Is your dog stick-obsessed, hunting for sticks every time he goes for a walk?
If so, then a stick toy might be the perfect gift for your pooch. These toys are just like sticks but better. They are more durable, bounce when thrown and are safer for your dog. As you’ll soon learn, there is a lot to love about stick toys.
We spent over 60 hours testing and reviewing 20+ stick toys, playing hundreds of games of fetch and tug-of-war until we were too pooped to go on.
Here are just a few of the different stick toys we reviewed…
We reviewed each stick toy for durability, quality, ease of use and suitability for different breeds, all to answer a simple question…
Which stick toy is best for your dog?
Want the answer? Then read on!
Our Top Choices
- What is a dog stick toy and does your pooch need one?
- Best dog stick toys
- The dog stick toys that didn’t make the cut
What is a dog stick toy and does your pooch need one?
For many dogs, the best part about going for a walk is the stick hunt. If your pup finds a stick, then for the rest of the walk, he will have his own unique toy. One that you didn’t have to pack for him!
There isn’t a whole lot more adorable than seeing your pup return from the shrubs with a stick in his mouth – proudly carrying it like a trophy.
Part of the fun of sticks is that no two are the same. They come in all different shapes and sizes…
From giant logs that only a Labrador or larger could carry…
To small twigs that are the perfect size for tiny breeds, like Chihuahuas…
There is something special about sticks that gives your dog super-human strength. In fact, many owners don’t realize how strong their dog is until their precious pooch tries to drag home a stick that is far too big…
Even small dogs can get carried away…
Some dogs go to great lengths to find the perfect stick while on their walk. Even if it means fishing it out of a lake…
Or burrowing deep in the snow…
For dogs, there is only one thing better than stumbling across a stick on their walk… Stealing a stick from someone else!
And when it comes to playtime, a stick is the perfect toy…
For games of fetch…
Enjoying a game of keep-away with the other dogs…
Or, when the fun is over, chewing on…
As you see, there is a lot to love about sticks – they are the ultimate toy, one that nature gives you for free.
A stick toy is essentially a human-made version of that.
Now, you may be wondering, given that sticks are so great (and free!), why anyone would buy a stick toy instead.
First, your walking route might be stick-free. Now for those living in New Hampshire or Maine, this might be unheard of. After all, there are trees everywhere. And where there are trees, there are sticks.
If you live in the city or a prairie state like North Dakota, then sticks can be quite difficult to come across. It is for this reason that many owners buy their dog a stick toy instead – so they don’t miss out on all the fun a stick provides.
But even if your walk is dotted with hundreds of sticks, you might want to think twice about letting your pup pick one up.
Sticks rot and can hide all sorts of bugs. Not exactly something you want to take home, right? Stick toys are designed to be easy-to-clean and safe – allowing your pup to play with his favorite stick in the comfort of his own home.
Are you still okay with your dog bringing home sticks he found on his walk? There are a few reasons why you may want to reconsider this habit.
You see, sticks found on the ground have an element of danger to them. First, you have splintering. I don’t know if you have ever gotten a splinter before, but let me tell you, it’s darn painful! Can you imagine having one in your mouth? Or worse, swallowing one? No thanks. Unfortunately, this is a danger that stick chewers face.
Not only that, but many types of wood are actually poisonous to dogs. Black walnut, white cedar, cherry and apricot trees are all highly toxic. But here’s the thing… A stick from these trees looks like any other. If your dog starts chewing, it could result in a trip to the vet.
Next, you don’t know where the stick has been. While that stick may look harmless, it might have come from an area that was recently sprayed with pesticides or other toxic chemicals.
Finally, wooden sticks are no good for indoor play. They can scratch and mark walls, shed bark and make a mess that you need to clean up.
Don’t get me wrong… Every day across America, thousands of dogs play with sticks from trees. If you are happy to bet against the odds, then I’m not sure you will find much benefit in a stick toy – it’s hard to beat free.
However, these are real risks that are worth considering before you let your dog pick up any old stick off the ground. A stick toy you buy from the shop doesn’t have the risks because they were manufactured with your dog’s safety in mind.
If any of these points apply to you or you want a fun new toy to give your dog as a present, then a fake stick will make an awesome dog toy for your pup.
Want to know which stick toy is best for your dog? Check out our recommendations below, tested by real dogs!
Best dog stick toys
In our hunt to find the best, we tested and reviewed over 20 different stick toys.
It was a long journey, but eventually, we narrowed the competition down to 4 winners. Depending on how you want to play with your dog, you want to choose one over another. For example, while one excelled for games of fetch, another was the perfect chew toy.
So without delay, let’s check out the best-performing stick toys, starting with…
1. Best stick toy for fetch
Okay, let’s discuss the elephant in the room:
There is no denying the West Paw Zwig looks like an adult toy. Well, I didn’t think that at first. But after my husband pointed it out to me, I can’t unsee it.
It all started when I left it on the countertop and forgot about it. My husband came home and started up an awkward conversation about how I should be more careful about that “thing” in the kitchen, in case the kids saw it. I’ll tell you right now that I was so confused until I finally realized what he was talking about.
