All work and no play make your pup a dull boy, right?
Luckily, you can keep your pooch entertained while learning with dog training toys.
Designed to stimulate his senses as your dog works, training toys provide a healthy outlet and make learning and training fun for your dog.
Let’s check out the best dog training toys together and see what your doggo can play with while learning something new.
Different Types of Popular Training Toys
Dog training toys are just as varied as the jobs we give our pups, with each encouraging your pooch to use specific skills learned in training.
There are many to choose from, with the most popular training toys being:
- Tugs: Tug toys engage one of your dog’s most valuable assets: his teeth. Beyond that, tugging is a great source of exercise and mental stimulation and not only builds on bite work training but also conditions muscles from head to tail. Combining a game of tug with the “drop it” command interspersed here and there also serves as a great impulse control game!
- Chews: Like tugs, chew toys help clean your pup’s teeth. And besides cleaning chompers, they provide a nice cool-down activity between blocks of training, encouraging your dog to relax and burn off steam. All dogs have the instinct to chew, but powerful chewers sure do appreciate a good chew toy.
- Treat-Dispensers: Made to stimulate an activity like pawing or chewing for a reward, treat-dispensing toys keep your dog’s mind and body engaged while seeking out bully sticks, training treats, or other goodies. They’re a good option for dogs who need “busy” work during pauses in training class.
- Fetch: Whether your pooch prefers water-friendly floaters or bouncing balls, fetch toys keep your doggo on the go and reinforce his retrieving skills, and some work with automatic ball launchers, giving your arm a break. Fetch toys are great for burning off excess energy during training and are a good fit for hunting dogs in retrieval training.
- Plush: Best for cuddly canines and gentle chewers, plush toys frequently contain pup-pleasing squeakers or crinkling material in an adorable design. They can be used as a reward for a job well done, a hidden prize to sniff out, or a sound-creating distraction. Some owners also choose to teach their dog to go grab a plush toy when they’re overexcited or when visitors come to the door to give them an alternative behavior (instead of barking, jumping up, etc).
- Interactive: Designed for doggo input, interactive toys require your pup to do something to receive a reward, whether it’s a squeak, chime, or a hidden treat. Some canine puzzles may require a bit of thinking, which is ideal for problem-solving, while others encourage exercise or simply serve as enrichment activities. They’re a valuable tool in your training arsenal for rainy days or downtime during training class.
- Flirt Poles: Perfect for tapping into your dog’s prey drive and helping him burn off some excess energy during training, flirt poles are also great for teaching your dog a “drop it” command. Best of all, flirt pole play lets you keep a hand free for signaling to your pooch.
Keeping a variety of popular training toys on hand is ideal, as sometimes your dog has extra energy during training to burn, and other times he needs a fun fetch toy break to prevent training fatigue.
The Best Dog Training Toys to Work on Training Commands
With so many handy dog training toys to choose from, we’ve narrowed down the best dog training toys available for reinforcing learned skills and conditioning. Well-made and suitable for training in the field, these toys enhance the overall training experience for you and your four-footer, whether you’re in training class or at home.
1. West Paw Zogoflex Bumi
A durable, US-made tug toy that's easy for you to grip and gentle on your dog's mouth.
About: The West Paw Zogoflex Bumi is a flexible tug that features a unique S-shaped design. It extends up to twice its length when tugged, and the bright coloring is easy to spot during training class if dropped, regardless of the environment.
- Made of 100-percent recyclable Zogoflex® material that is mouth-friendly even during games of tug
- It floats, bounces, and is easy to throw for varied use, fitting into many training routings
- Non-absorbent and easy to clean — just pop your Bumi in the dishwasher as needed
- Manufactured in the USA using US-sourced materials
Options: Available in a small and large sizes.
- Highly versatile in play and training class as a tug or fetch toy
- Stretch and shape keep dogs guessing with every yank
- Flexible design leads to more comfortable play
- Not intended for heavy chewing
- Some pet parents dislike the shape or grip style
2. Goughnuts Tug Toy
A figure-8-shaped chew and tug toy made with Goughnuts' strongest and most durable rubber.
About: The Goughnuts MAXX Tug HD is a hardy tug that’ll strengthen and condition your pooch’s teeth and body while burning off energy during training. Land and water safe, the Goughnuts tug toy is a versatile pick that you can also use for games of fetch or everyday chewing fun.
- Made in the USA with durable rubber that’s tough enough for aggressive chewing but gentle on teeth
- Figure-8 shape is ideal for maintaining a grip during intense rounds of tug
- Easy to wipe clean, though it can get a little slobbery during play
- Backed by a lifetime guarantee from the manufacturer
Options: Available in three color options: black, red, and orange.
