The Best Dog Toys of 2020
The KONG Classic is true to its name and is indeed a classic dog toy, providing versatility as a fetch toy, a chew toy, or a treat holder. Available in five different sizes and rubber densities, there is KONG suitable for any dog size and breed. The asymmetric shape causes unpredictable bouncing around, making it a very enticing toy for high-energy fetchers or prey-driven dogs. The durable rubber construction withstands chewing, and the hollow center is great for stuffing treats, kibble, or peanut butter (try freezing it, too, for longer engagement). Stuffing it with treats or other goodies can be a great attention getter and problem-solving task to help occupy even the most high-maintenance pooches. Although leftover treats or peanut butter can get stuck inside some of the inner nooks and crannies, the KONG is dishwasher safe to help keep it fresh.
While the rubber material found on the Classic model is plenty durable for most average chewers, it may not be able to withstand prolonged abuse from the most powerful canine jaws — a pitfall of nearly any toy. KONG also makes a heavier-duty Extreme version with denser rubber for power chewers, as well as a softer Puppy version and Senior version for less powerful and more sensitive mouths. With its variety of sizes and material densities, durable build, and versatile uses, the KONG is a classic toy that will be appreciated by any four-legged friend.
Available Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large
The Chuckit Ultra Ball Launcher is a vital tool for dog parents of ball-obsessed pooches with boundless energy for games of fetch. The simple yet proven design makes it easy to collect and load a ball without getting your hands dirty or slobbery, and the flexible slingshot design allows you to continuously fling and launch balls with minimal effort. We tested the 26" length with a size Medium launcher with the Ultra ergonomic rubber grip, which was perfect for collecting balls off the ground and for comfortable long-distance launches. A number of shorter lengths and handle designs are available for easier carrying and travel, as well as a variety of launcher and ball sizes to comfortably suit your pooch. The size Medium launcher we tested includes a 2.5-inch diameter felt ball and is also perfectly compatible with a standard 2.7-inch tennis ball.
It's hard to think of any noteworthy downsides to owning a Chuckit, especially for parents of high-energy ball chasers. It makes endless games of fetch achievable and keeps your hands clean and your arm intact. We found that the standard felt ball that comes with the launcher isn't very durable against chewing and biting, so we would recommend picking up a few of the heavy-duty rubber balls available separately from Chuckit to complete your arsenal. The effectiveness of the Chuckit is apparent in its popularity. On most trips to the beach or dog park, we see several different sizes and shapes in action.Available handle lengths: 12", 14", 18", 25", 26"
Available launcher/ball sizes: Small(2"), Medium(2.5"), Large(3.0"), X-Large(3.5")
For intelligent pups that always seem to get themselves in mischief, the Trixie Flip Board puzzle is a great tool to harness and focus their curiosity in a safe a productive way. The simple design comes with three different types of puzzle challenges, including discs that must be slid to the side, cones that must be lifted straight up, and levers that must be flipped to open a lid. Filling a few or all of the compartments with treats or kibble provides a variety of different challenges for your pooch.
While we appreciate the Trixie Flip Board for its versatility with three different types of puzzle challenges, smart pups may still master it pretty quickly, and the duration of the challenge and entertainment might dwindle as time goes on. The Flip Board puzzle that we tested is considered Level 2 in difficulty, and Trixie makes different puzzle products at difficulty Levels 1-3. Also, the small overall size and smaller features are ideal for puppies or small dogs but might be more difficult for larger paws to maneuver. It should also be noted that the puzzle pieces are not indestructible, so its recommended to keep an eye on your pet as they work through, not chew through, the puzzle. As far as dog puzzles go, though, our canine testers showed the most signs of mental stimulation and engagement with this model over any other.
Available difficulty levels: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3
The Chuckit Paraflight Glider is our favorite flying disc for dogs. With a flexible multilayer nylon interior body and soft rubber edges, it is gentle on gums and teeth and is easy to throw and catch. The unique lightweight design with most of the weight around the perimeter floats in water and allows the disc to smoothly glide through the air and gently descend for easy grabbing. The bright colors also make it easier to spot once it gets dirty or if it gets caught up in trees or bushes.
