My pooch will take anything that dangles in front of her face as an invitation to play tug-of-war.
If your dog loves to tug or you are looking for a new way to play with your pooch, then you should make a tug toy your next purchase!
All up, we tested over 28 different tug toys, playing hundreds of games of tug-of-war until our arms refused to go on.
We reviewed their durability, quality and ease-of-use. All to answer one single question:
Which tug toy is best for your dog?
Want the answer? Read on!
- What is a dog tug toy?
- What are the different types of dog tug toys?
- Is a tug toy the ideal toy for your dog?
- Tips for choosing a dog-safe tug toy
- Best dog tug toy
- Best dog tug toy for puppies
- Best dog tug toy for small dogs
- Best dog tug toy for medium dogs
- Best dog tug toy for large dogs and power chewers
What is a dog tug toy?
You may be wondering what the fuss is with tug toys. I mean, any toy can be pulled on, right?
It’s a good argument. However, many toys are either too short or not designed with pulling in mind. While some toys are incredibly chew-resistant, they fall to pieces when tugged in two directions.
These toys just won’t hold up to a game of tug-of-war.
A tug toy is specifically designed to be yanked back and forth by you and your dog without breaking.
The ideal dog tug toy is designed so that it is as easy to grip with your hands as it is by your dog’s mouth. After all, it would be a pretty one-sided game if only one of you could grip the toy properly.
Tug toys come in all different shapes and sizes.
One popular variety is heavy-duty rope, similar to the kind you used when playing tug-of-war as a kid, but much shorter…
Other tug toys are little more than a rubber ring…
Whatever the shape or size, a tug toy is designed to give your dog something to pull.
What are the different types of dog tug toys?
It might surprise you to learn that there are two different styles of tug toys. One requires you to play with the dog, while the other allows your dog to play tug-of-war even when you are not around.
1. Handheld tug toys
You grab one end of the tug toy. Your dog grabs the other. Aaaaand, pull!
It doesn’t matter what style it is, this toy requires your input. Without you, it’s just a chew toy. This means that once you are too pooped to continue, the game has to end – even if your dog doesn’t want it to.
This is the most common style of tug toy. It’s also the type we reviewed for this guide.
- Hundreds of styles
- Allows you to bond with your dog
- Requires two players
2. Tether tug toys
Do you remember playing tetherball as a kid? Well, this is a similar design. Except instead of a ball, there’s a rope for your dog to tug on.
Simply set up this device and your dog can play tug-of-war whenever he wants. Perfect for lonely tuggers that want to play while you are at work.
Solo play has its downsides, though. For example, if playtime turns nasty and your dog starts acting up, you won’t be there to caution him.
I remember when my dog was a puppy. After an adrenaline-pumping game of tug, she proceeded to rip the petunias out of my garden. Fortunately, I was nearby and quickly curbed the behavior before she destroyed all my plants.
What I’m saying is that a tether-style tug toy should only be used with a well-behaved dog.
However, when used correctly, it’s a neat solution for keeping your dog entertained when home alone. Want one? Check out the Tether Tug. They come in different sizes for all breeds of dog.
- Allows your dog to tug whenever he wants
- Can alleviate dog boredom while you are at work
- You are not around to caution bad behavior
- More expensive
- Few brands to choose from
Is a tug toy the ideal toy for your dog?
It’s no secret that dogs love to play tug-of-war.
It doesn’t matter what age or breed of dog you have, there are very few dogs that will pass up a game of tug-of-war.
You’ve probably witnessed this behavior firsthand if you’ve accidentally dangled your leash in front of your dog…
Or, maybe you’ve grabbed a toy out of your dog’s mouth…
Without realizing it, you initiated a game of tug-of-war.
You don’t even need to be there! Dogs will happily play tug-of-war with each other.
Or, play with themselves, yanking the washing off your line…
If your dog loves to play tug-of-war, then a tug toy is a great way to encourage this playful behavior. It’s another game you can play with your dog when he tires of fetch.
Some owners even train their dog to use “tugging” as a reward instead of treats!
However, if your dog isn’t interested or too old to play tug-of-war, then a tug toy won’t be of much use. Check out our dog Frisbee review instead!
At the end of the day, whether you chose one of our recommend tug toys or go hunting for something else, you want to choose a tug toy that is safe for both you and your dog.
Here’s exactly how you do that…
Tips for choosing a dog-safe tug toy
While tug-of-war with your dog can be a fun bonding experience, it’s also a physical game. If you don’t choose the correct tug toy, you could get hurt.
Let’s take a look at two things you need to consider when choosing a safe tug toy.
1. Choose a tug toy with space
A tug toy that is too small can lead to bitten fingers…
During tug-of-war, if your dog feels like he is slipping off the toy, he will likely readjust his grip by quickly letting go and biting down hard.
Guess what happens if your hand is too close?
Yep, you are going to get bitten!
This isn’t your dog’s fault. It was never his intention to hurt you in the heat of the moment. The problem was that you did not choose the correct tug toy.
Ideally, the tug toy should have enough room for your hand, your dog’s mouth, and a generous gap in between.
This way, if your dog does readjust his grip, your hand will be well out of the way.
2. Choose a tug toy that can be dropped at a moment’s notice
Tug toys where you hook your fingers through, or worse, wrap it around your hand can result in injury…
When it comes to tug-of-war, dogs are pretty hard to beat. To get the upper hand, you might come up with a creative way to get a better grip on your dog toy, such as wrapping it around your arm or hooking your fingers through it.
