For pets, toys are a necessity, not a luxury. While some hardier dogs require hardier toys, many prefer softer ones. And soft dog toys may actually be better for them.
Softer toys present a number of physical and behavioral benefits for dogs. So, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best soft toys for dogs on the market, as well as some safety tips you need to know.
How Are Soft Toys Beneficial to Dogs?
Toys, in general, give dogs something to play and have fun with by themselves or with others. Playing with toys relieves boredom and provides both mental and physical stimulation. They also give comfort and companionship when you’re not around, and naturally, soft toys are a lot more comforting than a hard ball or bone.
Softer toys can be necessary for older dogs with brittle teeth and gums, and puppies with baby teeth prior to the teething period. They also help younger dogs with their social development and provide relief to stress and anxiety that could otherwise create behavioral issues.
What to Look for in Soft Dog Toys
So what should we look for when buying our dogs’ toys? The two main things you need to consider are durability and safety. The toy needs to be an appropriate size for your dog so it doesn’t pose a choking hazard, and you should watch out for toys containing any toxic materials.
There’s also no point in spending money on something that will break straight away, so durability is just as important and also adds to the safety of the toy, as bits that break off easily pose a choking hazard.
In soft toys, multi-layered fabrics or felt wool plush toys, and cotton rope toys are the most durable materials. Also, look for strong joinery and stitching such as inversed or Z stitching. For your convenience, you may want to check on the labels of the toys whether they’re machine washable before you buy them, too.
Dangerous Materials in Soft Dog Toys
Manufacturers commonly use toxic materials in their toys, so watch out for anything containing any of the following; polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalates, lead, chromium, formaldehyde, and cadmium.
Toys made from PVC, more commonly known as vinyl, may seem harmless at first glance. There’s nothing wrong with vinyl in itself. However, 57% of vinyl contains chlorine, which adds a number of useful properties including durability, but it is poisonous to ingest.
Vinyl is also a very tough material. In order to soften it and make it more flexible, manufacturers add phthalate which is also toxic. Both of these substances release from the toy slowly over time. Long-term ingestion of chlorine can cause cancer and immune system damage, while phthalates can damage the liver and kidneys.
Many imported dog toys also contain lead, chromium, and cadmium, all of which are extremely poisonous to ingest, especially for puppies. Chromium is a cancer-producing agent, Cadmium destroys the joints, kidneys, and lungs, and coming into contact with lead can cause lead poisoning. Signs of lead poisoning include a lack of appetite and muscle coordination, stomach upsets, hysterical anxiety, jaw clenching, drooling, and seizures.
Risks With Stuffing Used in Soft Dog Toys
Another risk with plush toys for dogs is the stuffing inside them. Like regular teddy bears for humans, lots of plush dog toys have stuffing inside of them. Many dogs can play gently with stuffed toys and it isn’t an issue. But for those that like to shake their toys and play on the rough side, stuffing may be a problem.
Stuffing usually contains toxic materials and is a big choking/internal blockage hazard. For this reason, these toys are not always highly recommended by vets.
Sometimes stuffing doesn’t even have to get out of the toy to cause problems, either. The toxins from inside the toy can actually get into a dog’s system just from them holding it in their mouths. Some dogs can also get skin allergies from simply holding the toys close to their faces.
That said, if your dog really loves stuffed toys, you can get plush toys with hypoallergenic, natural, non-toxic stuffing. They’re typically a little more expensive, but worth it!
Do's and Don'ts of Other Dog Toys
We’ve talked about the risks involved with comfort toys, but what about other types of dog toys?
Balls are one of the most common things kept in a dog’s toy box, but the wrong one can pose a serious risk of choking to your dog. Always make sure the ball is too big for your dog to accidentally swallow, but not so big they can’t pick it up!
When buying a rope toy for your dog, check what material it’s made from. All-natural materials like cotton are fairly harmless if accidentally swallowed, whereas man-made materials may cause internal blockages that require urgent veterinary treatment.
That said, no rope toy should be used as a chew toy, as even natural fibers can cause blockages if swallowed in large quantities, especially long threads.
Chew toys must be made from a non-toxic, durable material to ensure your dog’s safety. Bisphenol A or BPA is a chemical sometimes used in chew toys. It can cause disruptions throughout a dog’s endocrine system.
So look for BPA free chew toys and strong materials that won’t break easily, such as rubber, causing potential choking hazards.
Enrichment toys are toys that double as a puzzle or game, such as treat dispensers. Many enrichment toys have removable parts that your dog may get a hold of during the game, so make sure you always supervise your dog during play when this is the case.
