5 Must-Have Dog Toys for Large Dogs

Alpine Dog Co. ™

I love my Fodo, but I usually don't have enough time to play with him and keep him mentally and physically stimulated. On the other hand, failure to stimulate him causes destructive behaviors. After years of struggling with these bad behaviors, I finally found a solution, and that is to provide him with toys.

We have different toy types, and all come in different shapes, sizes, and designs. These variations make it hard to pick the right toy for the dog. Fortunately, I have compiled for you the things to look for, as well as my top must-have dog toys for large dogs recommendations.

Playtime Essentials: Must-Have Dog Toys for Large Dogs

Dogs are like humans. When they are busy doing something, they don’t get bored. In fact, when the dog runs or does lots of walking, the body produces endorphins and serotonin. These are the same hormones that your body produces when you’re stressed or in pain.

Dog toys stimulate the brain and make the dog’s body produce these hormones without taking them for jogs or long walks. The hormones make the dog relaxed, calm, and even sleepy. Here are the must-have playtime essentials for large dogs that will trigger the production of these great hormones.

  1. Food Dispensing Puzzle Toys

Usually, puzzle toys reward the dog by giving it treats. Otherwise, the dog won’t be motivated to solve the problem.  The toy has a compartment that holds things like treats and kibble.

The work of the dog is to manipulate the toy by pawing, rolling, and nudging until it releases the treats. Note that there are variations in puzzle toy designs, and the difficult levels are different. Here are reasons why food-dispensing toys are great for large dogs:

  • The dog won’t know the treats are finished, and the toy continues to keep the dog busy even without treats inside.
  • The toy doesn’t release all the treats at once. So, it automatically slows down greedy food gobblers such as Labrador Retrievers.
  • The toys show dogs that problem-solving is more rewarding compared to destructive behaviors like excessive barking and chewing furniture.

  2. Interactive Play Toys

Intelligent dogs like the Border Collie easily learn how to solve food puzzles. So, when you leave for work, the dog eats all the treats and is left bored for the rest of the day. Using food-dispensing toys all the time also means one thing: the dog keeps eating.

Continuous eating is not a good idea for large dogs prone to obesity such as Bulldogs. In fact, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention shows that over 50% of dogs are obese. That’s why you sometimes need to use interactive toys instead of food-dispensing toys.

A good example of interactive toys is the fetch toys. The advantage of interactive toys is that they stimulate the mind and burn calories since actions like fetching require back-and-forth runs. Since there’s no food involved, the dog won't develop bad behaviors of expecting a food reward for every good thing it does.  

  3. Chew Toys

Chewing is a natural and instinctive behavior for dogs. In fact, chewing is what helps the giant dogs maintain their jaw muscles strong, and scrape away plaque and tartar from teeth. Without good chew toys, you’ll find your furry friend chewing furniture or tearing apart your child’s stuffed plush toys.

Like other types of toys, chew toys come in all manner of shapes, sizes, and hardness levels. It’s for you to know which toy suits your dog’s chewing behavior. For instance, a Mastiff has an incredible bite force of up to 556 psi. This force is over three times the average bite force of other dogs.

Such a dog needs a chew toy made of tough rubber, such as the Schitect Squeaky Dog Chew Toy. On the other hand, a dog with a small bite force, like the 195 psi bite force of the Belgian Malinois, needs a softer toy to keep it chewable. Otherwise, it’s like chewing a stone, and the dog will get bored.   

  4. Squeak Toys

Squeak toys do exactly as their name suggests. They squeak when a dog bites. The design of squeal toys is simple: the toy has a hollow part that is made of soft materials like vinyl and rubber. Inside the toy is a small device that produces a squeaking sound.

So, when the dog bites the toy and squeezes air through the squeaker, the toy produces a high-pitched sound. Once the dog releases the toy, the squeaking sound stops, and the toy re-inflates back to its initial state. Dogs love this sound because they descend from gray wolves, Canis lupus.

They have the same ancestry prey drive of hunting small animals like rodents. So, the dog feels so good when he pounces on the toy and the toy produces a sound like that of a frightened small mammal. The feeling of catching prey gratifies his natural instinct.  

  5. Tug Toys

The ancient wild dogs hunted for survival. It was a battle of chasing the prey, catching, shaking, overpowering, and pulling apart. Tug toys mimic the same thing and gratify the dog’s natural instincts, just like squeak toys. But, the dog can’t physically pull against itself. So, Tug Toys needs you as the second participant.

The advantage of participating in the game is bonding. Just like humans, dogs bond more with people they spend much time having fun with. Now, when playing tug-of-war with your furry friend, it’s not about you versus the dog.

It’s about you and the dog versus the toy. So, the dog sees you as a partner in helping bring down the toy. It gains confidence in you, regardless of whether it wins or loses the game. In fact, according to the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, tug-of-war boosts the dog’s Confident Interactivity score.

Another thing I love about tug toys like the Mammoth Rope Tug is the level of physical exercise involved. The dog uses energy to pull the rope, which is great for its health. At the same time, you're pulling the rope on the other side. Remember that most of these giants were bred as working dogs. Their tug is enough to exercise your body as well and keep you healthy. It’s a win-win game.     