- Super strong rubber stands up to tug-of-war
- Has some stretch to it, making rounds of tug more fun for you and your dog
- Retains its shape after use
- May be too thick for smaller dogs to bite
- Heavy and a little clunky
3. GoughNuts Maxx Stick HD
A US-made, stick-style dog toy that's tough enough for power chewers and is backed by a lifetime guarantee.
About: Preventing training fatigue is easy with the Goughnuts Maxx Stick HD, a fun fetch toy your pup can chew on after each training session. Designed for large dogs that are powerful chewers, it’s a lasting addition to your training arsenal.
- Constructed of high-quality rubber that can withstand powerful chewers without harming teeth or gums
- Hardy enough for field use, but it does not float, so keep it away from water
- Backed by a lifetime manufacturer’s guarantee
- Made in the USA
- Durability is a win for owners, making it a good pick for a fetch lover who’s tough on toys
- Solid stick shape doesn’t have any projections that can be easily gnawed away
- Comes with a satisfaction guarantee from the manufacturer
- Made exclusively for large dogs, leaving little guys out of the fun
- Only comes in black, so it may be hard to find if dropped in the dark
4. West Paw Zogoflex Hurley
A durable, bone-shaped chew toy that's made from West Paw Design's special Zogoflex material.
About: The perfect toy for on-the-go use, the West Paw Zogoflex Hurley will keep your pup entertained through training routines, whether used as a chew or a throw. The lightweight construction has plenty of fun bounce and it floats if you want to practice your pooch’s dock-diving skills or start water retrieval training.
- Made in the USA with US-sourced materials
- Its Zogoflex® thermoplastic elastomer material is non-toxic and recyclable
- Can be used for chewing, fetching, water fun (it floats!), and more
- Dishwasher safe for easy cleaning
Options: Offered in three sizes: mini, small, and large.
- Material is strong enough to withstand chewing fun but gentle enough not to harm your dog’s mouth or teeth like some hard rubbers
- Bright colors easy to spot if you bring them to training class
- A versatile addition to your training arsenal, this fun fetch toy is can be enjoyed in water or on land
- Aggressive chewers may be able to chew off chunks
- Careful attention to sizing needed to ensure safety
If your chomper is extra rough on toys, look for toys made for aggressive chewers to ensure they’ll be lasting additions to your training arsenal, unlike some popular dog training toys that may not stand up to powerful jaws.
Some of our top picks for powerful chewers are the KONG Tire, West Paw Tux Stuffable Treat Toy, and the KONG Flyer. These are good for a fetch lover who isn’t always the most delicate on toys or a chew-obsessed pooch needing a gnawing outlet during training sessions.
5. Classic KONG
A durable fetch toy that's also great for chewing, treat-hiding, and training.
About: The Classic KONG is one of the most popular training toys on the market, and it’ll keep your dog busy trying to access the goodies inside, which he has to work to get, keeping training fatigue at bay. The durable rubber material also has a surprising bounce, allowing it to double as a fun fetch toy during downtime.
- Constructed of dog-friendly natural rubber in a flared shape that won’t fit entirely in your dog’s mouth if sized correctly
- Manufactured in the USA of globally sourced materials
- Strong enough to withstand pretty heavy chewing but won’t harm teeth
- Can be washed in the dishwasher on the top-shelf setting to keep clean
Options: Available in six color-coded size options, ranging from X-Small to XX-Large. There’s also a KONG Extreme for power chewers.
- Can be stuffed with whatever treat your pup likes, from cookies to dog-safe peanut butter
- Most color options are easy to spot, letting you locate the toy quickly at training class
- Offers plenty of fun bounce for rounds of fetch
- Some doggos dislike the taste or smell of rubber
- Smaller dogs may struggle to chew it
KONGs are one of the most popular dog training toys, but some dogs just don’t like the smell of rubber and refuse to give them a chomp. The PetSafe Chilly Penguin is a good alternative. While still made of rubber, it has a vanilla scent that’s less offensive to the nose than KONG’s proprietary rubber. It’s also a great treat for chewing fun during a warm day.
Another solid choice is beef trachea, as you can stuff them with peanut butter, cheese, and several other recipes that work great in KONGs.
6. Starmark Bob-a-Lot
An affordable, easy-to-clean puzzle toy with adjustable difficulty.
About: The Starmark Bob-A-Lot is a topsy-turvy treat dispenser toy that your pup nudges with his nose to shake treats free. Its weighted, anti-slip base keeps it upright, which keeps your pup stimulated as he has to work for the goods, keeping training fatigue at bay.
