Americans are estimated to spend about $30 on Christmas and Hanukkah gifts for their four-legged friends, according to the American Pet Products Association. Most of those purchases for their furry family members are toys with some special foods thrown in for good measure. If you’re among those who treat their dog to a few tennis balls and squeakies during the season of giving, you may want to consider some newer takes on old favorites.
Don’t underestimate the effect of toys on your dog’s overall well-being. Given that a dog’s day often consists of naps broken by the departure and return of loved ones who are in school or at work, with perhaps just a single jaunt to the local dog park and some visits to the yard, it’s no wonder that dogs get so much pleasure from their toys. That pleasure, in good part, is due to your own involvement in the tossing and tugging.
An ever-growing selection of toys will satisfy your dog’s inclinations, whether he is a predatory breed, inquisitive, or just in need of calming. See what follows for some improvements on the classics, like softer Frisbees that won’t damage teeth and also land slowly, reducing the risk of injury during the high jumps and back twists needed to catch the faster-flying plastic models. There are also toys to provide comfort, tease food from, and figure out like puzzles, keeping your dog happy long after the holidays have come and gone.
Kong Rubber Flyer Frisbee Dog Toy is made of a soft, flexible rubber that is kinder to your dog’s mouth than average plastic Frisbees, which pick up speed when thrown and can cause pain or even damage to your dog’s mouth, especially if he’s older. (While plastic Frisbees are great fun when thrown, they should not be left around with dogs who may chew on them.) Comes in small ($9.25) and large ($9.99).
Booda Soft Bite Tail Spin Flyer Floppy Disc Dog Toy is a flexible Frisbee-like disc that can float and even serve as a water dish. The disc is easy on your dog’s teeth. Comes in 7 inches ($6.25), 10 inches ($8.99), and 12 inches ($16.76).
Chuckit! Glow Paraflight Frisbee Dog Toy is a brightly lit flyer that can be charged under any bright bulb, providing up to 30 minutes of lighting. Even without the lighting feature, the flyer has 3D print glow-in-the-dark fabric and a rubber ring on its underside. The lightweight Frisbee descends slowly when thrown, making it easier for your dog to spot it and catch it without significant jumping and twisting — a boon if your pet has, say, arthritis. This flyer also floats. Costs $8.59.
Canine Hardware Chuckit! Indoor Ball ($7.45) is covered in nubby chenille that is soft yet provides a bit of bounce. If you don’t like the slobber factor when playing fetch, you might conider the Chuckit! Indoor Launcher for clean pick-up and more directed throwing. Costs $9.99.
King Pup Pet Company Indestructible Dog Ball is a baseball-size ball intended for medium to large dogs. It’s made of non-toxic solid rubber, so it’s safe for dogs who are aggressive chewers and tend to chomp down on toys. The manufacturers also offer a lifetime money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied. Costs $6.15.
Bite-worthy plush squeakies
Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy is a plush toy that’s touted as useful for dogs suffering separation anxiety or loneliness. AAA batteries operate the realistic pulsating hearbeat that, combined with disposable heating pads, offers your dog a pleasing “companion.” The plush is machine washable, provided you remove the heart first. The heartbeat will pulse for about two weeks before it’s time for a battery change. Because the plush is battery-operated and the initial heat of the disposable pads could be too warm, it’s best not to let your dog cozy with this toy unless you are near — claims for mitigating separation anxiety notwithstanding. Comes in blue, brown, brown and white, chocolate, black, golden, and pink. Costs $34.99.
Multi Pet Look-Who’s-Talking Dog Toy Realistic cheeps from a chicken, meows from a cat, and barks from a dog emit from a plastic voice box enclosed in the filling of a variety of satisfyingly noisesome plush toys that will please your dog for fetching or cuddling. Multi Pet Look-Who’s-Talking has 13 models eliciting the appropriate cribbets, baas, and moos, depending on the plush animal. Choices include not only a chicken, cat, or dog but also a cow, lobster, frog, rabbit, koala, gorilla, chimp, parrot, pig, and sheep. Costs $5.99.
