How to Pick the Best Chew Toys for Puppies

Leslie Gillette, DVM
Jul 30, 2020
   |   7 min read
Image: Photo Grapher / via Image Bank

One of the best ways to keep your new puppy happy and make the transition into your home less stressful is to provide lots of age-appropriate puppy teething toys. Chew toys can help your puppy stay active, engaged, and out of trouble.

When choosing the best and safest puppy teething toys, keep in mind your puppy’s age, breed, size, personality, and tooth development stage.

Here’s how you can pick the best chew toys for your puppy and at what age you should offer them.

What Are the Best Chew Toys for Puppies 4-24 Weeks Old?

So when can you offer puppy teething toys? Here’s a timeline to guide you.

Birth to 12 Weeks Old: No Puppy Teething Toys Needed

Although baby teeth may start to erupt as puppies reach 4 weeks of age, this is not typically a time that puppies require toys or enrichment aside from their nesting environment with their mom and littermates.

During weeks 4 to12, the baby (deciduous) teeth continue to erupt. Most puppies won't need teething toys at this age either. This is when puppies are typically weaned from their mother’s milk and transition to soft puppy food. These tiny teeth can be very sharp but are not typically very strong, and they can be easily damaged if the puppy has access to a toy meant for an older dog.  

12 to 24 Weeks Old: Peak Puppy Teething Time

At 12 to 24 weeks, the baby teeth start to fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth. This is the peak stage of teething activity. It’s usually the most uncomfortable time for puppies and the most frustrating time for pet parents.

It is critical that you choose toys for your puppy that will help to ease the pain of teething and keep your puppy from chewing on furniture, shoes, your toes, or even your other pets! Chew toys labeled for puppies should also be appropriate for the size/breed of your puppy and enthusiasm with which your puppy chews.

Nylabone puppy teething toys, such as the Nylabone teething rings or Nylabone teething pacifier, are all great for puppies, as they have raised nubs on the surface that massage the gums as puppies chew.

KONG Puppy products are good for this age as well, as they can be filled with treats and frozen. The cold sensation numbs and soothes their gums. KONG makes a variety of teething toys sized for puppies by breed/body weight, and care should be taken not to offer a small KONG to a larger puppy that might accidentally swallow it. 

Likewise, the more durable or tough toys (like the KONG Puppy Teething Stick) should be reserved for more aggressive chewers and larger breed puppies.   

24 Weeks Old: Ready for Adult Chew Toys

Your puppy should be mostly done with teething around 24 weeks of age. Once the permanent teeth have come in, your puppy will be much more comfortable and (hopefully) much less inclined to chew on random household items.

At this stage, depending on your puppy’s size and activity level, you will have a wider variety of safe toy options to choose from:

Which Puppy Teething Toys Fit Your Puppy’s Personality?

When choosing the best chew toys for your puppy, you may also want to consider the following:

  • Do they have a lot of downtime in their crate or personal space? (distraction toys)

  • How active is your puppy? Do they enjoy rough and tumble play with their housemates? (action toys)

  • Do they seem shy or anxious around new people or in new situations? (comfort toys)

The answers will lead you to the best type of puppy teething toys for your particular dog: distraction toys, action toys, or comfort toys.

Distraction Toys (Rubber Treat-Holding Toys)

Distraction toys that can double as puppy teething toys are great for puppies that have downtime at home when their owners are away.

Toys that hold food or treats are a favorite, such as the classic KONG rubber toys, which come in a special KONG Puppy version that’s made with softer rubber for puppy teeth and gums. These can be filled with treats and even frozen to provide a constant source of enrichment and reward over several hours.

And although they are not teething toys, puzzle toys, such as the Pet Zone IQ Treat Dispenser, will keep puppies busy as they try to ‘unlock’ the reward inside.

Action Toys (Fetch and Rope Toys)

Action toys are perfect for those puppies that just never sit still. Fetch and rope toys aren’t your usual “puppy teething toys,” but they serve the dual purpose of satisfying an active dog’s need to play and chew.

Fetch Toys

Some of the best types of toys for active play are fetch toys. These are great for doing daily exercise, taking trips to the dog park, or trying to burn off that extra puppy energy at the end of the day.

Tennis balls can help exercise puppies and teach them to fetch, but they can be dangerous if too much of the outer felt is ingested or if the rubber core is penetrated and chewed into smaller pieces. Tennis balls should only be played with under your supervision.

The ChuckIt! Ball launcher is a good option for puppies. ChuckIt! tennis balls have a thicker rubber core, which makes them harder to chew into pieces, and ChuckIt! also makes balls in a variety of sizes for smaller and larger breeds. 

A large breed ChuckIt! ball may be too hard for small-breed puppy teeth, so it is important to follow the breed size guidelines on the packaging and not allow puppies to engage in prolonged chewing or have the toys without supervision (this can be said of any toy, really).

Rope Toys

Rope toys can also be great for gentle tug-of-war games with your puppy, and they can also satisfy their need to chew. Care must be taken not to tug too hard or to allow your puppy to dangle from the end of the tug rope. Not only is there the potential for injury, but you don’t want to encourage aggressive or ‘keep away’ types of behavior.

Rope toys should be reserved for older, larger breed puppies/young adult dogs whose permanent teeth have erupted. Young puppies (under 12 weeks of age) are more likely to sustain injuries to their teeth, jaws, and neck if tug-of-war play is too aggressive. Teeth could accidentally be pulled out, and the neck and jaw are vulnerable to injury when puppies are still developing. 

Rope toys should be made of durable material, such as strong cotton fibers that are tightly braided and unlikely to unravel. Some rope toys are designed for durability because they have knots that prevent unravelling in long strands. 

Rope toys that fray and unravel easily can  cause harm to puppies if they ingest long strands. Once swallowed, the strands could cause an obstruction in the stomach or intestine. Loose strands can also get tangled around the base of the tongue, which can cause a strangulation-type injury to the tongue itself.

Comfort Toys (Soft Plush Toys)

Soft, plush toys are ideal for younger puppies that have not developed their full chewing potential and are not likely to destroy the toy. They’re best for small breed or orphaned puppies, puppies under 12 weeks of age, or puppies that have anxiety issues and need a calming outlet.

Comfort toys can serve as snuggle-buddies for sleeping or as replacement nursers for puppies who were weaned from their mom too young. GoDog and KONG Cozies have a wide variety of soft critter companions to choose from.

Care should be taken when choosing the perfect plush toy to make sure that they:

  • Are sewn well with reinforced seams

  • Have no dangling ribbons, tags, or loose plastic parts that can be easily chewed off and swallowed (stuffed animal eyes and noses are often favorite targets for chewers)

Toys with squeakers or bells inside should be checked regularly for damage, as these parts can be swallowed and cause intestinal blockage.

Soft toys can easily get soiled during the house-training process, so take care to choose toys that are durable and can withstand regular machine washing.

Can Some Toys Hurt a Puppy’s Teeth?

Yes. While items like antlers, natural chews, and bones might be appealing as alternatives to plastic, plush, or rubber toys, these items can be just as dangerous to your puppy.

Common injuries can include:

  • Fractured teeth or punctures to the oral cavity

  • Perforation of the esophagus, stomach, or intestine (particularly if the bone or hoof becomes splintered)

  • Intestinal obstruction if a large portion is swallowed whole

A broken tooth can be painful to your puppy and often requires extraction of the broken portion under anesthesia.

Perforation or obstruction of the intestine can be life-threatening emergencies. They often require surgical intervention to repair the damaged intestine after completely removing the bone, antler, or hoof fragment that was swallowed.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Stephanie Verhart

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