Picking Safe Puppy Toys

The world of dog toys seems virtually limitless. The selection at pet stores, in catalogs and online is mindboggling and irresistible.

So how do you choose fun toys for your puppy that are safe too? There’s no government or industry safety standard equivalent to human baby toy safeguards. However, you can make educated decisions based on expert advice.

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We asked Dr. Justine Lee — a veterinarian, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, and the author of It’s a Dog’s Life… but It’s Your Carpet — for some guidance in choosing the best puppy toys. She advises choosing products made in the United States, which don’t contain heavy metals, like lead. Select products that are very soft on puppy teeth, without hard rubber parts that can injure gums or teeth, like soft Kong and Frisbee brand puppy toys.

Pick Sturdy Toys
Puppy toys should be both sturdy yet forgiving of young puppy mouths, agrees Darcie Krueger, who owns SitStay.com, a canine retail website. “Look for toys that are generally more resilient than adult dog toys. You want toys your puppy can bite and chew on without damaging the toy or their teeth and gums, like Wubba and Tuffy brand products,” she says. “My favorites are made from a special teething rubber formula with a special shape that promotes healthy development of your puppy’s mouth and good chewing behavior.”

Steer Clear of These Toys
Unfortunately, you’ll find an abundance of unsuitable toys on the market. Lee advises:

  • Make sure toys have no small pieces that can fall or be chewed off, as these can get stuck in the stomach or intestines. Ideally, the toy should be made from one molded piece.
  • Avoid any toys with long string, yarn or similar construction. Your puppy can swallow these, resulting in a linear foreign body that your puppy might not be able to pass though his digestive system.
  • Don’t buy any toy that is just big enough to get stuck in your puppy’s jaws or lodged in his airway.
  • Note the size of the toy when it is new. Throw it away when it wears down.

Replace Toys as Needed
Be prepared to replace your puppy’s toys on an as-needed basis, advise Lee and Krueger. Toys help fulfill a puppy’s instinct to shake and kill small prey, so your puppy will delight in trying to destroy his toys. Puppies also simply get bored with some toys, just like human children. “I have a few baskets of toys for my pet, including soft discs, squeaky toys and balls. I just throw them out as they get shredded, chewed and used up,” says Lee.

Even if your puppy’s toys are very durable, you should always supervise independent and interactive playtime, because no toy is totally puppy-proof. “Many puppies like to toss and throw soft plush toys. I like them too, but toys like this can be torn to pieces,” says Krueger. As for washing toys, our experts agree: When toys are dirty and disgusting, throw them out and buy new ones.

Discovering toys your puppy enjoys is great fun. He might still love them as he transitions into adulthood. If not, you’ll enjoy finding new toys together!

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