Top 10 Best Soft Dog Toys
We’ve put together a list of the 10 best soft toys for dogs, focusing on fun, safety & durability.
1. GoDog Furballz Plush Dog Toy
This GoDog plush toy is the perfect soft toy for heavy chewers. This cute, fluffy ball with eyes is complete with a fun squeaker and uses Chew Guard Technology for a tougher toy. No toy is indestructible, but Chew Guard Technology adds a super-strong, heavy-duty lining to the plush, to make it as close as possible. It’s also machine washable for your convenience.
The toy has mostly five-star reviews, with many buyers praising the toy as their dog’s favorite. Reviewers especially praise the toy’s durability with bigger dogs! Furballz come in all different sizes and colors and are designed to meet safety standards that put your mind at rest.
Available in packs of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 on Amazon, Furballz range from affordable to on the expensive side depending on the size & pack that you buy, but worth it if you need something especially tough, but still cute for your dog.
2. Chuckit! Indoor Ball Dog Toy
Chuckit! is famous for its range of outdoor fetch toys. But this plush ball by Chuckit! has a lightweight design for indoor use that protects your home and still has plenty of bounce for your dog. But lightweight does not have to mean flimsy! The ball is constructed with multilayered materials for long-lasting durability. That said, there are a handful of reviews that said this ball did not last long with their dog, so it’s perhaps not best for extreme or heavy chewers.
The ball is inexpensive, machine washable, comes in all different sizes, and the chenille surface fabric provides a fun texture for dogs, that’s especially popular with puppies. Additionally, the bright color combination of orange and blue makes for a high-visibility toy, which is perfect for older dogs with impaired vision, or just in case it does venture outside.
3. Outward Hound Invincibles Plush Dog Toy
Outward Hound‘s ‘Invincibles’ toy line was specifically designed for dogs who like to play rough. As the name would suggest, with double the seams and double the linings, they are as close to indestructible as a toy can be. Though they are plush, they also don’t contain any stuffing.
Moderately priced with rave reviews, Invincibles come in many sizes and shapes, including snakes, pigs, ducks, and more! They’re multicolored and patterned for a more mentally stimulating experience, and every toy is fitted with multiple squeakers for interactive fun. These toys are perfect for playing alone & with others. The only downside to this toy is that it is not machine washable.
4. Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy
Another Outward Hound creation, this plush toy doubles as a puzzle game for our brainy four-legged friends who need that extra mental stimulation. The hide and seek or hide and ‘squeak’ style game, consists of a log, with little squeaky plush squirrels that fit inside of it. The game is to get them all out, challenging your dog’s problem-solving skills & keeping them engaged.
The soft dog toy is gentle on teeth and gums, machine washable, made from non-toxic materials, and has rave reviews regarding the game element of the toy. It comes in all different sizes and is on the expensive side, but with many reviewers claiming that this toy entertains dogs for hours, it’s sure to keep boredom at bay.
That said, many reviews also state that the toy is not particularly tough or durable for heavy chewing dogs, though the brand does offer replacement squirrels at an affordable price.
5. HuggleHounds Woodlands Corduroy Knottie Squeaky Plush Dog Toy
These HuggleHounds plushes make very sweet, comforting companions for dogs. Coming in a variety of woodland animals such as raccoons, frogs, and foxes, they really are cute dog toys.
However, with Tuft Technology lining for extra durability, knotted limbs, and multiple squeakers in each toy, they are also great fun and perfect for heavy chewers. Many of the reviews back this up, especially praising the toy’s longevity with bigger dogs.
The toy comes in two sizes, small and large, and is moderately costly. But if you want a plush dog toy that will provide comfort and withstand heavy chewing, it’s worth the price! All of the toys in the HuggleHounds Woodlands line are machine washable, too.
6. West Paw Rowdies Lincoln Squeaky Plush Dog Toy
This West Paw plush toy is the only one on this list created specifically with larger dogs in mind. These four-legged fluff creatures with built-in squeakers are available in lots of different colors. They are also machine washable for easy washing. Rowdies use HardyTex fabric and Zogoflex rubber in order to withstand the roughest of playtimes.
They are expensive, but with plenty of good reviews, you may want to consider this toy for your extreme chewer! Rowdies are non-toxic and made in the USA. They are also manufactured using recycled plastic for an eco-friendly toy you can feel good about buying.