Features to Consider When Choosing Dog Toys

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Canadian Consumer Product Safety Act don’t have specific regulations on the safety of dog toys and accessories. That means it’s your responsibility to buy safe toys and use them the right way. Fortunately, here are tips that can help you choose a toy depending on material and size, and your dog’s age and temperament.

Dog’s Age

You don't buy bicycles for your 1-year-old child or small kid cars for a 15-year-old. In the same way, there are toys designed specifically for puppies, others for adult dogs, and others for seniors. Before hitting the buy button, consider your dog's age as follows.

Teething Puppies

When the puppy is around 3 to 4 months old, the adult teeth come in and push the baby teeth out. The process is usually painful, just like in babies. During this time, the puppy starts chewing wood, nipping at your feet, and gnawing on furniture.

The process continues until all the 42 permanent teeth come in when the dog is 6 to 8 months old.  During this time, provide your Fido with soft chew toys to soothe his sore gum.

I prefer using a cool chew toy like the Petstages Cool Teething Stick Dog Toy. The toy is staffed, with the outside made of cotton-poly fabric. I simply dip the toy in water and then keep it in the freezer for a while. When I give it to the teething pup, the cold soft fabric offers a gentle soothe to the gums.

Adult Dogs

Adulthood is the prime age when your Fido is full of energy. It’s usually 1 year to 7-8 years depending on the breed. If the dog doesn’t spend up energy at this time, it develops destructive behaviors like excessive barking.

So, this is the time to give your dog fetch toys, tug ropes, and puzzle toys for mental and physical stimulation. I love using the Foxmm Dog Puzzle Toy due to its captivating nature. This toy comes with a squeaking device in the middle.

When you press the button and the sound comes on, the toy immediately captures the dog's attention. Now, this is where things get interesting. There are two compartments for hiding treats. So, when the dog comes to explore what is squeaking, it smells treats.

From there, it’s all about sniffing out treats and eating. In the process, the dog presses the device, and it squeaks again.


Senior dogs are those older than 7-8 years. Just like humans, senior dogs are less active, their muscles are weak, their joints have become stiffer and their vision and hearing abilities diminishing. The metabolism rate also changes, and the dog can gain or lose weight drastically.

At this point, the aim is to maintain the muscle mass of your Fido. I don’t recommend using food dispensing puzzles because regular eating can have serious weight implications. Instead, I prefer using light fetch toys like the Chukit Ultra Ball.

The balls are lightweight, and your senior Fido will just exercise by walking or swimming when fetching the balls, not carrying heavy weights. The textured design makes the balls easy to fetch even if the senior has already started losing teeth.    

Dog’s Temperament

Large breeds were developed for things like guarding, hunting, herding, sledding, and companions. For example, a Border Collie is intelligent, while a Labrador Retriever is friendly. A puzzle toy for Border Collie needs harder challenges due to its high intelligence. Otherwise, the dog will solve the puzzles and get bored.

On the other hand, puzzle toys for dogs like Bulldogs need to be simple. Otherwise, the dog will never learn to solve it and get treats. In the same way, don’t play tug-of-war games with protective and aggressive dogs like Mastiff. The game is stimulating, and for protective breeds, it’s a battle of possession and dominance.

Again, dogs like Bulldogs are low-energy and lazy. They won’t find it entertaining to run around the compound fetching toys. They’ll love a plush toy for snuggling and cuddling. On the other hand, fetch toys work great for high-energy dogs like Greyhounds. So, when choosing a toy, consider the temperament and intelligence levels of your dog.    


The common fetch and chew toys such as balls are made of rubber. Note that some rubber types release harmful chemicals and shouldn't be used for food contact. So, buy toys made of rubber approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as food-grade.

Another thing, heavy chewers tear soft latex balls in no time. So, if you’re buying the toy for a heavy chewer like the Golden Retriever, go for one made of tough indestructible rubber such as the Schitect Squeaky Dog Chew Toy.


It’s easy to ignore the size of the toys, but they can cost the life of your Fido. Dogs like Labrador Retrievers are gobblers and will try to swallow the toys. According to the Center for Pet Safety, there are almost 100% fatality rates on ball-related incidents reported.

In the reported cases, dog owners were unable to dislodge the stuck balls. That means it’s not a matter of supervision, but making sure the dog doesn't choke in the first place. So, as a rule of thumb, always buy toys that are larger than your dog’s mouth.

The best way to do this is to consider the dog’s breed and age. Remember, from puppyhood to adulthood, large dog breeds remain large. I mean, a 3-month-old Saint Bernard is larger than a 3-month-old Yorkshire Terrier, and the same applies to their mouths.

If you’re buying teething toys for your 3-month-old Saint Benard, the toy should have a description like — recommended age: 3 to 4 months, recommended breed size: medium or large. Don’t be confused and buy teething toys recommended for small dogs, thinking that your giant breed is small because he is a puppy. 

Final Thoughts

If you want to keep your giant Fido busy and prevent destructive behaviors, dog toys are a must-have. When shopping, make sure you buy toys that match your dog’s age and temperament. The toys I have recommended above are high-quality, durable, and entertaining.

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