Dogs play in a variety of different ways.
Some have an undeniable compulsion to retrieve anything you toss. Others just love ripping things apart with their mouths. There are also dogs out there who love jumping around like complete goofs, without even needing a toy to unlock full puppy-play mode.
And then there are dogs like my pupper, who enjoy nothing more than epic tug-of-war battles.
They just want to dig their teeth in, throw their weight back, and show you how strong they are.
These kinds of games are often fun for both parties, but you must use a high-quality toy for safety’s sake. For that matter, you’ll save a ton of money over time if you skip the super cheap tug toys that are so common, and instead pick one that is built to last.
We’ll try to help you do exactly that below, as we discuss a few of the best tug toys on the market.
We’ll also explain some of the things you’ll want to think about when making your choice. But, if you’re in a hurry, you can just check out our quick picks below.
Quick Picks: Best Tug Toys for Dogs
- Westpaw Designs Zogoflex Bumi – Made from Westpaw Design’s proprietary plastic, this S-shaped tug toy is easy to grip and backed by a lifetime warranty. It also floats, making it a great fetch toy at the beach or pool.
- GoughNuts MAXX Black Tug Toy – The GoughNuts MAXX Black Tug Toy is one of the most durable tug toys on the market, and it is ideal for big dogs with strong jaws, who really get their money’s worth of every tug-of-war session.
- Pacific Pups 11-Piece Toy Set – If you’re not yet sure what type of tug toy would work best for your pet, this 11-piece set will give you a great (and economical) way to experiment with your four-footer.
Different Types of Tug Toy: Which Is Best for Your Dog?
Tug toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with each providing a slightly different type of play experience. Any type of tug toy will work for playtime, but you and your pooch will have more fun if you select one that is well-suited for your needs.
We’ll discuss four of the most common designs below.
Rope-style tugs are probably the most popular type of toy to use for tug-of-war games with your floof, and it’s easy to see why:
- Most feature a knot at each end, making them easy for dogs and humans to grip.
- Rope toys are lightweight, soft, and strong, which means they’re pretty safe for playtime.
- They’re inexpensive, which makes them gentle on your bank account.
Rope toys also tend to hold up pretty well over time, although many dogs will disassemble them one thread at a time if allowed to chew on them.
Many owners and trainers use bumpers as training tools for retrievers, but some also work well for tug games. Some bumpers are comprised of a canvas or jute bag, which is filled with sand or some type of fibers; others are made from durable plastic.
Some of the neatest features of bumpers include:
- Bumpers are made from different materials, so you can select one that is best-suited for your pooch.
- Bumpers typically come with an attached handle (and some have two), which makes it easy to keep a grip on the toy while playing.
- Most bumpers are very durable, and they’ll hold up well to the teeth of many dogs.
Some dogs will have trouble gripping bumpers, but others seem to love the way it feels to bite down on these types of toys. Bumpers obviously work well for fetch games too, and many plastic models float, making them great for playing at the pool or beach.
Some tug toys are made in ring form. They’re essentially just a hollow ring of plastic or rubber; your dog will grab one side, you grab the other, and both of you can start pulling!
Some of the most notable features of ring toys include:
- Ring-style tug toys are great for playing in confined spaces, as they’ll keep you and your pooch closer together than longer ropes or canvas toys.
- Ring-style toys work well for fetch games, when you’re pup tires of tugging.
- Ring-style toys are usually made from plastic or rubber, but there are also fabric or rope options available.
Rings are pretty awesome, but they can get kinda gross and slick once your dog slobbers on them. But that’s just part of the pet parenthood gig. Additionally, it is important to choose one of the proper size — you don’t want your dog to get the ring stuck around her muzzle.
Some manufacturers make tug toys into interesting or funny shapes that don’t fit neatly into one of the other categories.
These types of toys may be made of just about anything, including hard plastic, soft rubber, or fabric. The only thing they all have in common is the presence of a handle, which will allow you to get a good grip.
- Handled toys are usually the easiest type of tug toy to grip, which is especially important for those with big, strong dogs.
- You can choose from a variety of materials and designs to give your pooch the best toy for her play style.
- Many handled toys are made from very durable materials, which are strong enough to stand up to your dog’s chewing and tugging.
These types of toys can be very fun to use, just be sure that you select one that is the right size for your dog’s mouth (and your hands).
The Seven Best Tug-of-War Toys Around
Unlike some of the other products we review, which have serious safety, health, or dog-management implications, tug toys aren’t a purchase that should cause you a ton of stress.
As long as the toy is well-built and safe (which all of these should be), you can just pick one and try it out.
If it works, great! If not, just try a different one.
At worst, you’ll only be out a couple of bucks, and you’ll have enjoyed spending some time trying the toy out with your pooch.
