The Best Dog Toys for Aggressive Chewers

Written by: Deb German

The Kong is a great toy for dogs prone to chewing.
Photo by Jessie, Rochester

All dogs chew: it is an expression of their natural instinct to shred, tear, and pull like they would prey in the wild. And some dogs—our beloved Labs, for example—are genetically predisposed to carry objects in their mouths. Aside from supporting the needs of working dogs (many of whom are also aggressive chewers), a durable chew toy is an excellent stand-in for your prized possessions—better a toy than the leg of your heirloom Eames, which has a satisfying crunch to it.

Choosing the right dog toys is essential: an aggressive chewer’s “habit” will leave you emptying your wallet every week to replace the toys he goes through like candy. Here’s a quick primer on the most durable dog toys to toss your determined pooch.

Hard rubber toys are the best. They come closest to being “indestructible,” and some are dishwasher safe. Your aggressive chewer will eventually prevail, but these toys will last longer than any others in his collection. Among these (and there are many), Kong is probably the most recognizable, and tailors its line of toys to specific canine needs: “extreme,” senior, puppy, dental, etc. But other rubber dog toys  made for active play will fit the bill, too.

Strong, fibrous rope toys finish a close second. Aside from their durability, most of these are machine washable, so you can remove the dog stink easily. And some rope toys help clean your dog’s teeth. Choose undyed cotton composed of many threads that create a thick, strong rope; if your dog manages to dislodge and consume individual threads, they’ll pass through him harmlessly.

Long-lasting dog treats will keep him occupied. Nylon and rawhide chew toys  fall into this category, but veterinary dentists warn these toys can damage a dog’s teeth. A good barometer: would you hesitate to chew on it yourself? If yes, the toy probably has the potential to crack a dog’s tooth; resilient toys are safer, and stuffing them with treats makes them irresistible.

Expect to pay more for durable dog toys. The alternative is spending less money more often. But spending more on a single, high-quality dog toy  is a win in the end: your dog will enjoy it longer, and it’s probably also a safer toy for him.

No dog toy lasts forever. Accept this truth and move on: it’s not a matter of whether your aggressive chewer will destroy a toy, but how soon. No toy is truly indestructible, in spite of a manufacturer’s claims—somewhere in the world a determined dog is shredding it. Your challenge is finding the safest, longest-lasting toys.

Choose safe toys  for your aggressive chewer. Here are the benchmarks:

  • Tough Enough The toy should remain intact during vigorous chewing and play, but shouldn’t put too much pressure on your dog’s teeth.
  • Non-Toxic A toy spends a lot of time in your dog’s mouth; toxins leach into his saliva, thence to his gut. And if he manages to dislodge and swallow small bits of the toy, the pieces he consumes should be harmless. Check the composition of the toy for toxins before you buy.
  • No Plush Toys or Squeakers Some dogs will try like crazy to destroy a plush toy; for others the squeaker is the prize, and they will search for it tirelessly. I once had a German Shepherd who could disembowel a plush dog toy—any plush dog toy—in under ten minutes. Beware: internal squeakers and stuffing materials are dangerous for your dog; the squeaker is a choking hazard, and while the stuffing itself may be non-toxic, it can obstruct the intestines (vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms).
  • No Vinyl or Latex They won’t take a beating, and like their plush cousins sometimes contain dangerous squeakers.

Keep your eye on the dog. Never underestimate him: his toy is potentially up against boredom, to say nothing of sheer determination. If you notice small bits and pieces floating around, or his toy looks smaller than it was when you gave it to him, pitch it: don’t risk your dog’s health over a toy.

Pliant, safe, high-quality, and durable: these are the attributes to look for in the best dog toys for your aggressive chewer. And it never hurts to crowd-source: survey other dog owners and ask which toys in their experience have outlasted the rest. Your “chewy” dog will thank you.

Have a great chew toy story for us? Tell it in our comments below.

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