Buying Dog Toys for the First Time

December 6, 2023

How to Pick Good Dog Toys on Your First Buy

Your first-time buying play toys for dogs can be intimidating and confusing—endless rows of colorful selections that seem to come in all shapes, sizes, and types. But do not fret; we’re here to help you pick your first set of good dog toys so you can understand your pooch better and have plenty of great play time together.

First off, you should expect these toys to get destroyed. Without that expectation, you’ll set your eyes on the shredded toys and tunnel vision on how much cash was wasted. But, unfortunately, dogs in the wild always tear things to pieces; as a dog owner, you are responsible for finding substitutes to satisfy that instinct.

Second, you should buy at least one of each toy type on your first purchase. Dogs are individuals, and they have preferences just like people. Some love to fetch; others won’t chew on anything but plush toys, while some hardly get bored gnawing away on their favorite chew bone. Make notes about your dog’s responses to each toy type. Be sure to write down the brand and model; that will come in handy when you return to the pet store for more options.

Get the popular brands if you have the budget. Otherwise, it is more important to buy generic toys that don’t have cheap-looking packaging. Made-in-USA toys are pricier compared to cheap imports, but they are much safer. As long as it is made from safe materials and the manufacturer can be easily contacted, the brands don’t matter as much on your first buy. There is only one exception, don’t skimp on good chew toys for dogs. Material safety and durability are the leading factors to its higher cost and value.

What to Expect From Your First Set of Good Dog Toys

General – Look for your dog’s excitement and engagement as it plays with a new toy. Wagging tail parallel to the ground and widened, bright, focused eyes are great signs. If these persist after the first few times of play, then your dog should be enjoying that toy type. Don’t buy toys that are too small or too big for your dog’s jaws. It would either choke on the toy or be unable to chew on it properly; both will not be enjoyable for your dog. On the other hand, if your dog gets excited whenever you reach for that toy months after you bought it, you know you have a winner.

Fetch Toys / Ball Toys – Make sure the toy fits comfortably in your dog’s jaws; look for toys with size recommendations printed on the packaging. Dogs with natural fetching instincts, like Labrador and Golden Retrievers, will perform better with minimal fetch training. Dog breeds that aren’t natural retrievers could need you to spend more time with them to develop the skills and understanding necessary to engage in fetch play. Judge your dog’s enjoyment of fetch toys when it can perform the task consistently.

Chew Toys / Rope Toys / Tug Toys – These play toys for dogs are essential to any dog toy collection; dog owners usually have many of these in their dog toy collection. Judge the dog’s enjoyment of these toys by your dog’s tails, eyes, and consistent willingness to play after a couple of different sessions. You’ll be lucky to find a good chew toy for dogs on your first buy, so keep trying other materials, textures, and even tastes. Good chew toys for dogs don’t require training, so have fun and learn more about your dog’s preferences!

Plush Toys – These are like chew toys, and your dog will try to tear these fluffy things to shreds with a very high success rate. Squeakers could act as motivators for some dogs, and they will chew on those toys more aggressively. Again, you can look at your dog’s eyes and tail to judge their enjoyment with an increased focus on the destruction process. Most of the time, dogs that enjoy tearing apart plush toys focus intensely on the task and exhibit a relaxed demeanor when the shredding is complete. Be careful not to give rewards after a plush toy is obliterated; your dog may move on to destroying things that aren’t toys to get that sweet reward.

Treat Dispensers – Most dogs enjoy these toys because of their delicious motivators. They require the dog to be patient and work for tasty rewards. Dogs with low patience could leave these alone after less than a few minutes of play and will look for other things to do. Observe your dog’s play duration with these toys to see if it enjoys problem-solving and has food-motivated characteristics.

Interactive Dog Toys – This toy type can be further categorized into two sub-categories: passive and active.

Passive-Interactive Dog Toys are similar to Treat Dispensers but with more complex and challenging tasks. Judge your dog’s enjoyment level with play duration like you would Treat Dispensers. Remember that these toys work best when you guide your dog through each task; leaving your dog to work on them alone will most likely not be as enjoyable. These could be referred to as puzzle toys.

Active-Interactive Dog Toys engage your dog independently; these are electronics with built-in mobility and audio-visual functions. Dogs not enjoying these toys will not engage with them; some will be afraid and hide in their safe spots. A few dogs will exhibit aggressive defensive behaviors like barking and showing teeth as they feel threatened by this (to the dog, that is) unknown alien creature. Dogs that enjoy these robot-like toys could be afraid when seeing them for the first time, but it only takes a bit of motivation and permission from you to chase after them until their batteries die. Seeing a toy move around on its own as your dog fully engages with it is always a fantastic sight.

Where to Go After Your First Set of Good Dog Toys

Now that you know how to judge your dog’s preference for certain toy types, you should keep a few things in mind. First, great play toys for dogs do not last forever; they last longer than their competitors of the same toy type. The best plush toy would not take as much punishment as the best chew toy, as they were each designed for different reasons. Always judge a toy’s merits against others of the same type, and you will stock up your dog toy collection with winners that last for months or even years.

Never imply that one excellent dog toy’s merit would transfer to all other toys from the same brand. If you had a fantastic experience with a specific dog toy that lasted for months, don’t buy another from the same brand expecting the same experience. All brands have their winners, losers, and other things in between. Treat every purchase as your first, and use your notes and experience to guide you on what to buy next. Trust us, this process will never end, and that’s okay! Finding good chew toys for dogs is all about having fun together with your pooch!

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