Fortunately, your dog isn’t as dirty-minded as my husband. To your pup, this just looks like a stick. Only better – the West Paw Zwig has features a basic stick just can’t offer.
If your dog prefers sticks to balls, then this is the ultimate fetch toy. It can be thrown a good distance and has a satisfying bounce when it lands on short grass and hard surfaces.
Because it’s hollow, the Zwig floats in water. If your dog loves to fish toys out of a lake or pool, then don’t be afraid to toss it in. Me, I just like the floatability because my aim is always off – I don’t have to fish the Zwig out from the bottom of a pond if it lands there.
At just over 13 inches long, it can also be used as a tug toy. There is plenty of safety distance between hands and jaws for when your pup just doesn’t want to let go. However, if you are looking for a stick toy just for games of tug-of-war, then I have a better recommendation below – keep reading!
The American-made rubber was surprisingly resistant to powerful jaws. In the heat of the moment, our German Shepherd excitedly bites down hard. Even his strong bite was unable to make a mark.
Now, that’s not to say this is an appropriate chew toy. An aggressive chewer will have it in pieces pretty soon. I recommend some chewable stick toys in just a moment. But as a fetch toy, there isn’t a better stick toy than the Zwig.
It’s less suited to the smallest of breeds, dogs like a Dachshund or Chihuahua – our tiny testers struggled to drag the Zwig around. Our French Bulldog tester had no issues, so if your pup is the same size or larger, then sizing won’t be an issue.
Oh, and it’s easy to clean. After a hard day of play, you’ll be pleased to know that you can wash all that dirt and slobber off with a trip through the dishwasher. Throw the Zwig in the top rack for worry-free cleaning!
Perhaps best of all is West Paw’s satisfaction guarantee. If you are unhappy with the Zwig for any reason, West Paw will refund, replace or offer another product from their toy range.
2. Best stick toy for chewing
Okay, so you’ll have to use your imagination for this one. The Goughnuts MaXX Stick looks more like a stick of salami than a stick off a tree. But your power-chewing pooch won’t care – this is one of the few chew toys on the market that can hold up to the most aggressive of chewers.
If you read our review of the best chew toys, then this recommendation should come as no surprise. The American-made rubber that Goughnuts uses makes their range of chew toys the most durable on the market.
Best of all, their stick comes with a guarantee, in case your super chewer bites his way through this tough stick…
Hidden in the middle of the Goughnuts MaXX Stick is a red indicator. If your aggressive chewer works his way through to this, send the stick back to Goughnuts (with a check for return postage), and they will send you a brand new Maxx Stick! It’s considerably cheaper than buying the chew toy all over again.
Now, it is worth mentioning that when brand new, the Goughnuts MaXX Stick has a strong rubbery smell, similar to a car tire. However, with continued use, the smell quickly faded. I could only notice it if I held the stick directly under my nose. The smell certainly didn’t stop any of our testers from excitedly playing with this large rubber stick.
This stick is quite heavy. At 11.5 inches long and 2.1 inches thick, it weighs about 1.4 pounds, only large or strong dogs will be able to carry it around.
For medium-sized breeds down to about 30 pounds, about the weight of an adult Corgi, I suggest grabbing the Goughnuts Original Stick instead. At 9.25 inches long and 1.75 inches thick, it’s better suited for less-powerful dogs.
The Goughnuts range of sticks is far too heavy for small breeds. If you have a tiny pooch, such as a Chihuahua, Yorkie or Boston Terrier, check out my next recommendation instead.
3. Best stick toy for small dogs
Most of the stick toys we tested were unsuitable for smaller dogs. You see, small dogs have small mouths. Most stick toys were either too big or too heavy for a small dog to carry. The few stick toys that were the right size just weren’t durable enough.
Don’t let the small size fool you. Small dogs are more than up to the task of destroying dog toys. For example, what a mini Dachshund lacks in strength, he makes up for in his ability to aggressively work a stick toy over and over until it finally breaks.
It is for this reason that there is only one stick-shaped toy that we recommend for small dogs… The West Paw Hurley.
Straight up, there is a lot to love about this stick toy. It’s made right here in the USA, floats in water, and can even be washed in the dishwasher.
But its main appeal is its suitability for small jaws. At just 4.5 inches long, the mini size is perfect for tiny mouths. We found it to be ideal for the tiniest of dogs, say Chihuahuas and Rat Terriers. Those of you with a slightly larger but still small dog should choose the next size up, which is 6 inches long. A Yorkie, for example, is right on the border for sizing up.
The Hurley’s light weight made it easy for our tiny pups to carry around. Our Pomeranian tester was even able to leap onto her favorite couch with the stick clenched between her jaws – something she was unable to do with the larger stick toys we tested.
It also doubles as a good chew stick for small dogs. After weeks of gnawing from various pint-sized pups, there were only a few isolated teeth indentations – no signs of tearing or breaking rubber.
Like our earlier recommendation from West Paw, the Hurley is backed by the same satisfaction guarantee. If the toy breaks, they offer a refund, replacement or another product from their toy range.