- Made with durable plastic, but not designed for chewing
- Difficulty can be adjusted, preventing your pup from getting bored
- The large can hold up to 3 cups of kibble or treats, while the small holds 1 ½ cups
- Can be rinsed to stay fresh and prevent bacterial buildup
Options: Offered in a small and large size.
Want to learn more? Read our full hands-on review of the Bob-a-Lot here!
- Adjustable difficulty keeps canines engaged
- Encourages natural foraging behaviors with well-earned rewards as your dog paws and nose-bumps away
- Good way to unwind during breaks in training class
- Plastic design isn’t strong enough to withstand heavy chewing
- Some pups opt to chew the treat dispenser rather than nudge the treats free
Puzzle toys like the Nina Ottosson Brick Toy test your pup’s mind by tasking him with solving problems to acquire treats hidden inside. Other great options include the Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball, Trixie Activity Board, and Nina Ottosson Outward Hound Hide-N-Slide.
7. Chuckit! Max Glow Ball
Durable, easy to see, and safer than a tennis ball, the Chuckit! Max Glow Ball is a great fetch toy for training.
About: The Chuckit! Max Glow Ball is a fetch lover’s dream, working well during retrieval training with hunting dogs or for a quick energy outlet during training sessions. Its innovative rubber texture is easy for your pooch to grip and provides surprising bounce like a bouncy ball, satisfying your dog’s natural instincts to chase and pounce.
- Felt-free and better for your dog’s teeth than a standard tennis ball
- Floats, allowing for doggy-paddling water fun as well as field play
- Compatible with the Chuckit! Ball Launcher for a drool-free way to chuck your pup’s ball further and faster
- The glow-in-the-dark design makes finding it in low light a breeze — just give it five minutes in the light to generate up to 30 minutes of glow
Options: Available in a single or double pack and four size options, ranging from small to extra-large.
- Tougher than a standard tennis ball while still offering plenty of fun bounce
- Glow-in-the-dark nature is ideal for training classes or play sessions that run late
- Sizing available for dogs of all sizes
- Durable rubber is thick but not indestructible against heavy chewers
- Glow only lasts 30 minutes, which may be too short for some outdoor excursions
8. KONG Extreme Ball Toy
About: The KONG Extreme Ball is a heavy-duty helper in getting your pooch moving during training for games of fetch. Strong yet gentle on your dog’s mouth, it’s the perfect tool to fine-tune retrieving skills and obedience and as an excess energy outlet during a busy day training.
- Manufactured with durable, hard natural rubber that can handle chewing and chomping during intense rounds of fetch
- Easy to wipe clean to keep fresh
- The rubber material has some bounce, though it isn’t as springy as other balls
- Made in the USA
Options: Offered in two sizes: small and medium/large.
- Super strong construction stands up to chewing
- Puncture-resistant design perfect for a chomp-happy fetch lover
- Small hole for hiding your dog’s favorite treat for a surprise reward
- Not every dog cares for the taste or smell of rubber
- Black coloring harder to spot than bright color options
- Doesn’t float, so not suitable for water fun
Fetch-crazed canines go nuts for the ChuckIt! Flying Squirrel, a flexible flying squirrel flyer that floats. This unique-shaped toy differs from a traditional flying disc with its outstretched “arms” and flying squirrel graphic but still gets some serious air when tossed. The ChuckIt! Flying Squirrel also glows in the dark and has a wild spin dogs love.
Another fun find is the West Paw Dog Fetching Stick. It’s solid stick shape mimics the backyard favorites without the same risks, plus its water safe for use around the pool, pond, or hose and lands with surprising bounce.
9. ZippyPaws Skinny Peltz
About: The ZippyPaws Skinny Peltz is a 3-pack of woodland creature plushes for squeaky, floppy fun. Great for distracting your pooch during desensitization drills or rewarding in obedience, this Skinny Peltz set enhances day-to-day training.
- Made with mouth-friendly fleece and no stuffing for mess-free play
- With two squeakers in each toy, your doggo has plenty of high-pitched happiness in his future
- The flexible design folds easily for stowing away between bouts of play to keep the focus on training
- These soft dog toys can be machine-washed on the gentle cycle
- Offers bang for your buck with three toys for rotation
- Size great for medium to larger breeds
- Floppy nature a hit with canines for a fun game of shake-n-toss
- Not intended for aggressive chewers
- Larger size can be an issue for smaller dogs
10. SPOT Bungee Skineeez Plush Toy
This stuffing-free, machine-washable fabric toy is a great choice for dogs who love plush playthings.