Pet Lou Plush Dog Toys are thick and long-lasting plush softies that are particularly enjoyable for large dogs. Pet Lou offers a variety of substantially sized and realistic-looking plush animals, such as a 23-inch racoon, rabbit, and duck. The voicebox, which provides a variety of species-appropriate vocalizations, is sewn into the inside. Machine washable. Costs $14.23.
Outward Hound Hedgehogz Dog Toys Plush Rattle Grunt and Squeak’s hidden seams, soft fur, and pleasing sounds elicited by chomping down will make this a satisfying item to retrieve for a game of catch or to snuggle with. Costs $10.98, extra-large, and $12.78, jumbo.
ZippyPaws Jigglerz Junior Squeaky Plush No Stuffing Dog Toy might be just the thing if your dog’s prey drive consists of shaking his plush toys and then settling down to dissect them, leaving your home filled with their remains. The 14.5-inch, stuffing-less toy is narrow, easy to shake in your dog’s mouth, and emits squeaks while shaken. Better still, there is crinkly paper in the plush’s tail and head for additional sounds. Animal models include fox, chipmunk, dragon, bunny, duck, parrot, skunk, and raccoon, all 14.5 inches long. Costs $6.99.
Will concentrate for food
Outward Hound 41004 Paw Hide Treat Toy has a variety of scent guides that lead your dog to six goodie-filled cups with treats inside. Your dog sniffs out where the goodies are and then tries to figure out how to lift parts of the puzzle to get at the treat-filled cups beneath, rewarding her instantly for solving the puzzle. The plastic is PVC-, BPA-, and phthalate-free. Costs $10.81.
Dogit Mind Games 3-in-1 Interactive Smart Toy for Dogs provides several games that lead your dog to figure out how to get her treat as a reward. There’s “Hide and Seek,” which requires undoing a lid to reach treats; “Spin-a-Whirl,” in which your dog pushes in such a way that it reveals treats; and “Sliding Puzzle,” in which dogs slide a cover to uncover a tidbit. The toy, in a nutshell, rewards concentration. Costs $11.75.
TRIXIE Pet Products Flip Board,Level 2 gives a mental work-out as your dog figures out how, if the features on the board are jiggered right, it will make hidden treats accessible. There are knobs that flip lids, disks that slide, and cones that must be removed in a straight upward movement, all to reveal a tasty treat you know your dog will work hard to get hold of. You can increase the level of difficulty by changing the number of maneuvers your dog must complete in order to reach the goodies. A rubber rim prevents the board from moving as your dog attempts to move and lift objects to get at the treats. The game comes with an instructional booklet with ideas for how to further challenge your dog with this toy. Dishwasher safe. Costs $20.20.
PetSafe Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug Meal Dispensing Dog Toy provides a multi-sensory interactive game and dispenser in one, allowing your dog to see, smell, and hear her kibble or treats inside the jug that she must puzzle with in order to get at the desired goodies. You can add to your dog’s fun with a game of fetch with the jug. For dogs who are unable to eat slowly enough at meal time, the slow retrieval of kibble may be an enjoyable way to have dinner without eating too fast and making themselves sick in the process.
Pulling at the rope attached to the jug is what allows the treats to make their way out. But because the rope is fun to chew on and drag, it may well wear out before the jug does and if that’s the case, remove the screw-on top and replace the rope with different-size balls that stop up the flow of treats. The rope can also be removed and washed. The toy should be used with supervision. Comes in extra-small ($5.19), small ($6.69), and medium-large ($10.30).
Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball is a see-through sphere that holds treats dispensed after your dog figures out a way to release them. It comes in 3-inch and 4-inch sizes. The ball is fun to bat about and chase and, through that process, allow the sporadic release of treats until all are dispensed. The manufacturer says that this interactive toy reduces boredom and destructive behavior. Costs $9.99 for the 3-inch model and $14.99 for the 4-inch ball.