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Life with Pets December 11, 2023

Dog gifts: best dog toys based on breed

Shopping for a gift for your dog? Read more to find the perfect dog toy based on your dog’s breed.

Looking for the best dog toys for your furry friend? Many options are available, and tailoring your choices to your dog’s natural tendencies is a great way to find toys your pup will enjoy. That’s because dogs exhibit diverse traits and behaviors based on their breeds, so understanding these specific characteristics is vital to providing an enriching and satisfying play experience.

Importance of playtime: how much playtime do dogs need?

Though dogs enjoy playtime, the purpose goes far beyond fun. Play serves as a means of physical exercise, mental stimulation, and enrichment. It also provides opportunities for them to bond with their humans or learn to feel relaxed and calm when alone. 

The amount of playtime a dog needs varies based on age, breed, health, and other factors. Generally, most dogs benefit from at least 30 minutes to two hours of daily play. Puppies and high-energy breeds might require more active playtime, while older dogs or those with health conditions may need more low-key play sessions. If you’re unsure how much playtime your dog needs, your veterinarian can guide you.

Labrador retrieving a toy from the water.

Toys for retrievers

Bird dogs like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Brittanys are members of the Sporting breed group that are bred to assist hunters in finding and retrieving game birds. A game of fetch is an ideal outlet for their energy, allowing them to showcase their agility, speed, and exceptional retrieving skills. Here are some dog toy suggestions you can explore:

  • Balls. Tennis balls work great, but rubber balls are even better since they are more durable. Choose a ball size appropriate for your dog’s mouth and ensure they’re made of safe, non-toxic materials. Pro tip: Want to get a little extra distance on your throws? Consider options like a ChuckIt! to make your throws go farther.
  • Interactive fetch toys. Automatic ball launchers provide endless entertainment, allowing your dog to indulge in their favorite pastime even when you’re not available. You can adjust these toys to different throwing distances, and with some training, your dog can learn to reload the ball on their own.
  • Water toys. Many sporting dogs love the water, so floating balls or rings they can fetch in lakes and slow-moving rivers allow them to do two fun things at once: retrieve and swim.
Border Collie on an agility course.

Toys for herding dogs

Herding breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Australian Cattle Dogs have a lot of energy and are very intelligent. So, the best toys for these pups exercise their bodies and minds while allowing them to tap into their deeply ingrained herding instincts. Toys for herding dogs include:

  • Puzzle toys. Interactive toys that encourage problem-solving—like toys with hidden compartments for treats—keep herding dogs mentally engaged.
  • Agility toys. Herding dogs thrive on physical challenges. Incorporating agility and obstacle toys into their playtime provides physical exercise and allows them to showcase their natural athleticism. Look for tunnels, ramps, or adjustable jump sets that cater to their dynamic nature.
  • Herding balls. Herding balls are larger and heavier than balls used for fetch. Rather than trying to pick them up or retrieve them, dogs use them to chase and push around the yard.
Beagle playing with a toy in the grass.

Toys for hound dogs

All dogs have an impressive sense of smell, but hound dogs like Beagles and Bloodhounds have particularly keen noses—and they love to use them. Choose dog toys for hounds that tap into their scent-tracking abilities. These include:

  • Snuffle mats and puzzle feeders. These toys allow your dog to get a little playtime during meals by requiring them to sniff out their food before they enjoy it.
  • Scent jars for hide and seek. Teach your dog nose work by adding a few drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and placing it in a small jar. Introduce your dog to the smell, then train your dog to find the jar after hiding it around the house.
  • Scented toys. Studies show that some dogs are more likely to play with scented toys than unscented ones. So, your hound dog will likely appreciate a little olfactory boost during playtime.
Terrier playing with an interactive toy.

Toys for smart dogs

Dogs known for their intelligence, like Belgian Malinois, Poodles, and Airedale Terriers, excel at problem-solving. Choose dog toys that challenge their minds for a fulfilling playtime experience. Some of the best toys for intelligent dogs are:

  • Treat-dispensing balls. These toys require dogs to roll the ball in a certain way to release the treat, providing mental stimulation before they get each reward.
  • Hide and seek toys. Toys that require pups to use their senses to play a game provide engagement for dogs who like a little extra challenge. 
  • Recordable dog buttons. Want to teach your dog to talk? Programmable buttons your dog can push to give you commands are a great way to engage their minds.

Commonly asked questions

What dog breed is right for me?

Choosing the best breed for you requires a little research and reflection. Get started with our guide to finding a breed that matches your lifestyle. 

How do I keep my dog entertained at home? 

There are plenty of ways to have fun with your pup without leaving the house or yard. Check out some of our favorite at-home games for dogs.

Get to know your dog with a Wisdom Panel DNA test

Not sure of your pup’s breed mix? A Wisdom Panel dog DNA test will break down your dog’s unique mix and deliver insights into their genetic health, ancestry, traits, and more.