About: Stuffing-free and fun to squeak, the Ethical Pets Skineeez can help distract your pup from stressors or reward positive behavior. Made to resemble a raccoon, this cute toy mimics prey, stimulating your doggo’s natural instincts to shake and flop.
- Gentle plush polyester won’t harm your pooch’s mouth
- With no stuffing, you don’t have to worry about cleaning up fuzz forever if your pup removes a limb or two
- The flexible design of the toy lets your dog fling it to his heart’s content and allows you to stuff it in your pocket or training bag for on-the-go use
- Machine-washable for keeping clean between playtimes
- Size and shape make it easy to tote on your belt or training bag
- Makes a cute cuddle buddy for your pup outside of training
- Easy to clean as needed — just pop it in the washer
- Not suitable for tough chewers
- Easily shreddable, creating choking or obstruction hazards
11. Outward Hound Tail Teaser
About: The Outward Hound Tail Teaser gives your dog a healthy energy outlet during training sessions. Featuring a tempting lure, this teaser encourages your pooch to chase, jump, and play.
- Measuring 37.5 inches, the wand dangles the included tuggable toy from a 45-inch nylon rope
- The nylon rope stretches, giving your doggo the chance to tug comfortably while absorbing some of the pull and giving your arm a break
- The included lures rattle and squeak for audible rewards
- While listed as suitable for all dog breeds, the toys run small, so plan accordingly
- Well-suited for smaller dogs
- Keeps your dog close and engaged
- Textured grip offers a firm hold for one-handed use, keeping one free for signaling to your pooch
- Isn’t large enough or strong enough for most big dogs
- Not super portable for carrying around for on-the-go training sessions
Why You Should Use Toys to Train Your Dog
Dog toys aren’t just for casual backyard play anymore. They’re being adapted to fit the training of various working dogs, from police canines to water rescuers.
Other than being fun, handy dog training toys have other benefits, including:
- Dental Care: Tugs and ropes help clean your dog’s mouth when used properly, keeping your pupper’s teefers and gums healthy between brushing.
- Mental Stimulation: Training can get repetitive, and toys provide a layer of surprise to break up tedious day-to-day exercises, particularly those with surprising bounce or puzzles to solve.
- Bite Work: Ball-on-a-rope toys are popular with police dogs, as they give dogs a target to bite while still being fun and playful.
- Reinforce Learned Skills: Toys can mimic other activities, allowing your dog to show off what he’s learned. For instance, a floater that’s water safe can replace a fallen duck if you’re training a hunting dog for retrieving.
- Exercise: While training works out the mind, throwing a toy into the mix can help burn off energy between sessions, improving focus and conditioning muscles and joints.
- Alternative to Treats: Every dog deserves high-value training treats, but we all know too many goodies can pack on puppy pounds down the road. Dog training toys provide a reward that won’t negatively affect your fur friend’s physique.
How Can You Incorporate Toys into Your Training Regimen?
When you think of toys, it’s natural to wonder how something so fun for your pooch can be useful in training. You may be surprised at how handy dog training toys really are, with uses including:
- Reward: Your pup needs to know he’s doing a good job, and reinforcing positive behavior like coming when called with a toy solidifies that. Toys are well-earned rewards in training and beyond, so keep an assortment on hand to praise positive behavior. You can even use toys as rewards during more advanced sessions, including agility training or nosework.
- Obedience: Fetch toys help build strengths like retrieval and recall, getting your dog in the habit of bringing something fun back to you rather than taking off with it, no matter how fun it is. He also has to give up the toy when issued a “drop” command, a useful skill if he ever encounters something he shouldn’t have outside of training.
- Distraction: When you’re working on desensitization, using a squeaky squirrel toy or similar attention-grabber helps redirect your dog’s attention from the item you’re seeking to acclimate them to, whether it’s other dogs, people, or cars.
- Occupying downtime: A chew or treat-dispensing toy can keep your pup entertained between training sessions or while working on crate training. Never leave a dog alone with a toy, however, as accidental choking and ingestion are always a risk.
- Energy-burning: If you’re practicing a lot of repetitive tasks, taking a break for a game of tug or fetch helps your dog get some exercise and burn off pent-up steam, improving focus during a long day training or working.
- Skill-building: Some dog training toys mimic working dog duties, helping your pooch hone his skills. This can include a chew-on-a-rope made of high-quality rubber that’s tooth-friendly for bite work or a treat dispenser you tuck away for a rewarding game of hide-and-sniff.
