Don’t be fooled by a basic piece of rope because it makes a pretty great toy for a dog. My Border Collie will happily tug on her rope toy all day!
Rope toys are a popular choice for fetch or can be used in games of tug-of-war. If you are looking for a new toy for your dog, then a rope toy is worth checking out.
All up, we tested over 50 different rope toys, playing hundreds of games of fetch and tug-of-war until our arms refused to go on. Then, we did it all over again the next day.
We reviewed each for their durability, quality and suitability for breeds, all to answer one simple question:
Which rope toy is best for your dog?
Want the answer? Read on!
- What is a rope dog toy?
- Is a rope toy the ideal toy for your dog?
- Rope toy safety – read this before buying!
- What are the different types of rope dog toys?
- Best rope dog toys
- Best all-around rope dog toy
- Best rope and ball dog toy
- Best giant rope dog toy
- Best plush animal rope dog toy
What is a rope dog toy?
A single piece of rope is constructed of hundreds of pieces of string twisted together. A rope toy takes multiple pieces of rope and twists them into a larger rope. A mega rope, if you will.
If you look at the end of your traditional rope toy, you’ll see the many pieces of string that make it up…
Most rope dog toys contain multiple pieces of rope, twisted together in a braid. The ends of the rope toy are usually clusters of individual pieces of string.
Let’s face it, rope isn’t complicated. It’s hundreds of pieces of string, twisted together. This simple design means that manufacturers can offer rope toys at cheaper prices than toys made from other materials.
It is worth mentioning that not all rope tug toys are made from cotton string. Some are made from jute or fleece cloth or even hemp. Whatever the material, all rope toys have a similar braided design.
You can grab a rope dog toy almost anywhere, your local pet store, Walmart, or Target. Although, if you want a specific rope toy, you may only find it online.
However, you can’t give your dog just any old rope to play with. The rope found in your local Home Depot, for example, is coated with oils, chemicals and dyes – many of which are unsafe for your dog.
Dog-specific rope toys are typically made from cotton and free from toxic chemicals that could harm your dog.
Is a rope toy the ideal toy for your dog?
Rope toys are often given to Labradors, Pit Bulls, German Shepherds and other dogs with a strong bite. Many owners praise rope for its ability to outlast rubber fetch toys that cost considerably more.
Rope is durable when bitten down on, making it excel at fetch and tug games.
If you look in any dog toy storage basket, you’ll likely find at least one rope toy.
The reason for their popularity? They allow your dog to play different games…
Throw it for a game of fetch…
Grab it for a game of tug-of-war…
Your dogs will even happily use a rope toy to play with each other.
Some owners buy ropes to be used as chew toys…
However, having tested over 50 different rope toys, we are sad to report that as a chew toy, it falls apart quickly. Even worse, small strands of string are left behind that are dangerous to your dog.
In fact, we would suggest you avoid rope as a chew toy altogether.
But for tug and fetch games, rope makes an affordable and unique alternative to a ball or Frisbee toy.
Ropes are suitable for dog breeds of all sizes. Rope toys vary in thickness and weight. From itty-bitty Chihuahua-friendly varieties to long, heavy ropes that only a Labrador or larger could move – there is something for everyone.
Make sure you buy the right size for your dog. A large or long rope will be far too heavy for a small dog like a Pomeranian or Dachshund to carry. On the flip side, a rope that is too thin can easily be bitten through by the powerful jaws of a Mastiff.
- Commonly available
- Used for multiple games
- Can be treated with harsh chemicals and dyes
- Should only be used under supervision
- Not suitable as a chew toy
- Can be dangerous (see next section)
Rope toy safety – read this before buying!
Remember how we said that rope toys should not be used as a chew toy? Well, there’s a good reason for that…
Rope dog toys are arguably the most dangerous toy that your dog can play with. Yes, you read that right. That rope toy your dog is playing with could actually kill him.
This is why rope toys should only be given to your dog under supervision. If playtime is over or you need to go elsewhere, the rope toy should be packed away for later.
So, what makes rope toys so dangerous?
As I mentioned earlier, rope is made up of hundreds of individual strands of strings. It’s these strings that make rope toys so dangerous…
Let’s face it. Your dog’s teeth are sharp.
