Do You and Your Dog Know the Difference Between Chew Toys and Play Toys? Here are 8 Great Options!


Dogs love toys. It's a fact. However, our dogs and even many of us don't know the difference between chew toys and play toys. There really are differences in the way these toys should be played with, how they may make our dogs behave, and in the amount of supervision required.

Play Toys:

  • Play toys aren't meant to be chewed and parts may come off and cause an impaction in our dog if swallowed. 
  • Play toys are great for when we want to play with our dog, or for when dogs are playing together with our supervision.
  • Play toys are good for getting our dogs and cats to exercise in a fun way. 
  • It's good for our health to play with our dogs, as well!
  • There are even some really fun play toys that are actually learning toys and food dispensers!

Chew Toys:

  • Chew toys are meant to be chewed! 
  • I recommend providing supervision with chew toys.
  • Chew toys are not great for play time and dogs may not want to share their chew toys with other dogs.
  • Chew toys are good for when it's time to calm down and be quiet so we can get some work done. 
  • Many chew toys help scrape tartar from our dog's teeth.

Toys can also be used as a training trigger for playtime and quiet time behaviors. Here are my favorite chew toys, play toys and puzzle toys!!

1. Rawhides

Shop rawhides here. 

-Chew Toy

I think rawhides are a great option for inducing quiet time in dogs. I can give all three of my dogs a small rawhide chip, and they will each lie-down and eat it happily for twenty minutes, and then take a nap. That gives me a nice chunk of time to get some work done on my computer without interruptions. Of course, there are also larger rawhides that can keep dogs occupied for even longer amounts of time.

The main thing to watch for with a rawhide is an overeager dog trying to swallow too big a piece and starting to choke, or low-quality foreign made rawhides held together with glue.

See the difference between American-Made and overseas-made rawhides?

I recommend buying American-Made rawhides like those from Wholesome Hide and Tasman's Naturals. There are a lot of stories out there about rawhides being dangerous, but this is not true when we buy American-Made rawhides. One of the myths around rawhides is that dogs can't digest them and they cause impactions. This is far less likely with the American-Made rawhides that Hollywood Feed carries because they're thicker and they are made out of full sheets that don't come apart easily. Food safety and quality standards are much higher in American factories than overseas.

Read 3 Reasons We Should Buy American Made Food and Treats for Our Pets to learn more.

2. Bully Sticks

Shop bully sticks here.

-Chew Toy

Bully sticks are another delicious option for dogs when it's time to calm down. I have never seen a dog turn one down, and my three absolutely love them. Bully sticks usually come in a larger size, but we can use bolt cutters to break them into smaller pieces for smaller dogs.

Another thing to remember when we're giving our dogs chew toys regularly is that they may provide a significant number of calories, especially to dogs who are smaller or less active. We need to keep that in mind and adjust our dogs daily kibble allotment if necessary!3. Bones

3. Bones

Shop bones here.

-Chew Toy

Bones by Butcher's Block are simply delicious. These bones come in different sizes and cuts, and can be given to dogs when we want a longer period of concentration and quiet. These big and meaty bones will occupy a dog for hours or even days. I like to keep my dogs interested in their bone or chew every time I'm ready to give them one by making sure that I take the bone or chew away when quiet time is over. That way it will last longer as well!

Supervise dogs when they are chewing on bones, and make sure to throw a bone away when it begins to splinter. Dogs should not swallow cooked bone shards!

4. Kong Classic

Shop Kong Classic here.  

-Chew Toy, Play Toy, Puzzle Toy

I think a Kong Classic can be a play toy, learning toy and a chew toy!

I like to stuff a Kong with peanut butter and give it to my dogs. I also like to stuff a Kong with plain yogurt and then stick it in the freezer for a cool treat that will take quite a while to finish in the summertime. It's also fun to stuff a Kong with plain old treats and jerky.

