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The Best Safe Toys For Dogs To Keep Busy Dogs Busy


In the market for safe toys for dogs? From indestructible to interactive, we’re sharing our list of the best dog toys on the market.

When it’s time to pick out a new toy for your dog—for Christmas, a birthday, a “Gotcha Day,” or a Thursday—remember the golden rule of quality over quantity.

It goes without saying that nobody knows your dog better than you do, but a little help can go a long way in picking out treats and toys that are the best fit for your dog’s personality, lifestyle, and chewing habits.

Safe toys for dogs: Fact or fiction?

The term “safe toys for dogs” is actually an oxymoron. The truth is, just like a “safe car,” safe dog toys don’t exist. Safety is relative to the driver (or in this case, the dog) and the surrounding environment.

How you shop for dog toys depends on the dog you’re buying for. Are they missing teeth? Easily bored? A compulsive chewer?

From dog chews to DIYs, we’ve rounded up our top recommendations for the best dog toys in Canada.

Enrichment and activity toys for dogs

Dogs have a natural instinct to hunt and explore. Take their noses, for example, a canine nose contains approximately 300 million olfactory receptors—a fair few more than the average human (about 6 million). Using activity toys that trigger dogs’ sense of smell or taste can be as stimulating as it is fun.

EXPERT TIP: Positive reinforcement is a great way to encourage your dog to use their natural instincts without causing you grief or putting them in danger.

The benefits of adding safe toys for dogs to your dog’s toy box include:

  • Preventing behavioral issues such as separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, and food or possession guarding behaviors;
  • Redirecting an energetic puppy’s nipping habit; and
  • Mentally stimulating a senior pet.

There are loads of puzzle and activity toys for dogs on the market, but if you’re up to the challenge, why not try a DIY?

DIY activity toys for dogs

Here are two of our favorite DIY activities that will keep your dog’s sniffer stimulated and out of the garbage.

Hide-and-Sniff

What you’ll need:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Containers with lids
  • Treats and toys
  • Scissors

What you’ll do:

  1. Assemble your boxes and containers. An empty shoebox or clean yogurt container from your recycling bin will do the trick.
  2. Place a treat and/or a toy in each.
  3. Use your scissors to carefully poke holes in the holding containers before placing them on the ground. Add an extra challenge by “hiding” them in different parts of the house.
  4. Let your dog’s nose work its magic!
EXPERT TIP: Up the ante for your dog by baiting only a few of the containers.

Homemade Snuffle Mat

What you’ll need:

  • Tea towel or thin towel
  • Treats

What you’ll do:

  1. Lay a towel flat on the ground
  2. Place a few treats in the towel’s center
  3. Fold the towel lengthwise across the treats
  4. Tie the towel in a loose knot to secure the treats in the middle
  5. Place your DIY snuffle mat on the ground and let your dog start sniffing
EXPERT TIP: If your dog unties knots with ease, increase the difficulty level by tying several tea towels together in a row.

If you’d rather buy than DIY an activity toy for your dog but don’t know where to start, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered.

Our Waggle Mail dog subscription boxes are vet-curated based on your dog’s age, breed, personality, and other key attributes. If you happen to be the parent of a busy, nosey dog, we’ll source the right toys to keep them out of trouble.

Dog chew toys: The best (and worst) toys for tough teeth

Chewing is another natural canine instinct, but sometimes dogs have a tough time distinguishing the edible from the inedible (like shoes, drywall, or sweaters, to name a few). Different dogs have different motivations for chewing, too.

EXPERT TIP: If you’ve noticed your dog is regularly chewing and ingesting rocks, socks, and other unusual materials, they may be suffering from pica. Pica can be caused by nutritional imbalances, diseases affecting their metabolism, or even behavioural disorders. Schedule a visit to your vet to get in front of the issue.

Even though dogs’ teeth are notoriously tough, it’s important to monitor what they’re sinking those teeth into.

Chewing on items harder than their teeth can create micro-fractures that may, over time, cause a chunk of the crown to break off. This is called a slab fracture, and trust us—it’s as ouch for your dog as it is your wallet.

We’ve put together a list to help you decide: to chew, or not to chew?

Do chew

Don’t chew

  • Natural bones (raw or cooked)
  • Antlers and hooves
  • Large rawhide bones
  • Ice cubes
  • Tennis balls

Surprised to see tennis balls on the list? The nylon fuzz traps dirt and can act like sandpaper, gradually wearing down your dog’s teeth.

No bones about it: Why you shouldn’t give your dog a bone

Most people think of dogs and bones as a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, the assumption that it’s totally natural for dogs to chew on bones is a myth.

The FDA sets the record straight in their Consumer Health Information report: bones as toys is a bad idea. Along with breaking teeth, they can:

  1. Injure your dog’s mouth or tongue
  2. Become lodged in their throat
  3. Loop around your dog’s jaw
  4. Get stuck in their stomach or intestines, causing blockages and requiring surgery
  5. Lead to constipation and discomfort
  6. Cause trauma (bleeding) to their colon or rectum
  7. Poke holes in gut layers as they pass, increasing the risk of abdominal bacterial infections

As tempting as it may be to throw your dog a bone after a hearty holiday meal, it’s best to stick to one of the many “do chew,” tooth-friendly alternatives out there.

What are the best Safe toys for dogs?

This one’s easy: you!

It goes without saying that necessities like food and water are a must, but more than anything, dogs need love, patience, and affection.

Playing with your dog is a beautiful way to strengthen your pet-parent bond. Teaching and learning new tricks, going on adventures, or a friendly game of tug-of-war are all things you and your dog can do together regardless of the season or season of life.

EXPERT TIP: Contrary to popular belief, old dogs can learn new tricks. In fact, they’re often easier to train than their energetic puppy counterparts.

Whether you’re in the sun or the snow, these are some of our team’s top ways to play with your pooch:

Winter activities for dogs

  • Throw snowballs for them (the fresher the snow, the better to reduce the risk of dirt and other debris)
  • Head out on a winter hike
  • Unleash their inner artist with pup-safe, washable paw prints (you can find non-toxic children’s paint at your local craft store)
  • Try skijoring (a canine-assisted version of cross-country skiing)
  • Spend an afternoon in the kitchen baking (we love including dog-friendly recipes in our monthly Waggle (e)Mail newsletters)
  • Snuggle up on the couch for a movie night. Yes, you heard that right—dogs like the big screen, too. Once you press play, keep an eye out for what elicits a happy response (e.g., tail wags) versus a fear response (e.g., pacing).

Summer activities for dogs

  • A sensory walk in the woods
  • Make new friends at an off-leash dog park (provided your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and it’s safe to do so)
  • Grab a cheeky afternoon pint at a dog-safe patio
  • Plan a summertime camping trip
  • Host a backyard pet party
  • Go for a swim at the lake

Give your dog the gift of Waggle Mail

From our vet to your doorstep, our quarterly dog subscription boxes make gift-giving easy. We pack each box with top quality interactive dog toys, healthy chews, and everything you need to take the very best care of your very best friend.

Like what you read? Subscribe to Waggle (e)Mail for pupcake recipes, DIYs, and other ways to promote a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy pet-parent bond.

Signature of Dr. Christine Beck, DVM, BSc, Veterinarian; Founder and Operator of Waggle Mail

Dr. C. Beck
Registered Veterinarian, Founder & CEO

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