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Boredom Killers - Toys for Big Dogs

One way to look at dog toys is to group them into two categories. There are toys for you to play with your dog. Then there are toys which you can safely leave with your dog to help alleviate boredom when you’re not around. This issue of our blog discusses selecting unattended toys for your dog.

We’ll start by defining what we mean by ‘big dog’. When it comes to toys, we don’t actually care about height or weight. What’s important is how much bite force an individual dog can exert and how much of a ‘chewer’ or ‘shredder’ that dog is. This means that you need to know your dog.

First rule of Toys for Big Dogs: Never let them have anything they can swallow. This may sound trite, but it’s easy to miss seeing something your dog does. For example, vets sometimes make the news with the number of (6, 13 and even 14) golf balls they’ve removed from a dog’s stomach. Golf balls and anything smaller than a standard tennis ball is totally out!

Second rule of Toys for Big Dogs: Never let them have anything that can be shredded. Some dogs like to shred stuff. ‘Stuff’ can be paper, cardboard, anything made with fabric, stuffed toys, rubber, plastic, wood and cord coverings. Any stuffed toy can present compounded problems due to swallow-able squeakers and poly batting. We’ve seen cases where an entire quilt had holes torn in every section and all the poly batting pulled out one section at a time. No stuffed animals, fabric retriever sticks or other fabric based toys.

Third rule of Toys for Big Dogs: Never leave your dog with anything they can destroy. Dogs who are chewers are the ones who will chew and destroy anything they can get into their mouths. Your shoes and sneakers, chunks of wood and tennis balls are classics in this category.  Aside from the destruction and possible swallowing of small pieces; splinters of wood or plastic can injure their mouths, get wedged across their jaws or get swallowed and become intestinal obstructions. Big dogs are especially a problem because they can bite with a force from 180 PSI to 550 PSI depending on how big their heads (and jaws) are. The problem is more severe with all dogs because dog’s teeth are shears rather than flat like our molars. For dogs, it’s like having built in heavy duty snips or bolt cutters. i.e. Even a smaller dog with the same 120 PSI force as a human can bite/shear through things we can’t. I’ve seen little 7 pound Pomeranians shear through the quality leather harnesses they were wearing when they thought no one was looking.

Safe toy examples:

  • Chuck-it makes three balls to fit in their thrower. I don’t recommend the classic tennis ball. The other two balls are tough rubber balls. One has holes and one doesn’t. I’ve yet to meet a dog able to destroy either of these rubber balls. I like the ball with the holes best. These balls make a noise as they are thrown and are great for dogs with less than good vision.
  • Jolly balls come sized from 6” to 10” and have built in handles. They are not quite as indestructible as the Chuck-it balls but they are still very tough and most dogs can’t destroy them. For unattended play in an enclosed yard, I like to put up a pole and tie the Jolly ball to a cord from the top of the pole. For this purpose, I found the 10” size to work best. Jolly balls are usually sold as toys for horses. Large dogs seem to like them just as much as horses do.
  • Small tires are also nearly indestructible and are more interesting to chew than simple balls. The toy tires for dogs are OK for small to medium dogs. For larger dogs, I like to scavenge the tires used in wheel burrows or hand carts
  • Commercial dog chew toys selected with these three principals in mind.


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