While we really love how the Paraflight Glider is easy to throw and floats through the air, its lightweight construction can definitely struggle when it's windy. The soft materials that are comfortable in your hand and in your dog's mouth also can get torn up pretty quickly if the disc becomes a chew toy, so we recommend close supervision if you intend to keep it for a while. For a lightweight flying disc that is easy to throw and catch and is gentle on your dog's mouth, the Paraflight Glider is our top pick.
One of the cutest plush toys that we've seen is the Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle. A unique combination of a puzzle game and a plush chew toy, the Hide-A-Squirrel includes three small stuffed squirrels (with squeakers) that are housed inside a plush treehouse. It's a fun challenge to see whether your pooch will use delicate finesse or brute force to pull the animals out of their home, and can definitely activate his or her hunting and prey instincts. Once the squirrels are liberated from their log, they each become a squeaky chew toy or can be easily returned to their home to reset the challenge. This cute toy is available in four different sizes and a handful of different animal types.
While this is a fun and cute challenge for your pup, the entire set is made from soft plush material, so dogs with destructive tendencies can tear through it pretty quickly given the opportunity. Dogs that like to remove squeakers from toys will definitely be tempted by these little guys. However, this cute set can be a great problem-solving exercise and includes a handful of cute little plush toys, making it a great combination.Available sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
Available characters: Squirrel, Bee, Bird, Doug the Pizza Pug, Hedgehog, Rainbow
Several of our canine testers immediately went crazy for the Petstages Deerhorn Antler-Based Chew Toy. A synthetic product made with traces of naturally shed antler, this chew toy seems to have a taste and smell that intrigues our pets' primal intuitions. Durably built to withstand power chewers, the Deerhorn also has textured nubs that are supposed to help clean your dog's teeth. This was the favorite chew toy of several of our test pooches, providing several hours of chewing satisfaction.
While the Deerhorn Antler-Based Chew Toy is extremely durable, there are some potential cautions with this and any chew toy. After a few chewing sessions, the surface texture can get pretty rough and scraped up, which might be abrasive or uncomfortable on your pup's gums and teeth. Also, although this toy is designed not to crack or splinter, small bits of material can get chewed off and might end up on the floor or in your pup's belly. We and veterinary professionals recommend supervising your dog with any kind of chew toy, and consulting with your vet if you have any questions or concerns. Among the dedicated chew toys we tested, our fleet of test dogs tended to prefer this one.
Available Sizes: Petite, Small, Medium, Large
The Outward Hound Tornado Puzzle is another unique puzzle to challenge and stimulate curious pups. With three layers of spinning compartments and a spinning top lid, the Tornado has plenty of space for treats or kibble, and could even double as a feeder to help slow down fast eaters. We were able to fit a total of just over one cup of kibble dispersed throughout all of the compartments. You can also increase the challenge by adding in the white dog bone lids over some of the trays. Our two-year-old Weimaraner, Nala, mastered the spinning trays pretty quickly but took a few minutes to figure out how to lift the dog bone lids. The Tornado Puzzle is considered difficulty Level 2, and there are other puzzles available with difficulty Levels 1-4.
The several layers and treat compartments that challenge your dog can also be a challenge to clean. Luckily, the whole thing is made of plastic and can be submerged in soapy water for cleaning, though the manufacturer has not indicated if this is dishwasher safe or not. This Tornado puzzle is also intended for puppies or smaller dogs and is a little on the smaller side. Larger noses and paws might have a little more difficulty maneuvering through some of the tight spaces. However, there are a number of other sizes, styles, and difficulty levels available to find the perfect challenge for any pooch.
Available difficulty levels: Level 1 (Easy), Level 2 (Intermediate), Level 3 (Advanced), Level 4 (Expert)
The KONG Wild Knots Bear is a cute plush bear with minimal stuffing and an internal rope skeleton. More durable than a basic plush toys, the Wild Knots Bear is ideal for tug of war lovers who quickly tear apart other toys without internal reinforcements. We have found that some dogs clearly prefer to clamp down on plush toys with a somewhat rigid, tough center core, like the rope skeleton here, over soft stuffing insides.
