone with a chew object are safest with a hard rubber, hollow Kong-type toy that can be filled with something tasty to hold the dog’s interest. Very large carrots can also make ideal chew objects for many dogs.

Kong dog toys

The Kong Company makes many more toys than just “the” Kong toy!

Over time, any chew toy softer than your dog’s teeth will become worn down. Any chew object harder than your dog’s teeth will cause wear to the teeth. It’s generally preferable to have wear to the toys than wear to the teeth.

Safety requires good judgment. Many chew objects may eventually become too small to be safe and should be disposed of before they reach a dangerous size.

I was delighted to discover that in recent years, the Kong Company has exponentially expanded its line of toys. For more than two decades, they have supplied us with the basic Kong toy – that snowman-shaped, hollow, stuffable rubber toy of varying sizes and toughness (the black ones are the toughest) – high on the list of any dog owner or trainer worth her salt. I still have the very first Kong I bought, a black one from the mid-1980s. Kong and many other companies now offer a mind-boggling array of chew toys; you have to do some research to determine which are most likely to appeal to your dog.

Shop carefully at your local pet supply store; generally, the products sold in grocery stores and discount stores are of extremely low quality and won’t last very long. They may also be made with materials of questionable safety. If you have a particularly strong chewer, ask the store staff for recommendations.

Here are some of our favorite sources of good chew toys:

Kong Company

Reputable toy manufacturer, does not sell toys direct to consumers. (303) 216-2626; kongcompany.com


Online retailer that carries many products that might be difficult to find elsewhere. (402) 467-3426; sitstay.com

Clean Run

Specializes in gear for competitive dog sports; has unique toys and chews. (800) 311-6503; cleanrun.com


“Your source for the world’s most durable dog toys and accessories from top manufacturers, all at unbeatable prices.” (877) 341-0633; dogtuff.com

Tuffy Toys

Tuffy Toys are made by VIP Pet Products and sold in pet supply stores and many online retailers. They are rated by the manufacturer on a “Tuff” scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being for the most aggressive chewers. They feature a minimum of seven layers of material and extra stitching and cross-stitching. One online retailer that carries a wide variety of these toys is tuffietoys.com; (866) 478-0848.

Comments (13)

I would like to offer my puppy to be a tester for chew toys! Refuses to use a black Kong. Opened the hole up in a red Kong within a day. A Tuffy toy snake lasted less than a day. We have tried them all. So far the Kong vinyl crackly toys, and the hard stick with balls at the ends have lasted the longest. Don't dare leave her alone with a toy; she has already had surgery for an obstruction and she just turned one! She is our 6th Dalmatian and we have never had this problem before.

Posted by: Dalmom | December 17, 2018 9:54 AM    Report this comment

None of my dogs have ever liked, or used, nylon chew toys. Some of them have had their favourite rubber chew toys, but by and large they prefer real bones (spongy bones, NOT compact bone) or soft wood.

Posted by: Jenny H | December 16, 2018 11:35 PM    Report this comment

I like godog toys. They seem to last a lot longer than other cloth toys. The 60 lb boxer mix adores them and his 100 lb big brother, a lab mix and he play tug with them.

Posted by: Tmalven | December 16, 2018 9:12 PM    Report this comment

In 30 years of malamute rescue, I have never had any dog that would chew on the black Kong snowman. I tried the red one. Same thing. I looked at some of the new Kong chew toys yesterday and I thought most of the holes for stuffing were too big to hold little treats.
Before I knew better, I used to buy those smoked femur bones for my aging dogs and they broke or lost their teeth. One dog lost about 4 teeth before I noticed it.
I won't buy anything for them or me to ingest from China and it's hard to find some items that are not grown there such as ginger, garlic, various fruits but I persevere. Now I grow my own garlic and everyone including dogs love it.

