So, your dog thinks she is a wide receiver?
She finds herself in the open and barks to let you know. You throw the perfect pass, and she crosses for a touchdown. Your pup follows it up with an adorably goofy touchdown celebration – dogs are all about showboating after all. It’s how they earn their belly rubs!
Okay, so all this is in your pooch’s head. In reality, it’s more like watching the Puppy Bowl. But you can make it slightly more realistic by swapping out the usual tennis ball for a doggy football.
All up, we tested over 28 different dog footballs, playing hundreds of rounds of fetch, throwing perfect spiral passes until our arms refused to go on. Then, the next day, we did it all over again.
Here are just a few of the different dog footballs we reviewed…
We reviewed each for their durability, quality and suitability for different breeds, all to answer one simple question:
Which football toy is best for your dog?
Want the answer? Read on!
Our Top Choices
- What is a dog football and does your pup need one?
- Best dog football toys
- The dog footballs that didn’t make the cut
What is a dog football and does your pup need one?
At first, you may be wondering why you don’t just use a standard regulation football. You know, the same type they use in NFL games.
Well, for a football to be suitable for dogs, it needs to be designed a little differently.
Your dog thinks that he plays football like this…
But dogs don’t play football with their hands. They use their mouths.
When playing football, your pup actually looks like this…
A regulation football is likely larger than your dog’s mouth. At 7-inches tall at the largest point, only the largest of breeds can open their mouth wide enough to carry it.
But that’s not the only problem…
Look at your hands. Soft and smooth, right? Now, look at your dog’s mouth. See that cavern that is filled with teeth as sharp as daggers? These teeth are designed for ripping and tearing – they can do some serious damage!
A regulation football was designed with human hands in mind. Your dog’s teeth will quickly tear it to shreds – even if he isn’t a chewer.
And when the football pops, the game is over. Who wants to play with a deflated football? I mean, besides Tom Brady.
A traditional football just can’t hold up to the wear and tear that your dog can dish out.
If you want to toss the pigskin around with your pup, then you need a dog-proof football. These hard-wearing footballs are designed to stay strong, even when your pooch bites down hard.
Made from durable materials like rubber or featuring re-enforced stitching, these balls are puncture-resistant. Even if your dog’s teeth pierce the surface of the football, it won’t deflate.
Even so, footballs are best used as a supervised play toy. They won’t hold up when used as a chew toy. When the game of fetch is over, pack the football away and give your dog his go-to chew toy instead.
If your dog loves to play in the water, choose a football that floats. While most do, you shouldn’t assume it unless the manufacturer specifically lists that it does. You don’t want to fish out a football from the bottom of a lake or pool, do you?
I’ll finish off by saying that you should choose a football that is appropriate for your breed. Footballs that are around 8 inches in length are best suited for large dogs. Small dogs will have difficulty gripping a ball that size.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of footballs to choose from, even for your pint-sized pup. Some footballs feature grooves to make them easier for small mouths to grip. Others are miniature versions of a regulation football or compress for easy carrying.
Whatever breed you have, from a tiny Pomeranian to a hulking St. Bernard, there is a football to suit your pup.
If you want to play a game of fetch with a football, then there are no ifs or buts about it. You need a dog-proof football. Now all you need to do is check out these top performers to choose the best football for your dog…
Best dog football toys
In our hunt to find the best, we tested and reviewed over 28 different dog-proof footballs.
It was a long journey, but eventually, we narrowed down the competition to 4 winners – each unique in its own way.
To start, I’m going to show you the best football for most dogs. From there, I make recommendations for those of you looking for something a little more specialized, such as a football that squeaks and a plush football for indoor play.
1. Best all-around dog football
Our top pick actually looks the least like a regulation football out of all our recommendations. But it’s the unique holed shape of the Hol-ee Football that makes it so great.
We found that being able to hook our fingers through the holes in the football made it easier to get the ball from our pups. Just be careful not to initiate a game of tug-of-war – if that’s what your dog wants to play, grab a tug-of-war toy instead.
Also, because you can loop a single finger through a hole to pick the football up, your hands get covered in less dog slobber – if you have a drooly breed, like a Bloodhound, then this is a blessing!
The rubber of the football flexes when bitten and pops back into shape once released, even when the strong jaws of our Labrador tester clamped down hard.
Despite the holes, it still feels like you are throwing a football. When it lands, it bounces unpredictably, often forcing dogs to change directions mid-chase.