Our canine testing team had mixed results with this toy's longevity. One pooch who loves tug of war really liked the furry texture and the feel of the rope reinforcement, while another pup who is a ripper and a tearer quickly removed the internal ropes and squeaker. It appeared to our dog parents that the presence of the harder, interior rope skeleton intrigued and compelled some dogs to rip into the toy to find the hidden treasure inside. Like with most toys, we recommend monitoring your dog's play in case they remove the ropes or squeaker so that they don't ingest them. Depending on your dog's tendencies, this could be a great and durable option or could present an extra temptation to extract the goodies from the inside.
Available sizes: X-Small, Small/Medium, Medium/Large, X-Large
The Benebone Maplestick is a clever synthetic stick that has the smell and flavor of maple wood without the splintery mess of a real stick. This durable chew toy is popular with our stick-loving canine testers, and its durability withstood even the most powerful chewers.
Like with any chew toy, we recommend monitoring your dog's use of the Maplestick. Once it gets worn down, it can get a rough and sharp surface that can be abrasive to your dog's mouth or paws as well as human bystanders. Also, small little bits can get chewed off and could end up on the floor or getting swallowed. We recommend consulting with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.Available Sizes: Small, Medium, Large
Available Flavors: Bacon, Maple Wood
From hunting breeds that instinctually shake it like their prey, to gentle giants that snuggle it like their baby, the Multipet Duckworth Duck is one of the favorite plush toys of nearly all of the dogs on our testing team. There seems to be something about its generous size and plump shape that gets their attention, and the cute duck design created several awwwwww moments during our testing. Although it's designed a plush chew toy, the generous 13" length and durable build also make it suitable for rough play and for tug of war lovers.
While no plush toy is going to be indestructible with most dogs, the Duckworth holds its own as one of the toughest that we tested. Like any stuffed animal, it tends to get dirty, slobbery, and worn down after it is well-loved by your pooch. This would be a great option for nurturing pooches that like to be protective over a snuggle buddy, or hunting breeds that like to practice stalking and shaking their prey. Our testing team includes a variety of breeds and they all seemed drawn to the Duckworth in one way or another.
One of the heavier-duty flying discs available on the pet market, the West Paw Zogoflex Zisc Dog Frisbee is made from a soft, pliable rubber that is both durable and comfortable to handle. The heavier weight helps maintain flight in windier conditions and helps withstand wear and tear from tough chewers or tuggers. The deep rim shape means that the disc can double as a food or water bowl and is even dishwasher safe, and the bright colors make it easy to find in the grass or bushes.
While we appreciate the Zogoflex Zisc for its rugged durability, it isn't our favorite flying disc because of its heavier weight. In most conditions, it's more difficult to throw with accuracy. A harder throw is usually required to get an accurate flight, and this can be a little intimidating to catch for dogs' mouths. While this extra weight is an advantage on windier days, it's harder to maintain the glide and flight you want in most conditions.
Available sizes: Small (6.5 inches), Large (8.5 inches)
The ZippyPaws Skinny Peltz plush toy set is a cute animal trio that includes a squirrel, fox, and a raccoon. Each toy includes three built-in squeakers and no stuffing that is usually tempting for many dogs to want to remove. Each animal's thin profile is ideal for smaller breeds with smaller mouths and is easy to grab and hold onto.
The overall durability of these animals is only average for plush toys, and some of our test pooches were able to immediately disarm or remove the squeakers. Since there isn't any stuffing to protect them, they can more easily be crushed or removed for especially curious or destructive dogs.
Available sizes: Small, Large
Why You Should Trust Us
This dog toy review is brought to you by our lead tester, Nick Bruckbauer. Nick has been a GearLab Review Editor since early 2019 and is an expert across a wide variety of consumer and outdoor products. A proud dog-father of a 2-year-old Weimaraner, Nala, he is very experienced with high-maintenance and high-energy dog breeds, also having previously had a German Shepherd mix and a Husky. Nick is very analytical with a background in engineering and has a history of analyzing his own personal expenditures on everything from big-ticket items to common household products.