If you have a small dog, then this is the only stick toy you should consider. Highly recommended!
4. Best stick toy for tugging
The reason for buying the Kong SafeStix is because of its size. At 20 inches long for the medium and 27 inches long for the large, this was the longest stick toy we tested.
And, that’s exactly what makes it so great when used as a tug toy. The extra length allowed me to keep my hands well away from my German Shepherd’s powerful jaws.
When my German Shepherd bites, he clamps down hard. He plays tug-of-war like it is the only job he was put on Earth to do. Obviously, he wins more often than I do. I was impressed that after weeks of rough play there were no visible punctures on the toy.
The extra length also meant that more than one dog could grip the stick toy at once. While playing at the dog park, we had two Golden Retrievers and a Labrador entertain themselves by playing a three-way game of tug-of-war.
Once they tired of that, the two Retrievers played a game of fetch. They would bite the stick at the same time and bring it back, running in sync. It was adorable.
Speaking of fetch, I was able to throw the SafeStix a surprisingly good distance. Its light weight allowed me to lob the stick in a high arc. Even so, if you are looking for a stick toy just for fetch, then I suggest sticking with my earlier recommendation.
A word of warning: This isn’t an indoor toy, especially the longer sizes. Our Bulldog didn’t realize just how wide he was with this long stick in his mouth.
As he shook the SafeStix around, it bounced off the edge of the couch and smacked him in the side. He then glared at my husband as if it were his fault. He then proceeded to parade around the house with the SafeStix in mouth, bumping into chair legs and our television cabinet and even managing to knock our pot of succulents off the coffee table.
Even though it’s not indoor-friendly, you will want to store it inside. We noticed that one of the SafeStix we left outside began to harden over the months. While it was still perfectly useable, it was considerably less flexible than the ones that were stored inside.
If you want a stick for tug-of-war or a toy that multiple dogs can play with at once, then the extra-long Kong SafeStix is exactly what you need.
The dog stick toys that didn’t make the cut
While our top picks outperformed, the following stick toys were a letdown in one way or another.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these are bad stick toys. Some put up a great fight and were only narrowly edged out by our top picks. Other were much more flawed. However, based on our testing, we see little reason to choose these stick toys over the recommendations above…
On the nylon chew front, both the Nylabone Hollow Stick and Benebone Maplestick left sharp shards that could cut gums wherever dogs had chewed. Additionally, these sticks went against the expert advice of avoiding chew toys that were too hard – which is why we recommend rubber chew toys instead.
The green-colored Hyper Chewz Stick looked considerably more stick-like than our above recommendations. However, it’s a chew toy that just doesn’t hold up to powerful jaws. Over a week, our Corgi was able to destroy this toy, and he definitely isn’t an aggressive chewer. The protruding “branches” were the first areas to go. If you are considering this stick toy, I recommend using it as a fetch toy only – it’s not suitable for chewing.
I really wanted to love the Grriggles Rubber Stick Toy – it looks just like a green stick! It’s too heavy for a small dog, and large dogs were able to bite through the small branch nubs.
Kong makes a wide range of stick-shaped toys, but only the long SafeStix impressed our reviewers. The Kong Pet Stix was essentially a plush stick toy. It was too easy to break, even in supervised play. All sizes had the nylon fabric punctured and the polyester stuffing pulled out in the first week of testing. Are you looking for a good plush toy for your dog? Check out our review on best plush dog toys.
The Kong Squeezz Stick was unfortunate in that it squeaked when bitten. We found that this made our testers want to do nothing else but chew and bite the toy. And that’s the problem – the soft rubber Squeezz Stick can be quickly chewed to pieces by both large and small dogs. Use this as a fetch toy only!
Ordinarily, we are huge fans of anything made by Ruffwear. Unfortunately, their Gnawt-A-Stick missed the mark. While it claims to float, it was barely visible, floating below the water line. Our dogs couldn’t locate it when swimming. When we used it a month later, it sank. If it floated better, this would have been a close contender for best fetch stick.
The Ruff Dawg Stick was another strong contender for best fetch toy. Made here in the USA, it’s also available in a small 6-inch size, basically a twig. This is a surprisingly durable stick toy. Unfortunately, it has a strong rubber smell and also floats below the water line, making it difficult to locate during fetch.
Another strong performing fetch stick, the Tuttomio Play-More Stick was a brown color. This made it difficult to locate if it bounces under a shrub or in the long grass – the bright-colored stick toys, while looking less natural, were considerably easier to find.
Not for chewers, the JW Pet Lucky Bamboo Stick looks just like a piece of bamboo. For fetch it worked well enough, but if your dog stops for a brief chew, it’s quickly going to fall to pieces.
Phew, if you made it this far, congratulations! You now know which stick toy is best for your pooch.
A recap of our results…
The best stick toys we tested:
- West Paw Zwig – Best for fetch
- Goughnuts MaXX Stick – Best for chewing
- West Paw Hurley – Best for small dogs
- Kong SafeStix – Best for tugging
Which stick toy does your stick-obsessed dog love the most? Let me know in the comments below!