As dog owners, we’re always on the hunt for toys that will outlast the endless chewing, thrashing and tugging. The idea of an indestructible dog toy is so simple and obvious; yet it doesn’t seem to exist! And no, that’s not a conspiracy by dog toy manufacturers to keep you buying – we promise we’re not out to get you.
Unfortunately, unless we make something out of Kevlar and titanium, there’s no truly indestructible toy when it comes to dogs. Their teeth are made to crush through bone! Fabric and rubber is no match for that. However! This doesn’t mean you are doomed to repeat a cycle of buying toys, only to watch them get shredded.
The first thing we need to identify is what we’re really looking for in a dog toy. At first glance, a toy is just a toy. But when you understand that dog toys can serve multiple purposes simultaneously, and that they can, in many ways fulfill your dog’s physical, mental and emotional needs; then we understand that a toy is not just a toy. For example, a food enrichment toy can aid with mental stimulation, boredom and anxiety alleviation, as well as induce dopamine and endorphin release; all of this works together to help your dog be calmer and happier overall. Not to mention helping your dog pace their meal ingestion! (Labrador owners know).
The Golden Rule of Dog Toys
But before we go any further, we have to discuss the rule. This rule will not only ensure the longevity of your dogs toys, but also extend your dog’s interest and excitement in that toy. Ready for it? The rule is:
Play and Put Away!
That’s right, most dog toys are intended to be played with and then put away. This rule applies almost universally to all dog toys; be it tug toys, flirt poles, plush toys, or balls, and to some extent also, food enrichment and chew toys. This may seem counterintuitive, taking the toy away when its whole purpose is to stimulate and entertain your dog. However, most of these toys are not designed or intended to withstand continuous sustained play, and most are not designed for chewing (the inevitable cause of death for many dog toys). And so we apply the rule.
If you think about children's toys, a doll wouldn’t survive being pummeled or stomped on – why do we expect the same of dog toys? When we use dog toys within their intended use, and then put them away; we find that the toys start to last a lot longer. And this is where we come back in with the idea of the indestructible toy. Suddenly you’ve got toys that have lasted months and years; not hours and days.
When we don’t subject the toys to the whims of a dog with no self-control, we get two easy benefits: first, you get far better value and longevity out of your dog toys, and second, you prolong the novelty and excitement that your dog associates with that toy! Happy dog = happy owner!
Food enrichment toys are just that; a way to bring added value to your dog’s mealtime. Food enrichment gives your dog valuable mental stimulation and engages their mind and senses, which ensures that mealtime is not just a mindless gobble (we all know that awful yak that comes with the gobbling). Here are some great examples of food enrichment toys that we love and use:
Licking Mats or Enrichment Mats
A licking mat or enrichment mat is an amazing way to give your dog food in a variety of fun shapes, textures and sizes that will keep them distracted and occupied in the best way. We love these for their versatility and ease of use. Smear wet food, peanut butter, yoghurt or mince (or all of the above, yum yum) and present your dog with a treat that will take them a fantastically long time to savour and enjoy. These are perfect for keeping your dog happy and quiet during crate time, car trips, or even as a distraction during claw trimming.
These wonderful inventions are an incredibly easy way to get your pup’s thinking cap on during meal time. Forcing your dog to get creative and figure out how to access their food is going to ensure that dinner takes a lot longer, and with the mental stimulation of all that puzzle work; you’ll find they can be just as worn out as if you’d taken them for a big run.
Self-engagement toys are probably starting to home in on what we ideally want in an ‘indestructible toy’ -- that is, something you can give your dog and walk away worry-free. Self-engagement toys are any dog toys your dog can use independently without your input. Primarily looking at chew toys, plush toys and to some extent, food enrichment toys can also fall into this category (e.g. Kongs, and West Paw treat toys). However, it’s important to remember that, much like children (or people even), your dog will associate more excitement and novelty with a toy that they don’t have access to all the time.
Allowing your dog to play with a toy for a time, and then putting it away will help prolong the life of your dog toy because it minimizes the opportunity for damage and keeps your pup anticipating the next time they get to play with it. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of self-engagement toys for your dog:
Look, some dogs will bond with a soft toy as a puppy, and gently nurture it for years. These dogs are highly rare unicorns. The rest of us are more familiar with a dog that will take that sweet little soft toy, thrash it to death, and then painstakingly decimate its insides. Cute, right?
Of course, there’s always a middle ground. Plush toys can be a super fun and comforting toy for your dog but it goes without saying, that no soft toy is immune to doggy destructive tendencies – it's just not possible. So, unless you know your dog is content to strictly snuggle, instead of performing brain surgery on their toys; the play and put away rule is still vitally important to ensuring you don’t end up with a shredded toy within minutes of bringing it home.
For soft toys that set the bar a little higher for quality, here’s a few recommendations for you: the Snuggle Puppy which is perfect for pups who are newly separated from Mum and litter mates. We love goDog Dragons too; they look very cool obviously, but as all goDog products, it's made with extra strength and durability for doggy-play. Another firm favourite is the Outward Hound Invincible Mini! These guys are not only adorable but made especially well for dogs that love a good hardy squeaker! Stuffing-free and super tough, these are perfect for your little fluffy killer pup.
A good chew toy is worth its weight in gold, every dog owner knows this. Now, while some dogs are just casual chewers, and some chew like their life depends on it -- it's a universal rule that all dogs love to chew, it's a totally normal, instinctive and stimulating habit. But it's your job to direct that chewing to an appropriate source!