7. Multipet Duckworth Duck Large 13″
Though Multipet‘s plush duck toy is big, it’s suitable for all size pets. It’s also very affordable. Available in all different colors and filled with fun squeakers, these ducks are machine washable and make very cute companions.
That said, whilst the majority of reviews are great, there are some that point out this isn’t a toy for heavy chewers. It’s also a stuffed toy, so bear that in mind!
8. Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Dog Toy
The original heart-beat puppy toy! SmartPetLove‘s Snuggle Puppy is designed to comfort your puppy during the transition into their new home. The battery-operated heartbeat & heat pack satisfies the natural instinct to cuddle up at night. Snuggle Puppy allows them to mimic the behavior with something that feels real.
Countless reviews praise the toy’s ability to relieve fear and separation anxiety, giving new owners more peaceful nights. Snuggle Puppies are also machine washable and made from safe materials. They are expensive, but worth it for the lovely, calming effect it will have on your new pup.
9. KONG Scrunch Knots Fox Dog Toy
This sweet Kong companion plush is moderately priced and is available in the sizes small-medium and medium-large. While it’s cute & cuddly, it also doubles up as the perfect playmate.
It comes with internal knots to satisfy natural instincts, scrunched-up sides for a fun tug-of-war pull, squeakers, and no stuffing for less mess. As with all Kong toys, it’s also machine washable for easy cleaning.
The majority of reviews reflect all of the toy’s fun features, with many buyers praising the toy as their dog’s favorite. However, although Kong is famous for its tough toys, some reviews do claim this one isn’t quite as tough as the rest.
10. Ethical Pet Soothers Crinkle Squeaky Plush Dog Toy
These Soother plush cows by Ethical Pet are designed to help anxious dogs relax. This toy is ideal for pets with separation anxiety or fears such as traveling, visits to the vet, or thunderstorms and can be bought for dogs of any age.
Soothers are filled with non-toxic lavender aromatherapy beads to aid relaxation, and the soft plush material is perfect for snuggling. They’re also fit with squeakers and crinkles for extra interactivity, to distract dogs from their anxiety and encourage them to play instead.
The toy is one-size at 15” long, and not really intended for rough playing sessions. Though the aromatherapy beads are non-toxic, vets don’t recommend their ingestion. Unfortunately, they’re not removable without breaking the toy, and it’s always a risk your dog may do so and accidentally ingest them. So always supervise your dog. But when used for the reasons intended, reviews rave about the products calming effects.
Dog Soft Toys – FAQs
There are plenty of safe soft toys for dogs. Not all of them are safe, as some are made with toxic materials. So watch out for soft toys containing vinyl, phthalates, lead, chromium, formaldehyde, and cadmium.
Stuffing also poses a choking/internal blockage hazard and can cause allergies. If your dog really loves stuffed toys, you can buy hypoallergenic plush toys. Just make sure you supervise them during play!
The safest soft dog toys are stuffing free and made from non-toxic, tough materials. Durability is important because a toy that falls apart easily poses a choking hazard.
Without sufficient physical exercise, social interaction, and mental stimulation, yes, dogs can become bored and distressed being left home alone for long periods of time on a regular basis. The UK’s leading dog charity Dog’s Trust says that no dog should be left alone for more than four hours at a time.
To stop your dog from becoming bored, make sure they’re getting the appropriate amount of exercise they need, (ask your vet if you’re unsure what that is for your dog’s breed and size). Give your dog lots of love and attention, and socialize them with as many other people and dogs/animals as possible.
Lastly, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for all animals, so make sure your dog plays lots of fun games with you when you are at home together and that he has plenty of toys to keep him entertained when he’s alone.
If your dog is bored with regular toys, invest in some mentally stimulating toys! These include treat-dispensing puzzles & balls that make dogs use their brains to problem-solve, keep them engaged, and give rewards for their hard work. These toys give your dog a physical and mental workout.
Puppies often pull bits of their toys and sometimes eat them because they’re teething and exploring the world. An adult dog, on the other hand, may eat their toys because of boredom. Bed and toy eating is usually a sign that a dog isn’t getting enough mental stimulation or physical exercise.
On the other hand, dogs can act destructively when they’re anxious. Other signs of anxiety include pacing and panting. If you think this could be the case, you should try to eliminate the source of the anxiety from their lives or associate it with something positive if that’s not possible. Alternatively, you could invest in an anti-anxiety herbal supplement or home diffuser. Always ask your vet first!
Those are the ten best soft toys for dogs. What’s your dog’s favorite toy? Will you be buying him any of our recommendations for Christmas? Let us know in the comments down below!