1. West Paw Zogoflex Bumi Tug of War Toy
About: The West Paw Zogoflex Bumi is a US-made, S-shaped tug toy, designed to be safe and gentle on your dog’s gums and teeth, while still being strong enough to hold up to countless tug-of-war games.
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Features: Like many other West Paw Designs toys, the Bumi is made from Zogoflex – a proprietary and exclusive plastic material. The material is designed to be virtually indestructible (they’re guaranteed to last), while still being lightweight (Zogoflex toys actually float), and soft enough for your dog’s mouth.
Zogoflex is BPA-and-Phthalate-free, non-toxic and FDA compliant. It’s also dishwasher safe and recyclable (be sure to check out West Paw Design’s recycling program).
The Bumi’s unique shape makes it easy for you and your dog to grip the toy, and it is designed to stretch up to twice its normal length during playtime. You can also use this toy for fetch games, but don’t let your dog use it as a chew toy – it’s not designed to hold up to this kind of use.
Sizes: Small and Large
Colors: Aqua, Granny Smith, Tangerine
Several owners mentioned that the Bumi quickly became their dog’s favorite toy. It’s an ideal choice for owners who want a safe, durable, and US-made toy that can also be used for games of fetch. Westpaw Design’s guarantee also provides a little additional peace of mind.
There weren’t really that many complaints about the Bumi. Most owners who weren’t happy with the product were using it the wrong way – this isn’t a chew toy! It is specifically designed for tug games and fetch. Also, while it isn’t exactly what we’d consider “expensive,” this tug toy costs a bit more than some others.
2. GoughNuts MAXX Black TuG Toy
About: The GoughNuts TuG Toy is a figure-eight-shaped toy made in the USA from durable rubber. Like many of the other toys described in this article, the GoughNuts TuG Toy is not designed for chewing, but it is made from the same resilient rubber that GoughNut’s chew toys are made, making it one of the toughest options available.
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Features: The GoughNuts TuG Toy is specifically designed for tug games, and its unique design gives you and your pooch a comfortable place to hang on. The material used is tough, heavy, and resilient, but it still flexes and stretches a bit, to help make it fun for your dog to use and take a little stress off your body (which is important for big-dog owners).
GoughNuts toys are famous for their safety-indicator system, which helped earn them our title of one of the best dog brands around (they feature multiple layers, which are different colors – when your dog exposes the red layer, you must replace the toy). However, because these toys are designed for tugging games, they don’t feature the safety-indicator system.
Sizes: This is a relatively hefty tug toy, which measures 11 inches long and 6 inches across. It also weighs about 1.6 lbs, so, as one customer mentioned, you don’t want to drop this toy on your toes.
However, you can also get a smaller version of the toy, which is about 2” shorter and only measures 5 inches wide.
The GoughNuts MAXX Black TuG Toy earned very high marks from most owners who tested it, and most dogs seem to love the way the toy fits and feels in their mouths. The figure-eight shape works well for a tug toy, and the durable rubber used in the construction of the toy helps make it very resilient.
The MAXX Black TuG Toy is a bit pricier than some other options, and it may be overkill for smaller dogs. It isn’t ideal for fetch games either, given how massive it is (you don’t want to accidentally peg your pooch in the face with this heavy hunk of rubber).
3. Charming Pet Cuddle Tug
About: The Charming Pet Cuddle Tug is a plush tug toy designed to look cute, while still being strong enough to withstand your dog’s tugging teeth. These toys can be used in “folded” orientation, or you can “unfold” them if that works better for you and your dog.
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Features: The Charming Pet Cuddle Tug may look soft and cuddly, but it’s made from a combination of resilient materials, including non-rip canvas. The seams are double-stitched, and the product features infused nylon at the locations that are most likely to tear.
These toys are also designed to keep your dog’s attention, as they also feature mouth-pleasing corduroy sections and an internal squeaker, which will help activate your pupper’s predatory instincts. Although these toys are intended for tugging play, they’ll also work for games of fetch. They aren’t designed to be chew toys, but some dogs may also enjoy just paling around and cuddling with them.
Sizes: The Charming Pet Cuddle Tug is available in only one size. It measures about 16 inches long when “folded” and 26 inches long when “unfolded.”
Colors: You can purchase the Charming Pet Cuddle Tug in four different versions: Pig, Cow, Giraffe, and the Bunny style pictured above. Note that the price differs slightly from one version to the next.
Most owners found that the Charming Pet Cuddle Tug was stronger than they’d expected and that it was comfortable to hold during even the rowdiest tug-of-war sessions. It is especially well-suited for dogs who prefer chewing on soft toys. Plus, these are darn cute toys, which is always a bonus.
There really weren’t many complaints about the Cuddle Tug. A few owners were disappointed that their dog was able to tear the toy apart, but that is another example of user error – these are simply not designed to be chew toys.