Your dog uses these sharp teeth to grip and chew his rope toy.
Over time, this rough play causes these strings to fray and come loose. And, there is a good chance that your dog will swallow them – especially if your dog is a power chewer like our Labrador tester.
String falls under the category of “linear foreign bodies.” This is vet-speak for the most harmful objects that your dog could swallow. This category includes things like cords, fabric, tape and you guessed it – string!
Strings from chewed rope are more dangerous than eating chunks of rubber, plastic or even that fluffy stuffing found in plush toys!
Long pieces of string are the most dangerous.
If swallowed, one end of the string could get caught in your dog’s stomach while the other end could reach the intestines. As the digestive system attempts to move the string, the strand will tighten. The result? The intestines can cinch like the drawstring on your pants.
As you might have guessed, this is incredibly painful for your dog. And if left untreated, it is deadly. The only treatment is surgery, and it’s an operation that takes hours to complete. The vet bills aren’t cheap, and the recovery process is long and painful.
Even short strands of string can be deadly. Many dogs happily sit and chew off tiny pieces at a time. These individual pieces can gather together and cause a blockage in your dog’s intestine – the same way hairs clog a shower drain.
During testing, we observed that non-cotton ropes were most prone to shredding into small pieces. Appropriately sized cotton ropes usually untwisted into clumps of long string at which point our testers became disinterested.
The worst part is that most owners don’t realize their dog has swallowed string until it’s too late – the symptoms of intestinal blockage are often confused with other diseases.
If you suspect your dog has swallowed string from his rope toy, contact your vet ASAP!
With all that said, you may be wondering why you would give a dog a rope toy at all.
And you know what? It’s a darn good question, especially if your dog is a chewer or enjoys destroying toys.
The risk of your dog swallowing strands of string just isn’t worth the hour of fun your dog may have – if not for your dog’s health, then to avoid those expensive vet bills.
Ultimately, it’s your choice whether or not to give your dog a rope toy. Thousands of owners report using a rope without any issue. Consider your dog’s play style and speak with your vet before purchasing a rope play toy.
If you decide to use a rope toy, it should be used only under supervision. The moment you notice the rope fraying or string falling out, toss the rope in the trash.
Better yet, pick a rope made from fleece.
Are you looking for a toy that your dog can play with while you are at work or even in the other room? Check out our other dog toy reviews instead.
If you still want to purchase a rope toy, then you want a good one. Read on to find out which rope toy is best for your dog.
What are the different types of rope dog toys?
Rope toys fall into one of two different categories…
Traditional rope toys
What more is there to say? It’s a piece of braided rope. Some ropes have an extra knot in the middle to give your dog a focus point to grab.
This is the most common and cheap type of rope toy available. Don’t be fooled by its simple design – a plain dog rope is more than capable of keeping your pooch entertained for hours on end.
Modified rope toys
Like with most dog toys, rope toys are available in a wide range of styles and shapes. Modified dog toys incorporate one or more additional features onto the rope, such as balls, handles, bones and even plush toys that squeak!
Let’s look at some of the most common modified rope toys…
1. Rope and handle
The rope is looped back on itself to create a handle. Sometimes the handle will be coated in plastic to make the toy more comfortable to grip. Some rope toys have two handles, others just have one.
We found that the handle really gave us the upper hand in games of tug-of-war. Our clever pups soon figured this out too. When presented with a rope toy with just one handle, they now take the handle side.
2. Rope and ball
Dogs love balls, so it’s no surprise to see rope toys with balls attached.
Ball sizes range from small tennis balls for throwing to soccer balls that you can kick your rope away when playing fetch.
During testing, we noticed that dogs had a preference for grabbing the ball when playing games of tug-of-war.
3. Rope and bone
These are a regular rope toy with a natural dog chew attached, such as bones, rawhide, hooves or elk antlers. The natural chew distracts your dog from chewing on the rope, causing it to last longer.
If you are concerned about your dog eating string, this type of rope should be avoided. It’s possible your dog will swallow pieces while chewing the bone.
4. Plush rope toys
This plush toy has rope sewn into the arms, legs or other commonly pulled areas.
