By Heather Blakeman, CPDT-KA

Whether they are an adult or a puppy, all dogs need toys to play with. They can
enrich training and ease boredom. There are a lot of dog toys and chews on the market, but
not all of them are safe for your pet. Below, we’re listing a few of the safe, beneficial dog
chews and toys and the ones you should avoid!


Recommended: (Safe & Beneficial)


  1. Puzzle toys are great as an enrichment tool for dogs of all ages and can help with
    many behavior problems. Your dog’s own kibble or low fat treats can be used to stuff
    many of these toys to make meal time mentally stimulating. As with any toy that has
    small pieces, parts, or corners, many of these toys will require supervision for safe
    use. You may consider working with a positive reinforcement trainer to identify
    specific, appropriate toys that will serve your dog’s individual needs. Example:
    Kongs (be sure these are sized appropriately, the opening should be smaller than
    the pet’s bottom jaw, but the entire toy should not be small enough to swallow),
    Buster Cube treat dispensing ball (this toy is better for dogs who need something
    more durable and challenging), Snuffle Mat, and LickiMat.
  2.  Dental Chews that have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of
    approval. The following chews are labeled to help prevent tartar and plaque
    accumulation, and are highly digestible: CET Hextra Rawhide Chews, Veggiedents,
    Oravet Chews, and Greenies.
  3. Fetch Toys – These toys are NOT appropriate for chewing, but are intended for
    supervised fetch or chasing sessions: Bumi toy by Zogoflex (this toy is durable, non-
    toxic, and large enough to where it won’t get lodged), Jolly Ball, and Kong Jumbler
  4. Tug/Chase Toys – Flirt pole or long 4 foot snake type toys are great options for tug
    of war and they are especially useful for keeping sharp puppy teeth at a distance
    from a child’s hands during play. If you have concerns over how to teach
    constructive and safe tugging games, you should work with a qualified positive
    reinforcement behavior professional.


Not recommended:


  1. Any chew or toy that is harder than the dog’s teeth! These can break the tooth and
    cause microfractures of the enamel. Some examples of these toys/chews are:
    antlers, nylabones, natural bones, and ice. When in doubt, use the fingernail test: if
    you cannot press your fingernail into it, it is likely too hard for your dog to chew on.
  2. Chews that can be contaminated with bacteria like salmonella or e.coli. Examples:
    Pig ears, bully sticks, rawhide, and jerky chews
  3. Toys that are too small or that contain small pieces that can be ingested (some of
    these may be fine with supervision, but they may also be too easy for dogs to chew
    up and ingest when left unattended). These can cause intestinal blockages and
    linear foreign bodies. Examples: Stuffed toys, rope toys, and small tennis balls.
  4. Sticks. These are not nature’s free toys! In fact, they are extremely dangerous as
    they can splinter and get lodged in the throat. If pieces are ingested, they can cause
    injury or perforation to the mouth, intestines, or even heart.


Making sure your dog has the right (and safe) toys and chews will help to keep them happy,
entertained, and healthy in the long run! Dogwood Veterinary Clinic is located in Prospect,
Kentucky, and we are happy to provide veterinary care to your pets in the Louisville area. If you’re interested in scheduling with us, please call 502-710-0170 or submit an
appointment request here.