Helping Nick out is a diverse testing team of colleagues and their furry friends, giving us a total of nine different dogs. Our pack includes everything from sub-10 pound lap dogs to 130+ pound mountain dogs and everything in between. We have cuddly gentle giants, prey-driven hunting breeds, and high-energy ball chasers. We gave each pooch a variety of toys and compared how each different breed and personality responded to each product. After weeks of running, chasing, biting, chewing, cuddling, and puzzle-solving, we have a comprehensive evaluation of the best options out there for you and your four-legged friend.
Analysis and Test Results
Our crew of canine companions happily put our lineup of dog toys to the test under our close supervision and curious observation. Our diverse pack of nine testing hounds showed us which toys are the most durable and most fun, and which ones provide the best mental stimulation and the most physical exertion. We rated each dog toy across four critical performance metrics and highlight which ones we think will be best for you and your pup.
Interest and Mental Stimulation
It's fun to see how different dogs have different personalities and preferences when it comes to their entertainment. Some are obsessed with chasing and fetching balls while others couldn't care less. Some love to simply cuddle a cute stuffed animal while others have instincts to pull it, tug it, or rip it apart. Some are driven by food or treats, and others just like to chew on anything they can get their paws on. By having a canine test crew of nine different dogs with different interests and personalities, we were able to find trends in which toys are the most popular and which are most interesting for different personalities. We also gauged how much mental stimulation each toy provides for dogs who like to work out their brains as well as their brawn.
For curious pups who otherwise like to snoop around and might normally get themselves in trouble, puzzle toys are a great option to challenge them and keep their minds occupied. The Trixie Flip Board and the Outward Hound Tornado Puzzle are both intermediate level options that have an assortment of different treat compartments with different methods of solving them. The Flip Board puzzle has compartments that are opened by sliding a cover, lifting a cone, or pushing a lever, and the Tornado puzzle has compartments that are reached by spinning a tray or lifting a cover. Both puzzles can be played at different levels of difficulty depending on how many of the compartments you include in the fun.
Similarly, the KONG Classic is a great option to keep curious pups occupied by filling its hollow center with kibble, treats, or peanut butter.
Another exciting toy that is an exciting blend of a puzzle and a squeaky plush animal is the Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle. This adorable puzzle game places a handful of small plush squirrels inside a plush log and challenges your dog to remove them. It's a blast to see how your dog approaches the challenge. Some dogs carefully and methodically extract each squirrel form their home, while others use brute force to pick up and shake the whole thing. The challenge of hunting these animals can stimulate the prey drive in certain dogs, making the game irresistible. Once the squirrels are removed from their home, it's easy to put them back in and reset the game. The little squirrels are pretty cute, so some dogs might want to hang out and cuddle with them, while others might be tempted to remove the squeakers.
The rest of the dog toys in our lineup may be interesting to your pup depending on their energy level and personality. Power chewers will be drawn to the natural scents in the Petstages Deerhorn chew toys, while frisbee lovers will enjoy chasing the soft gliding Chuckit Paraflight Flyer. Ball-obsessed pooches will find endless joy with the Chuckit Ultra Ball Launcher and gentle giants will love snuggling with the Multipet Duckworth Plush Duck.
Almost any toy or stuffed animal theoretically could be used as a dog toy, but as many of us dog parents with high-energy rippers and tearers have found, most toys simply don't last very long. Curious dogs love to chew, pull, and rip things apart, so durability is quite important for the longevity of a fun and interesting toy. In this testing metric, we let our dogs have at it. We gave them free rein on these toys (with appropriate supervision) and watched how long each product lasted under normal and reasonable use before it needed to be retired.
The most durable options that stood up to the teeth of our toughest testers are the KONG Classic, the Benebone Maplestick, and the Petstages Deerhorn. The KONG is made from durable rubber while the Maplestick and the Deerhorn are made from nylon with traces of natural materials, and are tough enough to satisfy the urges of the most powerful chewers. While these products have some of the strongest materials of the options in our lineup, please note that they will still show some wear and tear, so your chewer should be supervised to reduce any choking or swallowing hazards.