Owners often give plush rope toys to puppies as a means of giving them different textures to chew on.
Best rope dog toys
In our hunt for the best, we tested and reviewed over 50 different rope dog toys.
It was a long journey, but we finally were able to narrow the competitors down to 4 winners – each unique in their own way.
So to start with, I’ll list the best rope toy for most dogs before moving onto the winners for those of you looking for something a little more specialized.
Best all-around rope dog toy
It’s unsurprising to see Mammoth as the winner here. They make over 100 different rope toys in every style imaginable – one of them has to be great, right?
It’s their traditional rope toy that put them on the list. A basic rope with three knots, two on the end and one in the middle.
It’s the durability of the all-cotton rope that made Mammoth outclass its competitors. While other ropes split or fell apart during testing, our Mammoth ropes are still going strong except for some minor fraying.
Best of all, Mammoth is one of the few rope toy manufacturers that create rope toys in a range of lengths…
My only complaint is that if you order online, colors are given out at random – and they aren’t exactly neutral.
I know it’s 2019, and your male Rottweiler can play with a pink rope toy if he wants. But if you want to color coordinate with the rest of your dog’s toys, you may be disappointed with what you receive.
And, well, that’s really all there is to it. It may be a simple rope toy, but it’s pretty great.
Best rope and ball dog toy
Out of all the categories, this one was the most difficult to pick a winner for.
While some brands offered indestructible balls, the rope was better used as a handle than a chew toy. On the flipside, others offered a heavy-duty rope attached to a brittle ball that was easily punctured or shredded.
When it came to everyday play, one rope ball toy beat out the competition by a long shot…
The Romp-n-Roll by Jolly Pets.
The Romp-n-Roll was one of the few ball ropes available in different sizes. Whether you have a teething puppy or hulking Dobermann, there is a size for your dog.
|Size||Ball Size||Dog Weight|
|Small||4½ inches||0-20 pounds|
|Medium||6 inches||20-60 pounds|
|Large||8 inches||60+ pounds|
The Romp-n-Roll is available in three different colors – red, blue and purple. There is no difference in performance, so choose whichever color is your pup’s favorite.
This was one of the few rope toys that could also be kicked. Well, the larger sizes anyway. When playing fetch, we could kick the ball a considerable distance before it came to a halt – beats bending down when playing fetch!
What I really liked was that the ball also could be used as a toy long after the rope has been pulled to strings.
And let me tell you, it can take some damage. Despite many punctures, this ball is heavy-duty! Since it’s not inflated, it compresses and pops back into its original shape, no matter how chewed up it gets.
Pretty impressive, right? Great for dogs like Pit Bulls and German Shepherds that don’t know their own strength.
Best of all, the Romp-n-Roll is made right here in the USA.
My only real complaint is that I wish the rope was a little thicker so that it was just as durable as the ball. Even so, out of all the rope ball toys we reviewed, the Romp-n-Roll was the star.
When it comes to rope ball toys, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Best giant rope dog toy
Mammoth won another category with the longest rope we tested.
At 72-inches long, the Mammoth 5 Knot is comically long. It’s a pain in the butt to heave down to the local dog park and takes up an awful lot of room in our toy storage basket.
But for large dogs like Rottweilers and Great Danes, it’s perfect. The extra length means that your pooch won’t always bite in the same spot – considerably extending the life of the rope toy.
We were also impressed that the extra length allowed multiple dogs to play tug-of-war at once. It was great fun watching four of our testers tug it out – there was room for everyone’s mouth!
All told, this is essentially just a longer version of our all-around pick – the only real difference is that it has 5 knots instead of 3.
Again, the only real complaint is the inability to choose a color. But that doesn’t have any impact on the performance of the product.
A great, basic rope toy for big dogs who play rough.
Best plush animal rope dog toy
There is a reason this product is still around after all these years… it’s darn good. One owner we interviewed has been buying this as her go-to dog toy – her dog refuses to play with anything else.
While we tested the moose model, you can also choose from a monkey or frog. The difference is purely cosmetic, although the others don’t come with antlers that can be chewed off.
