If you’re one of the 65 million U.S. households that owns a dog, you know how important it is to keep your pup occupied and active throughout the day. In addition to food, treats and beds, dog toys are essential for preventing boredom, providing comfort and keeping your pet’s mind and body engaged.

Safety is also important, and determining the safest toy for your dog can be the difference between a play session and a trip to the vet. To help you find the best dog toys, we spoke to professional dog trainers about safety considerations to keep in mind. We also highlighted the best toys worth shopping based on their recommendations and guidance.

SKIP AHEAD Best dog toys | How to shop for the best dog toys

How we picked the best dog toys

When shopping for dog toys, our experts recommend keeping the following factors in mind:

  • Size: Buy toys suitable for your dog’s size to avoid any safety hazards. Typically, toys that you can’t see sticking out of their mouth are too small, and they can potentially swallow and choke on it.
  • Material: Avoid dangerous fillings like nutshells and polystyrene beads that create a choking hazard, and always supervise your dog when they’re playing with a toy they can easily rip apart — most common materials used to stuff dog toys, like polyester fiberfill, aren’t fully digestible. For chew toys, look for softer materials like durable rubber that won’t hurt their teeth. Also, avoid rawhide chews if you can — they can easily break into large chunks that your dog can choke on. Always consult with your veterinarian about rawhide chews before introducing them.
  • Interactivity: Interactive toys — which usually involve a game or puzzle to get food or toys out of a larger base — helps dogs stimulate their minds and get some mental exercise throughout the day. Plus, these toys keep them entertained for several minutes or hours at a time, according to our experts.

Best dog toys of 2024

Keeping in mind our experts’ safety advice, the following dog toys come in in various sizes and designs that can fit your dog’s size, temperament and stage of life. Some of the toys were recommended by our experts, and the others are highly rated and in line with their advice.

Best toys for small dogs

Kong Wubba

What we like

  • Durable nylon material
  • Chewable tassels
  • Comes in multiple sizes

Something to note

  • May not last for harsh chewers

Our experts love Kong toys for all types of dogs because they’re durable and come in various styles to fit your pet’s play preferences. The Kong Wubba — available in small, large and extra-large sizes — is good for both solo and interactive play, says Khara Schuetzner, a certified professional dog trainer and owner of training facility The Doggie Spot. The toy has tassels for your dogs to chew, as well as squeaks to keep them engaged. And if your pup often shakes or tugs at their toys, the Wubba is made from a durable reinforced nylon to prevent ripping and tearing, according to the brand.

Frisco Guacamole Puzzle Squeaky Toy

What we like

  • Mentally stimulating
  • Fun
  • squeaky design

Something to note

  • Recommended for small dogs

An NBC Select Best for Your Pet Award winner, this plush toy acts as a hide-and-seek puzzle and includes a stuffed lime, chip and avocado that you can hide inside a guacamole bowl. NBC Select social commerce editor Sadhana Daruvuri says her 2-year-old maltipoo Bandit loves this interactive toy, and takes about five minutes to get them all out of the bowl. “[He] also likes playing with the squeak toys individually — he brings back parts of it to his bed to nibble on and squeak,” she says.

Kong Wild Knots

What we like

  • Variety of shapes and sizes
  • Internal knots for chewing

Something to note

  • May not last for harsh chewers

Similar to the Wubba, the Kong Wild Knots toy has an internal knotted rope skeleton that “gives small dogs something to grip,” says Schuetzner. This toy is available in extra-small, small and medium sizes that can work well for smaller pups, according to the brand. It comes in a variety of colors and animal shapes, including a bear, eagle or flamingo. Kong also makes a Floppy Knots option, which has a similar design to the Wild Knots but includes more floppy, throw-friendly limbs.

Chuckit! Breathe Right Fetch 2 Ball Set

What we like

  • Lightweight, open design
  • For dogs with breathing issues
  • Comes in several sizes

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

The hollow and mesh-like design of Chuckit!’s Breathe Right ball can facilitate airflow to your dog’s lungs while running and fetching, which can be especially useful for small breed dogs with breathing problems, according to the brand. The ball is made from lightweight natural rubber, floats in water and can even be stuffed with treats thanks to its open design.