The Hol-ee football is available in 4 different sizes…
|Mini||3½ x 2 inches|
|Small||5 x 2½ inches|
|Medium||6 x 3 inches|
|Large||9 x 4½ inches|
The mini size would suit a toy breed such as a Chihuahua while the larger size is perfect for a Great Dane – a football for all dogs. Make sure you buy the appropriate size for your dog. The small size will hold up just fine for a Yorkie but will easily be crunched to pieces by a Rottweiler.
Okay, so if you are looking for a football that you can throw the farthest distance, the Hol-ee football will leave you wanting more – the holes prevent you from throwing it as far.
Don’t get me wrong, I could still chuck it a good distance, more than far enough to give my dog a good chase. But it definitely won’t give you that long-distance touchdown pass.
But given the other benefits the holes offer, and the fact you are playing a game of fetch and not trying out for the NFL, this is a minor drawback.
Given its price point and suitability for dogs of all sizes, the Hol-ee football is the best football for most dogs.
2. Best easy-grip dog football
We wanted to recommend a football that is both dog-proof yet closer in size to a regular football – for those of you who want to practice your long-pass plays.
We reviewed plenty of larger footballs that were closer in size to a regulation one. They were both easier and more enjoyable to throw. Especially when compared to smaller-sized footballs that felt like we were tossing a tennis ball.
Just one problem…
Our dogs found it difficult to wrap their jaws around the larger-sized balls – especially small to medium-sized dogs.
That’s where the Chuckit! Fumble Fetch comes in.
At 8-inches long by 5-inches wide, the Chuckit! Fumble Fetch is a large-sized football that is easy for dogs to bite. And it’s all thanks to the grooves that have been cut into it.
These grooves act as handles, allowing your dog to easily carry the ball. While smaller dogs, like our Boston Terrier, had difficulty with the overall size of the ball, they were still able to awkwardly carry/drag it back – thanks to the grooves. Even so, I recommend this football more for medium to large breeds.
The canvas cloth and rubber exterior hide a foam core. Because this football isn’t inflated, you don’t have to worry about it popping.
Chuckit! also makes a glow-in-the-dark green football. If you like playing fetch at sundown, then the glow is a welcome addition. For our all-black Labrador, it looked like the glowing ball was floating in mid-air as he returned it.
All up, we had about 20 minutes of play before the glow began to fade. I would add that the material used in the glow football showed significantly more wear during testing, especially around the seams, than the orange and blue one. For that reason, I only recommend it if the glow is a feature you desperately need in a football.
I would also add that because this football is covered in canvas fabric, you don’t want to throw it on concrete or rocky surfaces. While the ball is durable, it won’t hold up to brushing up against abrasive surfaces. Grass play only.
Oh, and don’t worry if you accidentally throw this football into a lake or pool. It floats!
If you want a football that is fun to throw, easy for your pup to carry, and durable, there is no going past the Fumble Fetch.
3. Best squeaky dog football
Nerf’s range of dog footballs is huuuuuuge. By the end, we tested 12 different Nerf footballs in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. But one football stood out from the rest – The Nerf Squeak Football.
Not only does it squeak, but it also holds up to strong bites. Our Labrador tester would go long, catch the pass, and then enthusiastically shake the ball around when she realized it squeaked!
Another great thing about the built-in squeaker… it will get your dog’s attention. This was particularly helpful at my local dog park – a quick squeeze and our distracted Lab came bolting over the moment she heard the squeak.
Measuring 7 inches from end to end and 3½-inches tall, it is a little on the small size. Combined with the heavy weight, it’s difficult to throw a perfect spiral. Even so, I was able to toss it a good distance before landing, giving our dogs a good chase.
Admittedly, this ball is probably too heavy for smaller dogs, such as a Chihuahua or Dachshund, to pick it up. Smaller dogs should check out the iSqueak Funble Football (a close runner-up) instead.
But the trade-off is worth it. After many extended play sessions, the rubber held strong. Besides a few light teeth marks, I expect this ball to last a long time – even with powerful-jawed dogs. Oh, and it still squeaks as loudly as ever.
I will add that this football isn’t suitable for indoor play. The black paint on the ‘Nerf Dog’ logo leaves dark skid marks if it brushes against a wall. I found this out the hard way while attempting to throw for a 3-yard gain from the couch.
My bad throw was rewarded with a black smear – very noticeable on my off-white colored walls. Fortunately, I easily removed these scuffs with a MagicEraser. But who wants to wipe down their walls after each puppy football game? Not me.
But for outside play with dogs who love squeaky toys, no other football comes close. Highly recommended!
4. Best plush dog football
Bad weather? Not a problem. Take the game indoors with this stuffed dog football by Kong.
The Kong Ballistic is made for indoor play. It’s gentle enough that it won’t break a window from an awkward throw. I was more worried about our Mastiff tester crashing around my home as he chased after it than any damage the football could do.