My dogs each have different techniques for getting treats to come out of a Kong. Skeeter has a slow and steady slurp, holding down the Kong with his paws. Annie has a quick and frantic race to try to get to whatever is inside her Kong. Fitz likes to pick up the Kong in his mouth and then drop it on the ground, hoping treats will bounce out without having to do much work.

When our dogs are done enjoying their afternoon treat, the Kong Classic can become a play toy. The Kong's uneven shape causes it to bounce in unpredictable directions when it's dropped, and it's the most durable dog toy I've found.

Read What My Dogs Love About Kong and 6 Ways to Keep Your Dog Cool in the Summer Heat to learn more about Kong Classic.

5. Ropes

Shop ropes here.  

-Play Toy

Rope toys are a great option for getting active and playing with our dog. Tug-of-war is fun with a rope toy, whether our dog plays with us or his doggy siblings. Rope toys are a great way to sneak some exercise into playtime as well.

Rope toys should last for a very long time if we don't allow our dog to chew them. Remember, rope toys are play toys, not chew toys! Play toys should be taken up after playtime is over. This will prevent toys from getting destroyed, and prevent dogs from swallowing pieces they should not be swallowing.

6. Kong Wubbas

Shop Kong Wubbas here.  

-Play Toy

Kong Wubbas are a fun and durable toy that we can take anywhere with us to have fun with our dogs! Wubbas will hold up in the backyard or at the dog park. They are fun to fetch, to shake, and to tug. They are also perfect for when we want to play with our dogs and be active.

Wubbas come in fun colors, either soft or durable materials, and different animal shapes.

Read 9 Must-Haves for Your Next Trip to the Dog Park to learn more about Kong Wubbas.

7. Puzzle Feeders

Shop Nina Ottosson Puzzle Feeders here.  

-Puzzle Toy

Nina Ottosson's puzzle feeders are a great way to get our dogs to think, problem solve, and learn a little! We simply hide our dog's dinner kibble in the puzzle feeder, and our dog must solve the puzzle in order to eat. This means that they must think about how to get to their food, and then follow-through.

My dogs each figured out how to solve their Nina Ottosson puzzle feeder at different rates, but they each made progress with each attempt and had it down by their 2nd or 3rd experience with the puzzle feeder. We may have to step in and give our dogs a hint if they have trouble figuring things out the first time they eat from the puzzle feeder, as well.

Read 5 Ways to Keep Dogs Occupied on Rainy Days to learn more about my dogs' experience with Nina Ottosson puzzle feeders.

8. Interactive Feeders

Shop Interactive Feeders here.  

-Puzzle Toy

Interactive feeders are similar to puzzle feeders, in that dogs must work harder to get to their kibble and think a little to finish their food. My two favorite interactive feeders are the Kong Wobbler and the Green Interactive Feeder.

The Kong Wobbler is shaped like the Kong Classic but unscrews into two pieces. We fill the inside with kibble and then screw it back together. The bottom is filled with sand, and there is a small hole in the side of the Wobbler, of which kibble is meant to fall out. Our dog must figure out that he needs to push the Wobbler around with his nose or paw to get it to roll on the floor, allowing kibble to fall out of the small hole. This process takes longer than eating out of a bowl and takes patience and determination by our dog. Mine seem to have a lot of fun with the Wobbler!

The Green Interactive Feeder is another great option for slowing down mealtime and making dogs work a little harder and longer to get their dinner eaten. It also forces dogs (and cats!) to do a little problem-solving and thinking to get to their kibble, nestled between the large bumps or ‘grass blades' of the feeder. Dogs and cats use their tongues, teeth, lips, noses, and paws to get to their kibble, and seem to enjoy dinner until the very last bite is gone.

Read Slow Feeder Solutions for Spot to learn about the other benefits of slow feeders.

What are your dog's favorite chew toys, play toys and learning toys? Has your dog ever used an interactive feeder or puzzle bowl? Let us know all about it in the comment section!

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  • Jessie Isbell
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