Best toys for big dogs

GoDog Dragon

What we like

  • Soft material
  • Chew-resistant lining
  • Comes in several sizes

Something to note

  • May not last for harsh chewers

This chew toy comes recommended by Schuetzner for bigger dogs because it has minimal stuffing and a durable squeaker that’s difficult to remove. It won an NBC Select Best for Your Pet Award due to its soft, textured material and built-in squeaky toy that excites dogs and encourages them to play, according to our reviewers. It also has chew-resistant lining and reinforced seams, making it more difficult to chew through and tear, according to the brand. NBC Select associate updates editor Zoe Malin says her 10-year-old yellow lab Chance tends to rip stuffed toys apart, but wasn’t able to gnaw through this one, which ultimately discouraged him from trying to do so after the first attempt, she says. This toy comes in a variety of animal styles — including dragon, dinosaur and alligator — as well as multiple sizes, including large and extra-large for bigger dogs.

Chuckit Ultra Ball

What we like

  • Dips make it easy to hold
  • Very lightweight
  • Durable rubber core

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

A fun spin on your classic tennis ball, this NBC Select Best for Your Pet Award winner has a durable, textured surface and a thick rubber core that can withstand rougher play, according to the brand. It comes in multiple sizes ranging from small to XXL, which has a diameter of about four inches (or slightly larger than a softball). The Ultra Ball also has a lightweight design that lets it float on water, so you can take it to the pool or beach with your furry friend.

Best interactive toys for dogs

Woof Pupsicle

What we like

  • Mentally stimulating
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Great for treat-motivated dogs

Something to note

  • More involved than other toys

Keep your dog stimulated with this NBC Select Best for Your Pet Award winner: a rubber rolling sphere that holds treats. To fill, simply unscrew the top and drop food inside. You can insert Woof’s premade Pupsicle Pops, available in beef or chicken flavors, or make your own treats using the brand’s DIY Treat Tray. The Pupsicle is also dishwasher-safe and has drool slots designed to minimize messes, according to the brand.

Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy

What we like

  • Mentally stimulating
  • Great for small dogs

Something to note

  • Smaller toys aren’t durable

Schuetzner likes hide and seek toys like Outward Hound’s Hide-A-Squirrel puzzle because she finds dogs love pulling multiple smaller toys out of them and playing with the squeaky ones. For this toy, you can fill the plush tree trunk with three stuffed squeaky squirrels and toss it, encouraging your dog’s hunting instincts to kick in. My dog, Bella, has the squirrel and the bee version of this toy, and they keep her entertained for several minutes as she works to get each small toy out — it’s great for when she’s bored around the house. It’s offered in four sizes: small, medium, large and extra-large (which includes six squirrels).

Starmark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Pet Toy

What we like

  • Adjustable opening
  • Anti-slip bottom
  • Very entertaining

Something to note

  • Heavy
  • Not as durable as others

This Bob-A-Lot interactive toy has a dual-chamber design that dispenses treats or kibble as your dog plays with it. It also has adjustable openings at the top and bottom to help accommodate most types of dog food while letting you regulate the difficulty level, and its weighted anti-slip bottom makes it wobble to encourage play, according to the brand. Bella loves the small version of this toy, and often spends a while pawing at it to watch it move from side to side. The large version is designed for dogs under 40 pounds and can fit up to three cups of food, while the small version is made for dogs under 20 pounds and a little over one cup of food, according to the brand.

Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball

What we like

  • Comes in multiple sizes
  • Great for active dogs

Something to note

  • Food can get stuck inside

The Tricky Treat Ball has a soft vinyl texture and can be filled up with your dog’s favorite treats or kibble — the food is dispensed from small holes as your dog plays with it, according to the brand. “The food gets stuck inside the ball and then your dog must roll it around for the food to be dispensed a little at a time — it can provide hours of entertainment for you and your dog,” says Robert Haussmann, a certified dog trainer and co-founder of dog training service Dogboy NYC. The ball is available in small, medium and large sizes.

Nina Ottosson Challenge Slider

What we like

  • Great for fast eaters
  • Mentally stimulating

Something to note

  • Requires advanced skill level

This toy not only serves as a challenging, mentally stimulating game for your pup, but you can also use it to feed your dog their entire meal while slowing down fast eaters, says Schuetzner. Simply hide your dog’s favorite kibble or treats in any or all of the 24 compartments and encourage your pup to seek them out by pawing at the sliding tray. It requires an advanced skill level, reaching a number 3 on a scale from 1 (easy) to 4 (expert).

