The 10 Best Toys for Puppies, According to a Vet
Cuteness isn't the only factor in choosing the best toys for puppies. Sure, it counts! But durability, texture, and the toy's purpose matter, too.
Your puppy's preferences are also important, since it's early in life that dogs start learning which types of toys and chews they'll prefer throughout their lives. That means it's important to introduce your pooch to a variety of toys early on, Marty Becker, DVM and founder of Fear Free, says.
By incorporating a few of the toys below into your puppy's playtime, you'll help her build confidence while engaging her growing brain and satisfying her instincts.
Our Top Picks
- Best Heartbeat Toy: Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy ($37)
- Best Teething Toy: KONG Puppy Binkie ($11)
- Best Freezable Toy: Nylabone Puppy Chew Freezer Mini ($9)
- Best Toy for Power Chewers: Benebone Bacon Flavor Tough Puppy Chew ($14)
- Best Plush Toy: Leaps & Bounds Little Loves Lamb Plush Puppy Toy ($7)
- Best Tug Toy: ZippyPaws Monkey RopeTugz ($16)
- Best Puzzle Toy: Nina Ottosson Puppy Smart Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy ($16)
- Best Interactive Toy: Outward Hound Hide a Toy Plush Puzzle Toy, Large ($11)
- Best Chew Toy: Petstages Mini Orka Chew Pair Bone & Dumbbell Dog Toys ($7)
- Best Toy with Replaceable Squeaker: KONG Teddy Bear Dog Toy ($8)
Best Heartbeat: Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy
Looking for the best heartbeat toy for a puppy, perhaps to help soothe her at night or help her with separation anxiety? "Snuggle Puppy is a great toy to provide calming comfort of a heartbeat, heat, and ability to stuff other scented items—including an item you may have worn—inside to offer a degree of comfort to the puppy as they learn to comfort themselves and self-soothe," Becker says.
Best Teething: KONG Puppy Binkie
KONG makes some of the best teething toys for puppies, and Becker considers many of their high-quality rubber toys staples. His favorites include the KONG original and the KONG Binkie, the latter of which, he says, allows the pet parent to hold onto the KONG as it's used to teach the puppy how to work out the food or treats stuffed inside.
RELATED: 10 of the Best KONG Dog Toys That Offer Unlimited Entertainment for Your Pooch
Best Freezable: Nylabone Puppy Chew Freezer Mini
While you'll want to make sure the small size is appropriate for your puppy, this toy offers flavor and texture, including soft bristles to help soothe her gums. It's freezable, too, which can help provide comfort to a teething puppy, without requiring you to soak it in a liquid and potentially create a mess.
Best for Power Chewers: Benebone Bacon Flavor Tough Puppy Chew
Made in the USA with real bacon fused all the way through, this certainly earns a spot as one of the best puppy chew toys for major chewers. These chews are smaller in size and slightly softer than the adult Benebone toys but designed to be quite durable.
Best Plush: Leaps & Bounds Little Loves Lamb Plush Puppy Toy
Available in two sizes, this is an adorable and affordable plush toy. While it won't withstand heavy chewing, it is designed for plenty of puppy play and serious snuggles. Plus, it has a squeaker for a little added excitement!
Best Tug: ZippyPaws Monkey RopeTugz
Interactive play is an excellent way to bond with your new furry friend, and this tug toy is a super (not to mention super cute!) option. The quirky little monkey has a squeaker, so it also works as a chew toy. But when it comes time to tug, the rope handles are made of the same durable 2/3-inch rope that rock climbers rely on, so it's sure to stand up to a little roughhousing.
Best Puzzle: Nina Ottosson Puppy Smart Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy
Choosing the best puzzle toys for puppies doesn't just require you to select the right size, but also the right level of challenge for their young minds—which, by the way, also helps to wear them out. And we all know a tired puppy is a good puppy! This beginner dog puzzle uses simple one-step actions that your puppy will love figuring out as she noses the bones to find treats you've hidden in the compartments. And once she's mastered that, you can increase the difficulty on this toy or move up to a more difficult option.
Best Interactive: Outward Hound Hide a Toy Plush Puzzle Toy
Did somebody say, "Squirrel"? Available in a variety of sizes, this is a fun interactive toy that features squeaky squirrels that "hide" in a plush tree trunk so you can engage in an exciting game of hide and seek with your clever canine.
Best Chew: Petstages Mini Orka Chew Pair Bone & Dumbbell Dog Toys
Made with durable materials in various textures, these little chew toys bounce and float, and the packaging even claims they improve dental health by helping to remove tartar. Keep a close eye on the extra tassels, though, since serious chewers could make short work of that material.
Best with Replaceable Squeaker: KONG Teddy Bear Dog Toy
Although this teddy bear squeaky toy is soft and cuddly, it's made without stuffing to reduce the inevitable mess. And, if you have a pooch who loves to "kill" squeakers, you're in luck: If it ruptures, the squeaker is designed to be easy to replace (or remove, if you need a little peace and quiet during playtime).
The Importance of Puppy Toys
Puppy toys come into play for a variety of reasons, but one of the biggest is to help while they're losing their puppy teeth and gaining their adult teeth, right around the four-month mark.
"A puppy's mouth becomes overly sore, tender, itchy, and uncomfortable as they mouth during the teething stage," Becker says. "During this time it's likely the puppy will seek relief to soothe their aching gums by chewing on a variety of items that can include off-limits items like the TV controller, shoes, cords, and other 'feel good' items that provide a happy distraction and bring relief as their adult teeth emerge."
Giving your puppy easy access to more acceptable toys and items to chew on will give your puppy the relief and distraction she wants (and save your favorite shoes, too). Becker recommends providing an element of novelty by rotating different toys. And, he says, "certain toys can offer a chilling and soothing effect as they're frozen with water or even flavored broth to encourage the puppy to teethe on acceptable items rather than off-limits household goods."
But no matter how many amazing toys you provide, remember: "A puppy is likely to explore the world with their mouth, as they lack opposable thumbs," Becker says. So it's still important to pick up any items you prefer they not chew—even as you give them puppy-friendly items to gnaw on.
What To Look For
Puppyhood is the best opportunity to introduce your dog to different sounds, shapes, and textures and teach them there's nothing to fear—in fact, Becker says, it can be fun!
Rubber and plush are the most common materials, but you'll be able to determine the best material for your puppy once you understand her style of chew or play. Overall, follow these two rules when choosing toys:
- You should be able to press into a toy with your fingernail. If you can't, it's too hard and could damage your pup's teeth.
- Avoid toys with long strings or parts that could be accidentally ingested.
Some dogs might mouth their toys gently, while others will make it their life's mission to prove that there's no toy that's truly indestructible. If your pup falls into the latter category, choose harder rubber toys designed to withstand serious action. Your puppy's approach to chewing will determine how durable a toy you need.
Monitor your puppy's toys and watch for missing chunks, and if you see any toy—even if it's their favorite—falling apart, it's time to replace it.
A toy that's perfect for a 4-month-old bichon frise is unlikely to be an appropriate size for a 7-month-old Bernese mountain dog. A toy that's too small is a choking hazard for a larger puppy; a toy that's too large isn't necessarily dangerous, but it won't be very appealing to your pup if she can't carry it around or get her mouth around it.
The way your pet wants to play with a toy will also influence the ideal size. After all, if they just like curling up and cuddling with a plush toy, that's one thing, but if they want to carry it around, it needs to be small enough for that. And if they like to shake it, it needs to be large enough to avoid posing a choking hazard.
Finding the right toys for your puppy will help keep her entertained and give you both opportunities for fun and bonding.