If you’re anything like me you’ve spent more money than you care to remember on toys that have not lasted more than a few hours (at best!), I’ve had squeaky toys, stuffed toys, rubber toys, rope toys, fleece toys, the list goes on and on, but very few have stood the test of time (or the test of Jive to be more precise!), so I decided to put together a review of some of the strongest products on the market for the most destructive pooches in your lives.
Why do our dogs like to destroy toys?
Well, much as it would seem that they just like to keep our wallets empty, there is a bit more to it than that. Chewing is a natural and essential activity to our dogs. As pups they need to chew to help with teething, and older dogs often need softer and gentler toys that can help keep their older gnashers in top condition. In the middle of course you have adult dogs, who often love nothing more than a good chase of their favourite (or even better, someone else’s favourite) toy.
Dogs are driven by a prey instinct, lots of toys imitate the prey, encouraging dogs to chase, pounce and ‘kill’ the toy. Take a squeaky toy for instance, often once the squeak has gone the dog loses interest in the toy – the prey is dead!
Playing with toys (or with us) is a really important part of development in puppyhood and in providing a stimulating environment in adult hood. It is one of the things that attracts us to dogs as pets, we often love to see their reaction when they get a new toy to explore and it builds on our bond with them too. Toys provide good physical and (especially) mental stimulation, which are both so important in having a healthy and well-adjusted companion.
If, like me, you’ve bought the latest pet toy and your dog goes crazy for it, then a day or two later they’ve lost interest this can be frustrating (and expensive!). Don’t underestimate the novelty value of a new toy, often the attraction isn’t the type of toy, but just that it is something new, and therefore interesting.
I keep a large (too large!) selection of dog toys, however my dogs don’t just get free rein over them. I keep them out of the way, giving them a couple of toys to play with when they want to and a couple that I keep for when I want to play with them (the dogs, not the toys!) Every few days I swap some of the accessible toys for some that have been stored away for a while, this keeps interest, as they are getting ‘new’ toys frequently, without me needing to think about buying shares in Pets at Home!
Not all chewing is equal
Dogs have four different types of teeth in their mouths and each plays a different part in their well being. The diagram below shows the different teeth in both the upper and lower jaws.
- Incisors – these teeth are used to rip and tear meat from the bone, they are also useful for carrying stuff and cleaning tufts or matts from the coat.
- Canines – sharp teeth like daggers, they are used to stab prey and then for tearing the prey apart (eww, sorry).
- Premolars – these are the teeth that form the most of our dogs teeth, they are very sharp and used to break food down into manageable chunks.
- Molars – they are flat and used to grind down bones and food into a digestible state.
Different toys will use different teeth, and you may benefit by working out which chewing your dog is doing with different toys to identify which might last longest.
My Top Ten Strong Toys
Notice I am saying ‘strong’ not indestructible, that is because, from my experience, no matter how strong a toy is, or how indestructible the manufacturers claim that it is, there will always be one dog who can test out the claim successfully. Nonetheless, the products below are those which my own dogs, and those of the many people who I have trained over the years, have found to be the closest to indestructible.
Boomer Balls and Indestructiballs
I’ve grouped these together, as I find them to be so similar. They are basically a hollow plastic ball and they come in a variety of sizes. The plastic is quite tough, but the key to their strength is that they are too big to fit in the dog’s mouth, thus making them very difficult to get a good chomp on. Your dog basically pushes the ball around and chases it, but is unlikely to be able to pick it up in his mouth (if he can you have bought the wrong size!).
I love the Jolly range, the first time I bought one was at Crufts, way too many years ago to remember how many! My dog George loved to chase a football, but always burst them when he tried to pick them up, the Jolly Ball was perfect, it was strong rubbery type material which I could kick for him, but then he could use the tough handle to pick it up and retrieve it. George wasn’t a strong chewer however, and he only had access to the ball when I was chucking or kicking it for him. If you intend to allow your dog to play with it by themselves or if they are strong chewers I would recommend one without the handle.
They were originally developed as boredom breaker toys for horses, but then moved into adapting the size for dogs. Since those days they have developed a whole range of different variations, including balls with rope handles, a small ball inside a big ball, and loads of other ideas.
Nylabones have been around for a long, long time, and were originally billed as a safer alternative to providing natural bones, which could splinter and cause health issues. They are basically very, VERY hard plastic with flavouring that is attractive to dogs. Tastybones are a similar design, but provide a greater range of flavours. Both come in a wide variety of designs, sizes and flavours.
Kong have a huge range of toys and chews available nowadays. The classic (red) kongs are really strong and I use the stuffable toys regularly with my collies, I have never had an issue with them being chewed, I stuff them with various fillings and I find that once the fillings have been licked away my dogs just leave the empty kong on the floor. However, if you do have strong chewers you can get the extreme (black) ones, which are designed for stronger chewers.
My dogs love rope type toys, they are great for a game of tug and can be really beneficial in keeping teeth clean and strong. My favourites are the ones that are made from a rope knot (called a monkey’s fist) with a loop for your hand to go through. They are great for a game of fetch, tugging, and as a reward for doing whatever it is you’re asking. I have gone through many of these over the years, mainly because dogs teeth are so strong that they can chomp through the handle very quickly, so I reserve these for use when I am playing with the toy with my dog, I would not leave them to their own devices with a rope toy.
These are softer toys, made from fabric and often with squeakers inside. They are really tough though, strong fabric and extra stitching to keep them intact. They come in a range of colours, designs and sizes, they are great for dogs who like to ‘fling’ their toys about.
I have mentioned the Kong range already, but I really do think that the Wobbler deserves its own mention. I find it a great way to give my dogs their meal in a way that works their brains a bit in the process. The Wobbler is basically the same shape as the red kong, but the bottom is weighted and the top screws off so that you can put treats or food inside. Your pet then has to ‘wobble’ the toy from side to side to release the reward. It is really tough and strong and I have had mine of several years. Jive eats his breakfast from it at least a couple of times a week and it is as good as the day I bought it.
Chuckit toys came to my attention a couple of years ago when they brought out the Kick Fetch toy, it is a football type toy that you can kick quite easily, but is designed so that your dog can pick it up and retrieve it, but it is made from tough material that withstands quite a lot of chomping.
They also have a big range of other toys, mainly balls and ball launchers, they do come at a premium price, but the quality and durability is excellent.
Buster cubes have been around for a long time, I have one of the original blue dice designs that I must have been using for more than twenty years. They are basically a plastic cube with a chamber of tunnels inside. You put treats or food inside and the dog has to work out which way to tip the cube to release the treat. Great for mental stimulation and problem solving and really strong and durable toy.
These toys are aimed toward dogs who like to chew and chase sticks, but without the associated hazards. They are a long piece of tough plastic with a bobble on each end. They are quite bendy and you can throw them for a game of fetch and they float too, so make great toys for water lovers.
A word on safety
Almost all toys will carry a warning on the packaging telling you not to leave your dog unsupervised with a toy and to remove it as soon as any sign of damage is visible. As always common sense should prevail, you will know what your dog is safe with and what they need supervision with.
Any toy that can be broken down into small parts obviously poses a choking hazard, so check your dogs toys regularly and chuck out any that are starting to get into the dangerous category.
So, there you have my two-penneth for what its worth. These are the toys that I have found to be best for my own pets, and also which I have recommended to others and had positive feedback. If you have found others that I’ve not included please let me know using the comments box below.
You might also be interested in our post about the best stuffable dog toys.