Best Dog Toys of 2021
The Kong Classic is super versatile, pulling triple duty as a fetch toy, a chew toy, or a treat holder, and it comes in multiple sizes and rubber thicknesses, ensuring that there's an appropriate option for every dog breed. The amorphic shape bounces around erratically, creating a captivating experience for high-energy and prey-driven pets. If you have a strong chewer, the tough rubber construction holds up well, and you can stuff the hollow center with various goodies like treats, kibble, peanut butter, or even yogurt (freezing it makes for a more drawn-out experience). A stuffed Kong can grab the attention of a high-maintenance dog and keep them engrossed in a problem-solving exercise. The Kong is dishwasher safe, so it's a cinch to clean up any excess peanut butter or treat residue.
The Kong Classic's tough rubber will hold up to your average chewer well; however, for those with super jaws that need more resistance, you may want to upgrade to the heavier-duty Extreme version with denser rubber. Kong also makes softer Puppy and Senior versions for less powerful and more sensitive mouths. With the variety of sizes and material thicknesses, tough construction, and a wide array of play options, the Kong is a classic toy that most dogs are sure to enjoy.
Available Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large
For the dog owners seeking the perfect tool to keep up with ball-infatuated tail-waggers, the Chuckit! Ultra Ball Launcher is the answer. The classic design makes it simple to retrieve and load a ball without putting your hands on the dirt or slobber-caked toy. Also, the springy slingshot construction that allows you to throw balls repeatedly makes sure that you don't get worn out before your dog does. We tested the 26-inch 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. It also comes in a few different lengths and handle varieties for ease when carrying or traveling, and there are different diameter balls and launcher sizes to suit your pooch. The Medium size launcher comes with a 2.5-inch diameter felt ball, which is also conveniently adaptable to the classic 2.7-inch tennis ball.
We didn't have any major gripes with this product. It keeps your hands clean and your tossing arm fresh, allowing for long-lasting games of fetch for even the most high-energy of dogs. The launcher includes a felt ball, but we recommend upgrading to the more durable rubber balls that will withstand more chewing and biting. You can purchase these tough Chuckit! rubber balls up separately. The Chuckit! is a highly popular toy, and we often see them in action on trips to the beach or a dog park.Available handle lengths: 12", 14", 18", 25", 26"
Available launcher/ball sizes: Small(2"), Medium(2.5"), Large(3.0"), X-Large(3.5")
The Chuckit! Paraflight Flyer 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. This disc carries most of its weight around the perimeter, and its unique lightweight design provides excellent aerodynamics, evident as this disc glides smoothly through the air and makes a gentle descent for easy grabbing. It even floats, a benefit if you frequently hang out in or around water with your pooch. Its bright colors make it easier to spot once it gets dirty or if it gets caught up in trees or bushes. The price is right, to boot.
While we love how the Paraflight Flyer is easy to throw and floats through the air, its lightweight construction can 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. The gentle padding and excellent flight characteristics make the Paraflight Flyer our favorite flying disc.
For intelligent pups that always seem to get themselves into mischief, the Trixie Flip Board puzzle is a great tool to harness and focus their curiosity in a safe and productive way. The simple design comes with three different types of puzzle challenges, including discs to slide to the side, cones to lift straight up, and levers to flip to open a lid. Filling a few or all of the compartments with treats or kibble provides different levels of challenge for your pup.
While we appreciate the Trixie Flip Board for its versatility with three different puzzle challenges, smart pups may still master it pretty quickly. 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. 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 it's 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
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 soft chew toy, the Hide-A-Squirrel includes three small stuffed squirrels (with squeakers) housed inside a plush treehouse. It provides a fun challenge to see whether your pup will use delicate finesse or brute force to pull the animals out of their home, and can 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 quickly 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, if given the opportunity. These little squirrels will likely tempt dogs that like to remove squeakers from toys. 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 the manufacturer claims are supposed to help clean your dog's teeth. Many of our test pooches loved the hours of chewing satisfaction provided by this toy.
