The perfect toys for your small dog depends on several factors: breed, personality, age, and health status are primary factors, says Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM, an integrated veterinarian in Ohio.
Start with breed, as this can tell you a bit about your dog’s inherent interests. Were they originally bred to run? They might like to play fetch. Or maybe they were bred to hunt? Some sort of treat puzzle might work well. Next is personality: Is your dog shy, aggressive, active, or a total couch potato? If you’re not sure, all you have to do is observe your four-legged friend for a bit, says Jodi Andersen, a dog trainer and co-founder of How I Met My Dog. It won’t take long before you have a sense of whether your dog is a digger, a chewer, a problem solver, a chaser, or a wrestler—and whether they prefer to play alone or with a partner.
With small dogs, the size of the toy is also important, says Darris Cooper, CPDT-KA, national dog training operations manager at Petco. “If a toy is too small, it could potentially be swallowed and cause health concerns, while toys that are too large might be ineffective and potentially cause injury to small dogs.” As a general rule of thumb, pet toys should be at least twice as long as the distance from your dog’s chin to his forehead to avoid choking, says Osborne.
It’s also best to avoid any toys that can easily become torn or broken to avoid ingestion or injury—particularly if your pet stays home alone for any period of time, says Cooper. Steer clear of toys with strings, eyes, glued on parts, and even squeakers that can be easily dislodged and become choking hazards. Pet toys with sharp ends can cause lacerations and damage pet teeth as well. Lastly, whenever possible, purchase toys made of organic materials, like cotton. Toys manufactured under less stringent regulations could contain lead or other harmful materials, says Osborne.
Just remember: Whatever toy your dog ends up loving, you should replace toys regularly, says Andersen. “It’s always best to replace toys that are starting to wear from use rather than have a choke-able size piece fall off. And always inspect any toys for splinters and other damage that might get your dog into trouble.”
Here, a variety of safe toys perfectly suited for your pint-sized pup.