Each Tugger Knots is available in two sizes:
|Small||13-inches long||Up to 35 pounds|
|Large||20-inches long||Up to 80 pounds|
We tested the moose. We were pleased to note that only the head is filled with stuffing. When playing tug-of-war, if you choose the handle above the head, your dog’s mouth will never get near this.
Instead of stuffing, the twisted rope runs through the body, meaning that when your dog gnaws on this plush toy, his teeth aren’t sinking into the stuffing – making the plush toy considerably more difficult to break.
It’s worth mentioning that Kong also offers a line of plush rope toys that have no stuffing at all – Kong Floppy Knots. However, we found these to be less durable and more difficult to hold in games of tug-of-war.
While my our testers were thrilled to hear the sound of the squeaker, it was quickly punctured during play. Fortunately, this didn’t impact the Tugger Knot’s use as a tug toy.
Aside from the squeaker, the rope toy held up well – even to enthusiastic play. Countless games of fetch and tug were played without any signs of fraying or loose string.
Like all soft toys, if your dog is a heavy chewer, you’ll want to steer clear of this one too – stick to rubber dog toys instead. Light-to-medium chewers will get the most mileage out of this toy.
It might not be the softest plush toy, but it is made from rope after all. And, only being partially stuffed reduces the chances of you needing to clean up piles of stuffing when it finally tears. An easy winner.
The rope dog toys that didn’t make the cut
While our top picks outperformed, the following rope toys were flawed in one way or another.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that these are bad rope toys. You may be very happy with your purchase. However, based on our testing, we see no reason to choose these over our recommendations above.
On the plush animal front, the Kong Floppy Knots came in at a close second. This cute fox had adorable rope arms. It was only let down by it being more difficult to grip by hand and more likely to tear during tug play.
Jax and Bones offered the cutest designs. These “all-rope” animals were also colored with natural vegetable dyes to boot. However, Elton the Octopus unraveled perhaps the quickest of any rope toy we tested.
We also tested a bunch of off-brand rope animal toys. Some were shaped like dinosaurs and carrots. Others like a rope monkey fist. Most were either already frayed out of the box or didn’t hold up well to play.
Ethical Pets also offered a stuffing-free plush rope toy. We tested the Skinneeez Tug Fox. In tug play, our testers clamped down on the tail, which shed too much for our liking.
Growing up with the cartoon as a kid, I loved the design of the Scooby Doo Rope Toy. Unfortunately, its small size and easy-to-untwist rope only made it suitable for small, gentle chewers – Pugs or smaller.
Another rope toy made in the USA, this time from fleece. Fleece has the added advantage that it doesn’t leave a stringy mess to clean up. We found that the Interactive Fleece Rope Toy gave some hands carpet burn during play. While the twists held strong during our testing, they show slight signs of unraveling. I have my doubts this would hold up with continued use.
Hemp is quickly becoming a popular material used in dog products, such as leashes and collars, so I was unsurprised to come across a rope toy made from hemp strands. It’s chemical-free and biodegradable. As a twisted rope toy, however, it just doesn’t hold up. The Tug-A-Hemp toy showed serious signs of fraying after the first play session.
The Dogit rope range had three misses. The Cotton Rope Bone frayed quicker than the basic Mammoth ropes. The tennis ball on the Cotton Rope Bone and Ball split in the first play session. And as for the mint-flavored dog rope, we don’t currently recommend any product that is infused with mint. The ASPCA lists peppermint oil as being toxic to dogs.
The StarMark Fantastic Foam Ball relied on a piece of heat shrink to keep the rope in place – it quickly came undone in tug-of-war.
The remaining rope toys we reviewed were basic rope toys woven into various shapes and designs. They were either overpriced, available in fewer sizes or quickly showed signs of fraying.
Phew, if you have made it this far, congratulations! You now know which rope toy is perfect for your dog.
A recap of our results…
The best tug toys we tested:
- Cottonblend 3 Knot – Best all-around rope dog toy
- Romp-n-Roll – Best rope and ball dog toy
- Cottonblend 5 Knot – Best giant rope dog toy
- Kong Tugger Knots – Best plush animal rope dog toy
Which rope toy do you use to play with your pooch? Let me know in the comments below!