Not one toy is 100% 'dogproof' and indestructible, but there are definitely some things you can do to test the toughness and safety of dog toys.
Dogs mainly use their mouth when playing. It holds on to a toy, they fetch it, throw it, bite it or chew on it. So it's of vital importance that the toy is made from safe, non-toxic materials. Always ask yourself, would you dare put the toys your dog plays with into your own mouth?
Read the label
Always read the information provided on the packaging or label and/or check the manual. Where does the toy come from? What's it made of? What kind of user tips or safety warnings does the manufacturer give? Even on toys especially developed for dogs to keep them busy when being left on their own, you will find warnings about only using it under supervision. The quality of dog toys can range between anywhere from mass production in the Far East to sustainable products with various environmental labels. But again; every toy can end up damaged or broken.
Look and smell
Inspect the toy. Does it have a strong or chemical smell? Have many dyes been used? Does it contain plasticisers? Are there parts like a button or string that can come off easily? What kind of filler is used, if any, and is that material safe? Contact the manufacturers about any questions you may have, they should know the product inside and out. If you don't get any answers...that might say something about how seriously the manufacturer takes its customers.
Stomp, bend and tug!
Tug the toy just like your dog would. Does it remain intact, including any seams that might suffer tension? In dog frisbees it's important that they're made of soft and flexible materials. To check, do the stomp and bend test: put the disc on the floor and jump and stomp on it a couple of times. Then, try to fold it in half with both hands. Does it break or tear during this test? That could also happen when the dog catches the disc with its mouth!
By only allowing your dog to play with vulnerable toys while supervised and immediately removing them when your dogs gets too rough with them, you can prevent him from destructing them or learning how to. We often hear things like "look at him, he's wrecking everything!". That's often caused by a lack of timely intervention on our part, leaving the dog with its toys unsupervised or giving puppies, which discover the world by using their teeth, or junior dogs, which have a greater need for chewing stuff, unsuitable toys.
Know your dog's style of playing
Some dogs love stuffed animals and handle them with care while others enjoy a more rugged type of play. Know your dog's style of playing and discover what he likes. Lots of dogs enjoy dismanteling stuff. Even without wrecking; there are special plush dog puzzles available. Try Googling ‘Hide A Squirrel’ dog puzzle or check out this plush cube from which the dog can try and take out the balls.
- Choose the right sized toys; not too small but big enough. Don't let the costs get in the way of choosing the right size!
- Don't use tennis balls: the fiber that is used in these balls and sand that sticks to them have a sandpaper effect and can do serious damage to the teeth.
- Childrens' toys is often tested more thoroughly and has higher safety standards than dog toys.
- Are you using a (feeding)ball with a cavity in it for your dog? Always check if it has a second opening, to prevent the toy from creating a vacuum when your dog sticks its tongue in there.
- Branches are not a toy! They regularly cause serious mouth injuries. Try to opt for a safer alternative.
Some manufacturers put of lot of trust in their products and offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee or promise to replace broken toys. For instance Planet Dog and Zogoflex toys by West Paw Design. The Kong Extreme made from extra sturdy black rubber by the Kong Company is the most indesctructible version of this popular dog occupier.
Playing versus chewing
Besides extra strong toys to play with there are also products available actually meant for chewing. Only give your dog chewing products that he can sink his teeth in a little: if the material is really rock-hard then his teeth might suffer damage. Veterinarians are already warning about ntlers, buffalo horns, dino bones and nylon bones, which increase the risk of breaking the rear molars. Small cracks can sometimes remain unnoticed for a long time, but meanwhile cause extremely painful infections.
Not one toy is 100% 'dogproof'. Know your dog, check its toys regularly and throw away anything broken or damaged instantly. Safe toys and common sense can get you a long way!