When I was at the pet store yesterday, I did test Kong toys to see if I could bend them or push my thumb in them and thought they were be too difficult to properly chew for my new dog that is relatively small with a fairly small mouth. I'm used to strong jaws and big mouths you can put your whole hand in so this dog is a difference.

I didn't know there were any other safe chew toys besides Kong so I appreciate your recommendation. I did see some toys by one of the other manufacturers but was afraid to buy it.

Posted by: Holly 1 | December 16, 2018 5:18 PM    Report this comment

My dogs won't touch most toys made of plastic or synthetic rubber. They will only touch a kong when I've stuffed it with peanut butter. They shred most cloth dog toys, but I make tug toys out of old denim jeans that I knot at the end. They last quite a long time and I can get them very cheaply at garage sales or thrift shops. The one brand that seems to last forever even with my aggressive chewers is GoDog cloth toys. They are really made to last, they are adorable, and they have squeakers! Forget the petroleum product toys and find toys that don't smell bad and can leave bits of plastic in their intestines. For treats, I've found DreamBones to be the best alternative to rawhide, which can be a problem for digestion.

Posted by: Wookie's Mom | December 16, 2018 1:20 PM    Report this comment

What is the blue top up in the top right?

Posted by: petlover1 | December 16, 2018 11:26 AM    Report this comment

And another thing-all the nylabones and things that are supposed to be good for dogs teeth and to keep them occupied. Do we really know what is really in them? I used to feed greenies on a regular basis-they kept my dog occupied and happy until I found out that they did not have the best things in them for ingesting.

Posted by: kruzingwithk9s | December 16, 2018 10:57 AM    Report this comment

Kpeck, I don't think you are being over protective about the China thing. I won't buy anything for dogs or humans made in China especially if it is going into our bodies-including supplements. I even look specifically for vitamin c (which is really hard to find not made in China) because of all the bad things you read about China and their practices. Sit stay used to be a good company back when Darcy and Kent owned in in the early 90s (they started the company and when they divorced, Darcy ran it for awhile and then sold it). It was a great company, now I am not so impressed at all with the quality or the research that goes into finding the products they sell. Anyone can sell a product that they have never tried before but SitStay only used to recommend things that had been tested (I don't get that feeling anymore-now it seems it is about what sells and the money-my gut feeling and I always trust my gut).

Posted by: kruzingwithk9s | December 16, 2018 10:56 AM    Report this comment

Made in Montana, West Paw makes great chew toys and are rated for their toughness.

Also check out 'Made in the USA', Planet Dog toys who offers a line that recycles left-over scraps from their regular to line.

Both companies offer a variety of activity types.

Posted by: als | December 12, 2018 9:36 AM    Report this comment

Good information and links. I suggest you add Busy Buddy toys, especially the Twist and Treat, and the cube with rounded corners. My dog and my clients' dogs love them. They are durable and safe and really do keep a dog busy.

Posted by: Dezi's mom | December 11, 2018 6:30 PM    Report this comment

In addition to bending I attended a seminar and the dental veterinary speaker said you should be able to press your thumb nail into it.

Posted by: SerenitySteph | December 11, 2018 6:24 PM    Report this comment

There are so many chew toys made in China, which I will not buy. Am I being over-protective?

Posted by: kpeck | December 11, 2018 1:32 PM    Report this comment

Great topic! After my British lab suffered a broken tooth several years ago (and spendy dentistry to successfully save the tooth) I learned that many popular dog chew toys like the nylon one that broke the tooth are really poor choices. What I learned was that hard chews can cause micro fissures in teeth that are hard to see by the naked eye. If it doesn't result in an obvious crack, these small fissures still create entry paths for decay, infection, etc. The rule of thumb this canine dentist gave me - if you can't bend it, find a more pliable one! And to those who would counter that dogs have been chewing on bones for hundreds of years, that is true. But they probably died early, painful deaths from broken and infected teeth!

Posted by: Tourman | December 11, 2018 11:30 AM    Report this comment

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