September 2018

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Play is a great way to release stress and tension, and a dog occupied with toys or games will also be a dog that isn't chewing on your personal belongings and furniture. Some dogs prefer the mental stimulation of puzzles, while others prefer a more physical release from chewing, tugging, and fetch. Some dogs know what they like, while others may need help learning how to play with different types of toys. Check out this play style assessment and find out what kinds of play your dog enjoys!

Recommended Dog Toys

  • Play toys: squeaky toys, rubber toys, tennis balls, frisbees, chase toys - recommended brands include: West Paw®, Jolly Pets® and Planet Dog®
  • Chew and Food Dispensing toys: marrow bones, bully sticks and food puzzles - recommended brands include: Kong®, Busy Buddy® and PetSafe®


  • Use toys that are designed for dogs; toys for children can be dangerous for dogs. Some dogs never destroy toys; some will. Check the toy's label for its level of durability.
  • Pick appropriately sized toys for your new dog; a large dog could choke on a small toy.
  • If you have more than one dog, monitor the toys closely. It's best to keep them separated when they have toys until you get to know your new dog better.
  • Show children how to play safely with the new dog. If your dog and kids love to play together, try fun games like fetch and hide and seek. Always supervise play.
  • Your dog might like to play fetch with tennis balls or plush squeaky toys. Some dogs prefer to run away with the toy, instead of bringing it back to you. If your dog won't give up the toy, trade it for another toy or treats.
  • Your dog might like to tug. Ask your foster coordinator or adoption counselor if tug is a good game for your dog. Check out the Center for Shelter Dog's Tug Rules. Your new dog should learn how to release the tug toy without making contact with your hand. Don't let kids play tug.
  • Consider nose work. Hide stuffed chew toys or treats in the house; help find the hidden treasures.
  • When your dog is resting or in their crate, give them a few toys to keep them occupied. Stuff food-dispensing toys with enticing treats or dog food. What better way to pass time?
  • Be careful with hard chew toys such as antlers and bones. Dogs can break teeth when chewing on these items, and some veterinarians recommend NOT using these chews.


  • Wrestling games can escalate quickly, and accidents can happen. Children should be careful to not chase, tug, or wrestle with your new dog until you have a better idea of how your dog may act.
  • Don't pull toys out of your dog's mouth. No one would appreciate that action. Instead, trade the toy for something better, like a toy or a treat.