4. LECHONG Dog Rope Toy
About: The LECHONG Rope Toy is a high-quality version of the classic rope-toy design. Essentially a length of rope with a couple of knots to make it easier to grip, this is a soft, safe, and durable toy that is perfect for playing tug-of-war with your pooch.
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Features: There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the LECHONG Rope Toy, but that’s because it’s based on a time-tested design. It is made from 100% natural cotton and features five knots along its length. The ends of each side are left unraveled and loose, which many dogs find quite appealing.
The LECHONG Tug Toy is backed by the manufacturer’s 100% satisfaction guarantee – if your dog manages to tear it apart, just contact the company for a refund or replacement. The manufacturer doesn’t explicitly state that this toy is machine-washable, but it would likely hold up fine if washed and dried on gentle cycles.
Colors: The LECHONG Rope Toy features a combination of blue and white fibers.
Sizes: This rope toy is only available in one size (extra-large), as it is designed for big puppers. It measures about 3 feet long and weighs about 1.5 lbs.
Most owners were quite happy with the LECHONG Tug Toy. It appeared to hold up to most canine chompers, and most dogs love rope-based tug toys. The manufacturer’s guarantee is also a nice bonus, which will allow you to buy with confidence.
The only real problems owners experienced with the LECHONG Tug Toy were that it didn’t last when used as a chew toy (which, again, is not what tug toys are designed for), and a few owners complained that it had an odd smell when it arrived.
5. Pacific Pups Products 11-Piece Toy Set
About: This Pacific Pups Products Toy Set is an 11-piece collection, which includes nine different toys that would work perfectly for tug games. This is a great option for owners who aren’t yet sure what type of tug toy will best suit their pooch.
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Features: This set includes a variety of different dog toys, including typical rope tug toys, a ring-style tug toy, a ball-and-loop tug, and a particularly adorable giraffe-shaped tug-and-floss toy, among others. They’re all made in compliance with ASTM F-963 Child Toy Safety Standards, they contain no plastic, and they’re backed by a lifetime guarantee.
It is also important to note that proceeds from the sales of Pacific Pups Products Dog Toys help support the Pacific Pups Rescue, which is a California-based non-profit that helps save dogs from high-kill shelters.
Sizes: This toy set features tugs of a variety of different sizes. The largest measure about 2 feet long, making them suitable for pretty big dogs.
Colors: The colors of the toys in this set vary.
On balance, most owners were happy with the Pacific Pups 11-piece toy set. Several reported that the toys were fun for their dog to play with, and they seemed to hold up well to their dog’s teeth. And as you’d expect, many owners were happy to help support a worthy cause while supplying their dog with fun toys.
A few owners were disappointed that these toys didn’t hold up to their pooch’s chewing, but that’s a common problem among tug toys, as they’re not designed for this type of use.
6. PlayfulSpirit Durable Natural Rubber Ring
About: The PlayfulSpirit Durable Natural Rubber Ring is a circular tug toy that you can also use for fun games of fetch. Made from pet-friendly, semi-hard natural rubber, this toy is durable, yet still flexes a bit for maximum mouth comfort and safety.
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Features: This ring-style toy is designed to appeal to dogs who don’t find rope or fabric tugs very fun. It is easy for dogs to grip, and you’ll have no trouble hanging on to the other side while battling your pooch.
When you purchase the PlayfulSpirit Rubber Ring, you’ll also receive a free eBook, which details some of the games you can play with the toy.
Sizes: The PlayfulSpirit Rubber Ring is available in one size, which is ideal for medium to large dogs. It measures 6 inches in diameter, and the ring is about 1 inch thick. It weighs about 10 ounces.
The PlayfulSpirit ring seems to hold up well when used properly (i.e. for tug games or fetch, not chewing), and most dogs seem to find the texture and feel of the ring pleasing. The orange color is also a nice feature, as it’ll make it easier to find the ring at a glance.
As with many other tug toys, there were some owners who allowed their pup to chew on the toy, instead of using it in the intended fashion. This typically leads to a shredded toy, which is no longer safe to let your pup use. Aside from that, the only complaint we found was that smaller dogs may find the ring too heavy.
7. Redline K-9 Dog Bite Tug Toy
About: If you’re looking for a durable, professional-caliber tug toy, the Redline K-9 Tug may be exactly what you’re looking for. A multi-function toy, this product works well for tug games, fetch, and you can also use it as a training reward.
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Features: This tug toy contains a soft internal fill material and a jute exterior, so it should hold up well for plenty of tug-of-war action. It comes with a handle on each side for you to hold, while your dog can bite down on the main portion of the toy.
Unlike some other tug toys, which are too heavy to safely toss to your pet, the Redline K-9 Tug Toy is light and soft enough to throw around with medium to large dogs.