AWOOF Pet Snuffle Mat

What we like

  • Slows down fast eaters
  • Mentally stimulating

Something to note

  • Fabric is not very durable
  • Smaller pieces can get lost

This snuffle mat is a favorite of Haussmann’s, who recommends it to keep dogs mentally stimulated, even during meals. “Snuffle mats are thick shaggy pieces of fabric in which dry food can be tossed into and then sniffed out piece by piece by your dog,” he says. Similarly, Haussmann also recommends lick mats, which are flat silicone mats with textured surfaces that you can spread wet food items on. “The food gets stuck in the textured service and your dog has to lick it for a long time to clear it out,” he says.

Best dog toys for puppies

Nylabone Puppy Teething Chew Toys

What we like

  • Great for teething puppies
  • Can be stored in freezer
  • Very durable

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

This teething pacifier is a durable nylon chew toy for puppies entering the teething stage. “The different grooves on the pacifier and ring massages your puppy’s gums,” says Schuetzner. Nylabone also offers teething rings and a dinosaur-shaped teething toy. Similarly, you can roll up a damp washcloth, freeze it and give it to your dog, which helps reduce biting and chewing associated with teething, says Benjamin Bennink, a certified dog trainer and owner of New York-based Good Doggy Saratoga.

Kong Gyro Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog Toy

What we like

  • Great for active dogs
  • Can be filled with treats
  • Enriches younger dogs

Something to note

  • May not last for harsh chewers

The Kong Gyro is great for puppies because it encourages paw and eye coordination with an instant food reward, says Mark Forrest Patrick, owner of Tuxedo’s K9 Training Camp, Inc. The toy has a spinning orb at the center that helps the toy roll around freely and a durable plastic outer ring. It dispenses kibble and treats from a small opening. You can get this toy in both small and large sizes. While toys that you can fill with food are a daily enrichment opportunity for younger pups, our experts recommend owners monitor portion sizes to ensure they’re not overeating.

Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Dog Toy

What we like

  • Great for anxious pups
  • Includes heat pack
  • Great for crate training

Something to note

  • Not for aggressive chewers
  • More involved than other toys

If your pup has a hard time coping with everyday stressors, this toy recreates the physical warmth and intimacy of another body, according to the brand. It has a battery-powered simulated heartbeat that you can switch on and off, and it includes a disposable heat pack that lasts up to 24 hours, according to Smart Pet Love. The heat pack starts warming up as soon as it’s removed from the outer packaging, so a microwave or electricity is not required. If your pup has separation anxiety, Schuetzner also recommends playing calming music specifically for canines, like “Through A Dog’s Ear.”

Best toys for active dogs

Squishy Face Studio Flirt Pole

What we like

  • Great for training
  • Non-slip grip
  • Great to exhaust active dogs

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

The Flirt Pole comes with a pre-attached “lure” at the end of a bungee cord that your pup can chase. It has a non-slip grip pole that you can move around, encouraging your dog to run, jump and change direction, according to the brand. “I love flirt poles — you can teach your dog to do a drop from it, tug with it, in addition to other obedience cues, and all while playing with your pup,” says Schuetzner. The toy comes in both a small size (with a 24-inch pole) and a large size (with a 36-inch pole).

Mammoth Flossy Chews Color Rope Tug

What we like

  • Great for aggressive chewers
  • Comes in multiple sizes

If tug-of-war is your dog’s preferred game, this knotted rope toy is made from durable cotton and polyester yarns that can withstand more aggressive pulling, according to the brand. You can also toss it during a game of fetch or use it as a chew toy during solo play time. It comes in multiple sizes, from a mini 10-inch rope for dogs under 15 pounds to an extra-large 36-inch toy for dogs over 80 pounds.

Best toys for aggressive chewers

Kong Classic Dog Toy

What we like

  • Very durable
  • Can stuff with treats
  • Can be stored in freezer

Something to note

  • Nothing to note at this time

Kong toys are famously strong and durable — in fact, they were initially designed in the 1970s for dogs with destructive chewing habits, according to the brand. The classic rubber Kong toy — another NBC Select Best for Your Pet winner — is a favorite of Patrick’s, who recommends stuffing the toy with dog-safe peanut butter, kibble or your dog’s favorite treats. “You can stuff and freeze them to make it a more difficult problem for the dog to solve,” says Schuetzner, who also recommends the Kong Wobblers that serve as a larger version of the classic toy. “They [help] slow my canines at mealtime, create problem-solving skills and teach the dog impulse control,” she says.