- Satisfying natural instincts: Dogs have a natural need to chew, chase, and problem-solve — all things that the right toy can satisfy, preventing mischief often caused by extreme chewers and bored barkers. Others encourage your dog to practice natural foraging behaviors, putting his mind and body to work toward something positive versus exploring your trash or clothes hamper.
FAQ: Best Dog Training Toys
Still have lingering questions about dog training toys? Check out these commonly asked questions surrounding popular dog training toys and their uses.
What is the best thing to train a dog with?
The best thing to train a dog with is a solid reward system, whether it’s a toy he’s wild about or high-value treats. You want something that keeps him motivated during sessions, helping you get the most out of your time. The best toys are those you can incorporate into your current training routines, like a floating baton for retrieval training in water or a tough, high-quality rubber tug for bite work.
It’s also good idea to look for versatile toys that can be used outside of training so you get the most for your money. An example would be a chew toy for satisfying your dog’s natural instincts to chew at home or a puzzle toy capable of holding cups of kibble for slow-feeding meals and replicating natural foraging behaviors.
What toy do dogs love most?
This varies from dog to dog. Retrievers tend to love balls and other fetch toys made for water fun, while bully breeds are big fans of spring poles. At the same time, your dog may love something that doesn’t suit his breed background, like a lapdog being wild for lure-coursing devices or a herder going ga-ga for water toys.
Are dog puzzles worth it?
Yes, puzzle toys are a great way to keep your dog’s brain and body busy, particularly on rainy days or other times he’s stuck inside. They require your dog to interact and solve a problem to receive a hidden reward, whether it’s pawing open trapdoors or disconnecting interlocking pieces.
Puzzle toys are excellent wind-down tools for brainiac breeds like border collies and shepherds, but they’re also ideal for older dogs needing everyday mental stimulation. Some even let you increase the difficulty with each use, keeping your canine guessing in pursuit of well-earned rewards. Use caution with extreme chewers, however, as they may make quick work of a flimsy toy and risk injury.
Is a snuffle mat better than a puzzle feeder?
The best option for your dog depends on his playing style, as both are excellent options for certain sniffers.
Snuffle mats encourage natural foraging behaviors in dogs to find hidden rewards, but they aren’t the best fit for pups prone to aggressive chewing or shredding toys. They’re ideal for laidback dogs and casual chewers needing a calm activity after spending the day training or working.
Puzzle feeders are handy dog training toys made for putting a mutt’s mind to work. Many feature a flexible design that lets you increase difficulty, too, forcing your dog to solve new puzzles to obtain a hidden reward. They fit a variety of dogs, with some built with strong materials than others.
Which dog training toys are best?
This varies by what training you’re doing with your dog. If you’re working on recall, fetch toys like balls or Frisbees are great, while ball-on-a-rope toys are best suited for bite work. Puzzle toys and chews are good picks, too, as they help your dog settle down with well-earned rewards after a successful training session.
At the end of the day, the best dog training toy rewards positive behavior, so look for something your dog will enjoy, whether it’s his favorite Lamb Chop squeaky or a bouncy ball that’s water safe.
Are rubber toys good for dogs?
Dog-safe, high-quality rubber is an acceptable material for dog toys, as most pass the fingernail test. They’re also a breeze to rinse clean, preventing a slobbery mess and lingering smells. However, proper precautions are necessary to keep canines safe, like monitoring your pup during chewing fun.
A casual chewer will gnaw away at rubber toys without issue, but pooches prone to aggressive chewing may make quick work of the plaything, ripping it into chunks that become choking or obstruction hazards.
Rubber chew toys may still be an option for enthusiastic chewers with supervision, as the KONG Extreme for power chewers is a line of toys made specifically for aggressive chewing while still providing plenty of fun bounce and inner chambers for a hidden reward. The Goughnuts Tug Toy and Goughnuts MAXX Stick are also great choices.
It’s also important to only buy rubber toys from trusted sources using dog-safe materials free of harmful chemicals.
What is the best color for a dog toy?
This boils down to your personal preference, as contrary to popular belief, dogs aren’t completely color-blind. Their vision is what’s known as dichromatic, meaning they see two color combinations (yellow and blue) instead of the three we see (red, blue, and yellow.)
A blue or yellow toy will be seen as we see it to dogs, but they can still see other colors, albeit differently than we do.
From a training standpoint, bright color options that are easy to spot on grass or in a training ring are best, as nothing’s harder to find than a dark toy when the sun’s going down.
Do you incorporate any of these dog training toys in your training routines? Do you use any others? Let us know in the comments!