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 in our lineup, our fleet of test dogs tended to prefer this one.
Available Sizes: Petite, Small, Medium, Large
The Outward Hound Dog Tornado 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. 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 Dog Tornado 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 whether or not this is dishwasher safe. The Tornado puzzle is also intended for puppies or smaller dogs and is slightly on the smaller side. Larger noses and paws might have a little more difficulty maneuvering through some of the tight spaces. However, several other sizes, styles, and difficulty levels are available to find the perfect challenge for any pup.
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 toy, the Wild Knots Bear is ideal for tug of war lovers who quickly tear apart other toys without internal reinforcements. In our experience, some dogs 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 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 more rigid 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 to make sure they don't ingest the rope or the squeaker, should they dismantle the toy. 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 an innovative synthetic stick with 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 and human bystanders. Small little bits can also 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 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 as a plush chew toy, the generous 13-inch length, and durable build also make it suitable for rough play and tug of war lovers.
While no plush toy will 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 toy would be an excellent option for nurturing dogs that like to be protective over a snuggle buddy, or hunting breeds that want 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 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 contains three built-in squeakers and no stuffing that is usually tempting for many dogs 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 pups were able to disarm or remove the squeakers immediately. 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 GearLab Editor Nick Bruckbauer. Nick has been with the GearLab team since early 2019 and is an expert across a wide variety of consumer and outdoor products. As a proud dog-father of a 2-year-old Weimaraner, Nala, he is very experienced with high-maintenance and high-energy dog breeds, having previously also had a German Shepherd mix and a Husky. Nick is very analytical with a background in engineering and has a habit of analyzing his own personal expenditures on everything from big-ticket items to everyday household products.
Helping Nick out is a diverse testing team of colleagues and their furry friends, giving us nine different dogs to test these toys. 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 pup a variety of toys and compared how each 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 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, most fun, provide the best mental stimulation, or the most physical exertion. We rated each dog toy across four critical performance metrics and highlight which options we think will be best for you and your pup.
Interest and Mental Stimulation
It's fun to see how different dogs with different personalities have different preferences regarding 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 found trends in which toys are the most popular and most interesting and stimulating for different temperaments.
For curious pups who otherwise like to snoop around and might generally 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 Dog Tornado are intermediate-level options with an assortment of different treat compartments with varying methods of solving them. The Flip Board puzzle has containers 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 lid. 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 a stimulating 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 soft log and challenges your dog to remove them. Some dogs carefully and methodically extract each squirrel from 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 particular 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 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 crucial for the longevity of a fun and exciting 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 our toughest testers' teeth 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. All three are quite robust and are built to help satisfy the urges of the most powerful chewers. While these products have some of the most robust 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 pups 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 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.
For the rest of the toys in our lineup, it's more important to use them correctly in order for them to remain durable. The Trixie Flip Board Puzzle and the Outward Hound Dog Tornado will likely last longer if you clean them regularly and don't let your dog treat them like chew toys. The West Paw Zogoflex Zisc flying disc is much more durable than the Chuckit! Paraflight Flyer, but both should provide plenty of throws when used properly as a flying disc and not as a chew toy or tug of war toy. The Chuckit! Ultra Ball Launcher is also well constructed, although the stock felt balls themselves will likely wear out and can 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 often 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 be in the arsenal of any parent of a ball-obsessed dog. The Chuckit! is available in various handle lengths and ball 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 is our favorite choice. 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. However, not all pups are fans 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 combination of the heavier weight and the faster throws.
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 particular 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 plush 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 each challenge and stimulate your dog differently. You can use one or all of the compartments to vary the challenge and the overall degree of difficulty. The Kong Wilde Knots Bear is an innovative plush toy with a rope skeleton that adds extra durability to help withstand rough 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 handy 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 pups came 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