Measuring 9½-inches wide and 4½-inches tall, the Kong Ballistic feels good in the hand. I was able to precisely throw it from behind my kitchen table and down the hall and into the end room – the pitter patter of our Corgi’s feet on the wooden flooring could be heard as he chased after it.
I just want to stress that more than any other toy, plush toys are not suitable for chewing. But when used for fetch, the Kong Ballistic football holds up just fine. Use it for supervised play and pack it away once you are done. Then give your dog his go-to chew toy.
While there are two squeakers sewn inside, we found that they were quickly punctured by sharp dog teeth. If a toy that squeaks is important to your pooch, check out our earlier recommendation. But even with the squeakers gone, it doesn’t affect the performance of the football.
The stitching held strong despite a Corgi, Labrador and Mastiff all roughly playing with it. No sign of loose threads. If your dog does manage to tear the ball, there are three layers of material holding the stuffing in.
Best of all, it can be washed. Toss it in your washing machine on the cold cycle, and you’ll remove any caked-on drool that has soaked into the fabric. After all, who wants slobbery dog toys hanging around the house?
When it came to plush footballs, the Kong Ballistic is number one.
The dog footballs that didn’t make the cut
While our top picks outperformed, the following football toys were a letdown in one way or another.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that these are bad dog footballs. Some put up a great fight and were only just edged out by our top picks. Others were much more flawed. However, based on our testing, we see little reason to choose these over our recommendations above.
It was disappointing that all Official-Licensed NFL football toys were not built to last. Personally, I would have loved a dog football toy with my favorite NFL team’s logo on the side (Go Patriots!). But they were not built with dog play in mind. All football toys, even those on ropes, showed excessive wear through our play sessions. If you are buying these for your display cabinet, then go for it. But as far as dog play is concerned, there are much better football toys available.
The JW iSqueak was so close to taking out our number pick for best squeaky football. Available in three different sizes, there is something for every breed. Except larger to extra-large dogs. Our Pit Bull tester tore chunks out of it while playing fetch (no chewing). But for small to medium dogs, this is highly recommended.
When we reviewed soccer balls, Jolly Pets was a top performer. However, their Jolly Football misses the mark completely. Whether it’s the material or the shape, it showed excessive teeth marks and wear at either end of the football. However, I appreciate that it’s made here in the USA.
Gnawsome made a couple of pretty cool footballs. The Gnawsome Squeaker was covered in spikes, which our testers loved to chew on. Of the two, this was the superior football. The Squeak and Light also had an internal LED light that lit up on impact. At 4½-inches wide, neither of these footballs was very good for throwing.
Kong’s Air Squeaker came in three different sizes. It’s pretty much a tennis ball that has been manufactured into the shape of a football. The squeaker lasted the shortest time out of all the balls we tested, and the fuzz showed signs of peeling on each of the three footballs we tested.
Another one from Kong. The Jumbler Football Toy had a handle on each end and a tennis ball in the middle. It’s actually quite a unique toy. It was better suited for tug or solo play than fetch.
There is a lot to love about Planet Dog’s Orbee Tuff Football. They are incredibly durable and made right here in the U.S. It’s the most expensive dog football we tested and has holes in each end, something that is not clear in images when purchasing online. It’s better suited as a chew toy than a fetch toy.
Another entrant from Chuckit!, the Indoor Fumbler was also a strong performer. Suitable for a small to medium dog, we felt it was too hard for indoor play. Our larger dogs easily tore it during rough play.
Another option for a plush football is the Ethical Pet Plush Football, but it only had a single layer of material. Our dogs easily tore it open, exposing the polyester filling inside.
The Ez-Catch Football had a handle, making it easy for dogs to return after being thrown. However, the handle made it somewhat awkward to throw.
Finally, we get to Nerf. Like I said earlier, we reviewed 12 different Nerf footballs – from footballs that crinkled when squeezed to balls that doubled as treat dispensers. Ultimately, when it came to a game of fetch, only the green squeak football stood out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great football. But it leaves you wondering why Nerf hides it in a line-up that only serves to confuse the purchaser with so many choices.
Phew, if you made it this far, congratulations! You now know which football toy is perfect for your dog.
A recap of our results…
The best dog footballs we tested:
- JW Pet Hol-ee Football – Best all-around dog football
- Chuckit! Fumble Fetch – Best easy-grip dog football
- Nerf Squeak Rubber Football – Best squeaky dog football
- Kong Ballistic Football – Best plush dog football
Which dog football do you use to play with your pup? Let me know in the comments below!