Of the plush toys that we tested, the Multipet Duckworth seems to be the most durable because of its overall size and bulk. Most of our pooches loved to carry around or snuggle the duck rather than destroying him. We had mixed reviews with the KONG Wild Knots Bear. One of our tug of war lovers really enjoyed the texture and the strength of the internal rope reinforcements, while one of our hunting breeds made quick work of removing the ropes, stuffing, and squeaker. The Zippy Paws Skinny Peltz trio doesn't have any stuffing to be removed, but that made the squeakers more easily accessible to be crushed or extracted.
The rest of the toys in our lineup are plenty durable when used correctly. The Trixie Flip Board Puzzle and the Outward Hound Tornado Puzzle should years with no issues, so long as you don't let your dog regard them as chew toys. The West Paw Zogoflex Zisc flying disc is much more durable than the Chuckit Paraflight Flyer, but both should be plenty durable when used as a flying disc unless they are turned into a chew toy. The Chuckit Ultra Ball Launcher should have no problem lasting for the life of your dog, although the stock felt balls themselves will wear out and could be replaced with more durable rubber balls.
Let's face it, a tired dog is a good dog. We love our furry friends, but curious, nosy, or restless dogs can get into mischief. Sometimes they just need to get the wiggles out, and having the perfect toy for active play can increase the fun and quality of life for your high-energy pooch. Our canine testing team has several high-energy breeds that can seemingly play forever, and we evaluated which toys are the best way to harness their energy.
The Chuckit Ultra Ball Launcher is the classic fetch toy that should definitely be in the arsenal of any parent of a ball-obsessed dog. The Chuckit is available in a variety of handle lengths and balls sizes to help you find the perfect match for you and your pet. The simple design allows you to pick up the ball without bending over too far or getting your hands dirty, and lets you effortlessly launch it for an endless game of fetch. The Chuckit Ball Launcher is a staple at dog parks and is the favorite of our lead test dog, Nala.
For athletic and agile dogs that like chasing flying discs, the Chuckit Paraflight Flyer earns our Top Pick. Its lightweight design is easy to throw and glides exceptionally well, making for a smooth, gentle descent and easy catches. While the Paraflight Flyer's lightweight construction struggles in higher winds, the heavier-duty West Paw Zogoflex picks up the slack. The Zogoflex doesn't glide as smoothly and gently as the Paraflight Flyer, but cuts through the air better when the wind picks up, and is more durable overall. However, not all pups are a fan of the Zogoflex, because to throw it accurately, you have to throw it with some force. Not all dogs we enthused to catch it in their mouths due to the velocity and heavy weight combo.
The KONG Classic gets an honorable mention in this category since it can be used as a fetch toy, and its asymmetric shape makes it bounce around unpredictably for a fun game. The Benebone Maplestick and Petsages Deerhorn chew toys also get a mention since they have natural scents and flavors that activate some dogs' natural primal instincts and seem to occupy their attention and energy pretty well.
Some dog toys have standout features that may not be reflected in other performance metrics but made a special impression on us or our furry friends. For example, we think that the Multipet Duckworth Plush Duck and the Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel toys are just ridiculously cute. Many of our test dogs agreed and loved to carry them around and snuggle them. The Hide-A-Squirrel is also available with other animals like bees or hedgehogs that are equally adorable.
The Trixie Flip Board puzzle is unique because it has three different types of puzzles that challenge and stimulate your dog in different ways. You can use one or all of the compartments to vary the degree of difficulty. The KONG Wilde Knots Bear is an innovative plush toy with a rope skeleton that adds extra durability to help withstand tug of war games while keeping a soft and cuddly exterior. The KONG Classic is a simple yet versatile toy that can be used as an unpredictable fetch toy, and durable chew toy, or a very effective treat holder.
Our experienced testing crew and their canine companions had a blast bringing you this review of the best dog toys. Our nine different test pooches come in all different sizes, shapes, breeds, and personalities, and gave us a diverse audience to help you find the best options for you and your furry friend. We hope that this guide helps lead to many happy and healthy days with your dog.
— Nick Bruckbauer