Colors: Natural (brown)
Sizes: The Redline K-9 Tug Toy is available in one size. It measures about 16 inches in length (not including the handle), and it weighs about 6 ounces.
Most owners liked the Redline K-9 Tug Toy, as did their dogs. The handles make it easy to hang on to, and the toy’s light weight makes it great for a variety of different games.
Several owners complained that their dog was able to rip the toy apart, however, the majority of these owners seem to have let their pup chew on the toy. As mentioned before, this is not the sign of a faulty product; it’s indicative of improper use.
Things to Look for in a Tug Toy
No matter what type of tug toy you choose, there are a few things you’ll want to look for when making your selection.
Most tug toys are pretty affordable, so don’t skimp: Go ahead and spend the extra two bucks for a tug toy made from premium rope or plastic, rather than those made from cheap, low-quality materials. This is especially important for plastic or rubber tug toys.
An Easy-to-Grip Shape for Your Pooch
If you want your dog to enjoy playing tug of war, you have to select a toy that she can grip easily (and safely). There are no hard-and-fast rules in this regard, and different types of dogs prefer gripping different types of objects, so you may need to experiment a little bit to determine the best style for your four-footer.
A Handle for You to Hold
You probably don’t need a toy with a great handle to out-muscle your terrier while playing tug-of-war, but if you want to keep up with your Rottie, Great Dane, or mastiff, you’ll certainly need a tug toy with a handle that fits well in your hand.
Select a Tug Toy That’s a Good Size for Your Pooch
Toys that are too small can represent a choking hazard, and large toys may not even fit in the mouths of small dogs, so be sure to choose the proper size. This is another arena in which you may need to experiment, but default to small sizes for scrappy little Shih Tzus and large sizes for pitties, Labs, shepherds, and other medium to large dogs.
Safe Tug Toy Use: Don’t Be a Doofus
Playing tug-of-war with your dog isn’t exactly rocket science. You grab one end of the toy, let your pupper grab the other, and let the fun ensue.
But there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure you and your pooch have a good time and avoid injury. Just keep the following tips in mind and everything should work out just fine:
- Don’t jerk on the chew toy. Dogs have pretty strong chompers, but they aren’t indestructible. So, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t accidentally yank one of your dog’s teeth out while playing. This means making sure your dog has a good grip on the toy and pulling in a smooth, consistent manner while playing. You may also want to lay off the tug games with your young puppy while their baby teeth are still in – you could inadvertently pull one out!
- Watch out for what’s behind you. If you or your dog “win” tug of war (or slip while playing), you could end up falling backward and suffering an injury. To keep you both safe, be sure to confine tugging games to open areas and remove any objects sitting behind you or your dog.
- Keep your canine on the ground. Some owners of small dogs like to lift their dog completely off the ground while playing tug of war games, but this is a terrible idea. You could not only injure your canine’s chompers by doing so, but your dog may also suffer spinal injuries in the process. Just make sure your dog keeps all four paws on the floor during tugging games.
- Don’t let your dog chew on a tug toy. We can’t count the number of disappointed owners who’ve left complaints about tug toys not holding up for long. But here’s the thing: The vast majority of these owners are using the toy incorrectly. Tug toys are not designed to be chewed on, and they may be hazardous when used in such fashion. So, once playtime is over, take the toy away from your dog if she’s a chewer.
The Benefits of Playing Tug-of-War with Your Dog
We noted earlier that tug of war is a great way to bond with your dog, but we never explained all of the benefits this type of play provides. A few of the most notable ways tug of war will benefit you and your dog include:
- It provides another way to bond with your dog.
- It will help your dog get some exercise.
- It keeps your doggo’s brain busy.
We should also mention that tug games are also easy to play while you’re doing other things. It’s always more fun (for you and your pooch) when you give your dog your undivided attention during playtime, but life often gets in the way of that.
I can’t tell you how many K9 of Mine articles I’ve typed with one hand because my other one is busy holding onto my Rottie’s favorite rope tug toy.
Why Dogs Like Tug-of-War
Nobody knows exactly why many dogs love playing tug of war so much. That said, you can check out our article explaining some of the most likely reasons dogs love tug games, authored by certified trainer and canine behavior expert Kayla Fratt.
The article is definitely worth checking out, but the three primary reasons Kayla points out include:
- Tug of war is a collaborative game that fosters human-dog bonding
- Tug games scratch your dog’s predatory itch
- Tug of war is sort of like ripping open a carcass – something prehistoric dogs would have done frequently
Tugging games are a great way to bond with your dog, keep her brain busy, and get her some exercise. Just remember to select a safe toy for this kind of play, take it away from your pooch once the game is over, and don’t be afraid to try several different models or styles until you find one that works well for you and your four-footer.
Do you have a tug toy that’s held up well? Have you found a particular style that seems more fun for your pooch than others? Let us know in the comments below!