Benebone Real Bacon Durable Wishbone Dog Chew Toy

What we like

  • Very durable
  • Comes in various sizes

Something to note

  • Flavored
  • May be too big for small dogs

Made from nylon, these long-lasting bones are designed for heavy chewing and are “durable enough for those chewers who need to reach the back molars,” says Schuetzner. The toy has a curved wishbone shape for a paw-friendly grip and it’s offered in three flavors: bacon, chicken and peanut butter. Benebone recommends checking with your veterinarian to determine if the bone is right for your dog’s teeth, and warns to keep an eye out for wear and tear over time. The brand also provides a visual guide for shoppers to know when to replace their bone.

How to shop for the best dog toys

There are plenty of toys out there for all kinds of dogs, whether they’re young puppies or large, aggressive chewers. Dogs usually have their own preferences when it comes to what they like to play with. “Take your pup to a local store and let them pick out their toy — it’s so much fun to see what your dog prefers,” says Schuetzner.

Choosing the right toy for your dog can depend on a few factors, including your dog’s size and their activity level. Below, experts share what to consider when shopping for one.

Size

It’s important to buy toys suitable for your dog’s size. Large dogs, for example, should avoid small toys that they can swallow and potentially choke on. “If you’re getting a toy that they are going to be chewing on, you want to make sure that it’s not a toy that they can actually [fit] into their mouth and potentially swallow,” says Patrick. “I always tell people that if the dog can put it in their mouth and it sticks out the side of their mouth, then it is big enough.”

While they’re a popular toy for fetch, tennis balls are not a safe option for most dogs. Depending on the size of your dog, a tennis ball can become lodged in their throat and block their airway, experts say. Any pieces that are chewed off can also get stuck in your dog’s intestinal tract, so it’s important to take away the toy if it starts coming apart.

Material

The material a dog toy is made of can present all new challenges. Always check labels to ensure toys don’t include dangerous fillings like nutshells and polystyrene beads, according to The Humane Society. Even the most common materials used to stuff dog toys — including polyester fiberfill — aren’t fully digestible (this can be a problem if your dog is known to destroy their toys and other possessions).

  • Always supervise your dog when they’re playing with a toy they can easily rip apart. This is especially true with toys that have a squeaker because they can rip open the toy to find the source of the noise and ingest it.
  • Avoid toys that are too hard for your dog’s teeth. “The ‘thumbnail test’ is commonly used and states that if the toy gives to the pressure of your thumbnail, it’s safe for their teeth,” says Bennink. “Harder toys like the common hardened nylon bones should be considered ‘at your own risk.’”
  • Ask your veterinarian before entertaining your dog with bones and rawhide chews. Rawhide chews can break into large chunks and turn into choking hazards. Patrick suggests always keeping an eye on your dog when chewing larger treats. For a safer chew toy, experts recommend toys made from a hard, durable rubber instead.
  • Avoid any toys that are made from materials resembling items in your own home, says Patrick. “For example, you don’t want to have toys with strings if you have carpet since that’ll make your dog think, ‘I can chew on the string on my toy, but I can also chew the string on my carpet,’” he says.
  • Be careful about small pieces or any hanging fabric. “I usually avoid anything with ribbon, plastic eyes, string or anything that can be chewed off and swallowed,” says Haussmann. “There are lots of toys available that are cheaply made and are designed to make humans want to buy them — [they’re] not necessarily designed to be safe for your dog to play with.”

Interactivity

Interactive dog toys can create a fun game of sniffing and getting rewarded, says Schuetzner. When they hunt for kibble, for example, their mind is engaged and it allows for some mental exercise throughout the day, she says. 

However, you should be careful about stuffing your dog’s typical biscuit treats in these toys: “I encourage my customers not to put a treat inside of a toy and either use their kibble soaked in some warm water or add blueberries or cantaloupe,” says Haussmann. “If your pet’s treats are inside and [they] get excited or stressed, they can choke on those treats.”

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Khara Schuetzner is a certified professional dog trainer and owner of training facility The Doggie Spot, which also sells dog toys in its store in Shawnee, Oklahoma.
  • Benjamin Bennink is a certified dog trainer and owner of New York-based Good Doggy Saratoga.
  • Mark Forrest Patrick is the owner of Tuxedo’s K9 Training Camp, Inc.
  • Robert Haussmann is a certified dog trainer and co-founder of dog training service Dogboy NYC.

Why trust NBC Select?

Mili Godio is an updates editor at NBC Select who covers a variety of pet essentials, including dog food, travel carriers, shampoos and beds. For this article, Godio spoke to four dog trainers about how to shop for the best toys for all ages and temperaments. She also compiled their recommendations for the best dog toys to consider, as well as Select staff favorites.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.


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