Choosing toys for your dog's play style

Different dogs have different play styles. When buying toys for your dog, think about the kind of play he enjoys most, and look for something that will satisfy that drive.

Dogs like to be busy, both physically and mentally. Otherwise, boredom, anxiety and even depression can result. Even though today’s dogs are mostly bred to be companion animals, they often retain the instinct to work the way their ancestors did. Some dogs do still work, of course, but those that don’t use play and toys to help fulfill their need for physical activity and mental stimulation. This means you need to choose toys that best suit an individual dog’s play style, whether it’s fetching, tugging, chewing, solving puzzles or a combination of these.

What’s your dog’s play style?

Your dog’s play style can depend on several factors, including his breed, or mix of breeds. For example, dogs originally bred for hunting may prefer playing fetch over settling down with a puzzle toy. Other factors that can influence the way a dog plays include his lifestyle, size, energy levels, age and health. However your canine companion best likes to play, you’ll find a wide selection of toys designed to meet his needs. Here’s a breakdown of options to help you find the perfect plaything for your pooch.

Extend the lifespan of your dog’s toys and prevent boredom by rotating them. Stash a few toys away and bring them out once he starts to lose interest in his current ones.

Toys for the tugger

Dogs like terriers and bulldogs have a tendency to tug. If your dog enjoys the challenge that tugging offers, look for a heavy duty rope toy that won’t break under pressure. Fibrous materials like cotton and hemp are ideal. As with all toys, opt for high quality. It might cost a little more, but you’ll be grateful when you don’t have to replace the toy within a week.

Toys for the fetcher

Balls and discs are the classic choice for this type of play. Manual and automatic launchers are another great option. Manual launchers, like Chuckit!, are simple throwing devices that double the distance of a regular toss by catapulting the ball. Automatic devices only require you to drop the ball into a hole in the machine, which then launches it. You can make the game even more interactive for your dog by training him to drop the ball in himself.

Toys for the chewer

Many dogs – especially large breeds – love chewing. Look for an eco-friendly product that’s less likely to contain toxic materials that can harm your dog if accidentally ingested. Any toy containing heavy metals such as lead poses a toxicity risk. Of course, you should always take toys away once they’re damaged. Regardless of what the toy is made of, your dog can choke on small pieces, or cut his tongue and gums on sharp bits of plastic. Kongs and deer antlers are both great options for chewers, as they’re made to withstand excessive chomping. Kongs and other vessel-style toys can also be stuffed with a healthy snack to keep your dog busier longer.

Toys for the worker

Many breeds, like border collies, Bernese mountain dogs and huskies, along with their crosses, like to keep their minds as well as their bodies occupied. For canine workaholics, look for interactive toys that offer a goal to work towards. Again, Kongs are great for this because they can be stuffed with treats as a way to challenge the dog. Try foods such as natural peanut butter and dehydrated sweet potato. Puzzle toys are another effective way to exercise your dog’s mental faculties. They encourage dogs to work for their meals by performing a series of tasks to access the food. Puzzle toys test your dog’s memory, sharpen his recall skills and can keep him occupied for hours.

If your dog spends a lot of time alone, interactive robotic toys can be programmed to keep him busy until you return. Some dispense treats, while others move around to stimulate your dog’s senses and encourage him to keep playing.

When it’s time to crash – toys for the cuddler

Like children, a lot of dogs take comfort in sleeping and snuggling with their playthings. If your dog matches this description, look for plush toys he can take to bed with him. If he has a tendency to chew, however, monitor him during naptime to ensure he doesn’t decide to destroy his toy upon waking up. If you have to leave him alone, opt for a more solid, non-destructible toy. It might not be as nice to cuddle with, but like a security blanket, its presence can improve your dog’s sleep by offering him a sense of familiarity.

Good quality dog toys can….

  • improve mental health and development
  • help with training
  • teach your dog how to be independent
  • stimulate his natural instincts
  • clean his teeth and gums
  • increase physical activity
  • deepen your mutual bond
  • prevent boredom
  • offer comfort
  • relieve stress and anxiety.


Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.