It can get overwhelming trying to find the best option out of the enormous selection of chew toys out there for every dog. Little gentle chew toys for little gentle dogs, chew toys that are also food toys, chew toys that are also tug toys, chew toys that apparently can’t withstand any kind of chewing at all (we won’t talk about those).
When choosing a chew toy for your dog, you want to consider a few main things: is it size appropriate for my dog? (ie he can’t accidentally swallow it), is it made of safe and non-toxic materials? Is it easy to clean? And of course, the million-dollar question, is it durable?
For toys that check the boxes of non-toxic, safe, easy to clean and durability; we have an entire range for you to peruse where your only question now becomes; what size suits my dog?
Check out options like the West Paw Hurley or the SodaPup Rubber Grenade. However, if you have a dog that would chew through walls if given the chance, then we recommend toys made with ultra durable nylon. Something like our SodaPup Ultra Durable Nylon Coffee Cup is about as close as you can get to a truly indestructible toy!
When thinking of puzzle toys, you might think of some cleverly-designed contraption where your dog has to tap a coded sequence of buttons to unlock the treat inside. And yes, there are definitely puzzle toys like that! But at the end of the day, puzzle toys don’t need to be nearly this complicated.
On one end of the scale, you’ve got a toilet roll with dry food hidden inside. On the other extreme, you’ve got... Bunny the talking dog. But that’s a rabbit hole for another time (pun absolutely intended). However, there’s a happy medium that exists and honestly, dogs don’t need brain busters designed by doggy MENSA in order to get the mental stimulation they need to wear them out.
A good puzzle toy should do a couple of things well: primarily it should keep your dog occupied so they don’t have time to be bored or anxious, and it should do so by engaging all those keen doggy senses. A good puzzle toy will have them sniffing, pawing, chewing and thinking as they try to get to the reward inside. Here are a few examples of some puzzle toys that our dogs love:
The West Paw Rumbl treat toy comes in two sizes, and will encourage your dog to roll and bounce the toy until the kibble falls out like a little coin-slot machine. For the heavier thinkers, try the Orbee Tuff Mazee Ball. They'll have to roll the ball in the right configuration if they want what's inside! For the dog that's less of a thinker, and more of a doer, try the Scream Xtreme Treat Dumbbell; the perfect treat puzzle toy for the meathead pup.
The final category in our quest for an excellent and indestructible dog toy. The interactive dog toy covers any toys that your dog can’t effectively play with on their own – it requires you to jump in and play with them. Again, this doesn’t have to be overly complex; playing fetch with a ball or frisbee definitely counts as interactive game play. Many interactive toys are destroyed too soon because after play time, the hyper-aroused and stimulated dog is left in possession of the toy that got them all excited. Respectfully, your doggy cannot be held accountable for what happens after that.
Remember the rule! We play tug, or fetch, and afterwards, ensure that we remove the toy from the dog. This ensures the longevity of your toy for future plays. Some examples of our favourite interactive toys:
If you know anything about us here at Wildhunde, it’s that we are all about that #tuglife. Tug is such an instinctive game for dogs and has so many natural benefits. It helps with impulse control, builds confidence and drive, and can be such a rewarding and high-value training tool.
Start with something simple like our Zoom and Chase Sheepskin Tug, and you’ll find that soon a whole world of tugs opens up to you, and your dog will love you for it. Try playing with any of our Australian-sourced animal hides like sheepskin, kangaroo, fox or rabbit hide to entice the dogs that need a little more encouragement. Go with a ball tug for the dog that's obsessed with playing fetch. Try one of our Play and Bite pillows for the dog that really wants to get into it! (It bears bragging that all our tugs are handmade by us, right here in Australia!).
Flirt poles seem like a tool reserved for elite dog trainers and rhythmic gymnasts, but we promise your dog will love it too. Flirt poles are a simple tool that taps into your dog’s natural prey drive. By mimicking a constantly moving lure, your dog will not be able to resist stalking, jumping, chasing and snatching at the pole. It provides amazing mental and physical exercise for your dog, and satisfies all those primal doggy urges.
Start with a basic Chase N Pull Flirt Pole and customise with different end-attachments like our Play and Bite Mini Puppy Pillows and Wild-Tug Sheepskin Flirt Pole Attachments, or if you're game you could even make your own.
The humble ball. It needs no introduction. They’re good for throwing, fetching, chewing, or batting around. Add a rope or tug and now you’ve got the perfect tug for the ball-obsessed hound. In many ways, balls are the perfect toy. There’s a reason they’ve been the staple dog toy for countless generations. They fit comfortably and safely in your dog’s mouth, the movement of a bouncing ball wonderfully mimics the movement of prey, and if your dog is a retriever as well? Irresistible.
Use a variety of balls to keep your dog intrigued and excited, from the goDogs Furballz, for the added comfort of a fuzzy plush toy. Or our Wild-Tug Sheepskin Bungee and Ball tug which rolls every dog’s favourite things into one toy. Or keep it simple, go with a ChuckIt and hammer-throw that bad boy into the horizon for your dog to chase.
We know this seems like a very long-winded way to tell you that the mythical indestructible dog toy doesn’t truly exist; and we truly hate to burst bubbles this way. But there can be no question that this method of choosing and caring for dog toys is the next best thing. Choose your dog’s toy with care; whether you want something to keep them occupied solo, something to combine meal times with brain time, or something you can use to engage with your dog and wear out all that wild energy.
All choices are valid and will help your dog be calmer, happier and more satisfied at the end of the day. But above all, don’t forget to play and put away.