Unfortunately, this could be asking for trouble…
If you have a larger dog, you know just how strong they can be – these loveable giants don’t realize their strength.
In the excitement of pulling, your dog may jerk unexpectedly or even knock you off your feet. If you cannot let go of the dog toy, you risk seriously injuring yourself.
Take the JW HOL-ee roller, for example. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love this product as a dog toy. But it’s a fine example of a toy that you shouldn’t play tug-of-war with.
You see, to establish a good grip, you need to hook your fingers through the holes of the toy. If your dog yanks or twists it in an unexpected direction, you risk your fingers becoming injured or even broken.
To this end, we suggest only using tug toys that can be gripped with a clenched fist. This way, if you need to drop the toy in a hurry, you just open your hands to let go.
Best dog tug toy
Once we started testing, we soon learned that there was no single best tug toy for all dogs.
Large dogs, for example, can pull with incredible force and need a heavy-duty tug toy. On the flip side, smaller dogs have tiny jaws and need a tug toy that isn’t too big for their mouths.
Normally, we would choose an all-around best pick. However, because each breed of dog has very different needs, we decided to award a winner across different dog sizes – puppy, small, medium and large/power chewers.
So, let’s reveal our recommendations, starting with…
Best dog tug toy for small dogs
The Bumi, made by West Paw right here in the USA, is an interesting tug toy.
At first glance, the Bumi looks like any tug toy. However, if you grab one end and your dog grips the other, you’ll notice something unusual – it stretches over twice its length!
The unique flexing makes the Bumi like no other tug toy we reviewed. Our doggy testers could shake their heads left and right without yanking our arms around too much.
The flexibility made it a little more difficult to get a good grip than tug toys that came with a rigid handle. But it wasn’t so difficult that it was slipping out of my hands during tug-of-war. It’s this reason that the Bumi was our small recommendation instead of medium – smaller dogs don’t pull as hard.
The Bumi is made from a firm, stretchy rubber called zogoflex. This non-toxic rubber is FDA-compliant. You could eat off it, if you really wanted to. Not that you would, but it’s nice to know that the material is safe for my four-legged friend.
Be mindful that the Bumi comes in two different sizes, small and large. Our recommendation for small-sized dogs is the small size.
Just like all West Paw products, the Bumi has a lifetime guarantee. If the toy breaks or isn’t suitable for your dog, they will replace it with a more suitable toy from their product range – it’s like getting two toys for the price of one, so hold onto your receipt!
If you store your dog toys indoors, you’ll be pleased to know that the Bumi is top-rack dishwasher safe. A quick trip will sterilize the toy, getting rid of all that dried drool.
For small dogs such as Boston Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers, no other tug toy came close. Check it out!
Best dog tug toy for medium dogs
While our small dog pick is also suitable for medium dogs, if you buy the large size, we felt that when playing against a Border Collie or Siberian Husky, you’ll want a handle because medium-sized dogs can give a good yank. It’s a one-sided game of tug-of-war if you can’t grip properly.
With a comfortable handle, natural rubber, and made right here in the USA, the SodaPup tug toy was a stand out when choosing the best tug toy for medium-sized dogs.
True to their name, SodaPup makes a range of dog toys designed around soda. Their tug toy, for example, is based on the pull tab used to open a can of soda.
But don’t be fooled by the novelty shape – the SodaPup tug toy isn’t a gimmick. A lot of thought went into both the design and material used. The result is a tug that is both easy-to-grip and durable.
The tug toy is made from PuppyPrene, SodaPup’s natural rubber compound. Not only is it FDA-compliant and non-toxic, but it’s biodegradable too. It breaks down when thrown in the trash.
The tough, flexible rubber was a hit with every dog who yanked it. The width and chewiness allowed our medium breeds to get a good grip, while the handle didn’t let me down, allowing me to put up a good fight with each challenger.
When tug-of-war time is over, throw the SodaPup tug toy in your dishwasher on the top rack to easily remove any slobber and other gunk that it picked up during play.
Like our other American-made tug toys, SodaPup offers a one-time replacement guarantee. If your dog destroys this tug toy, SodaPup will replace it. So, hang onto your receipt!
Can your dog chomp his way through any dog toy you give him? Your strong-jawed canine may be better suited to our large dog recommendation instead…
Best tug toy for large dogs and power chewers
Tough dogs like German Shepherds and Pit Bulls need tough toys. Many tug toys we tested advertised themselves as being heavy-duty or even indestructible (**cough** **cough**)
Out of all the tug toys we reviewed, there is only one we feel confident that would hold up to rough play. The Goughnuts MaXX.
Let’s be clear. There is nothing fancy about this product. It’s basically just two solid rubber rings fused together. In fact, compared to other tug toys, it could be called plain and boring.
But it’s this simple design that makes it perfect for aggressive games of tug-of-war. You see, there is very little that can go wrong. Besides, in the heat of the game, you won’t even notice what it looks like.
You hold one ring, your dog clamps down on the other, and you go at it. The dense rubber has a slight give so that your dog can get a good grip without his teeth sliding off.
I found the smooth figure-eight design easy-to-grip with a clenched fist and could be dropped at a moment’s notice should play turn nasty.
Interestingly, in the middle of the Goughnuts MaXX is a red core. This is a safety indicator. If your dog chews this toy and the red core is visible, you need to take away the toy. This way, you can be sure that your dog won’t eat any pieces of rubber.
If this happens, mail the Goughnuts Maxx back to the manufacturer, and they will send you a new one. Sure, you have to pay for return postage, but it’s still cheaper than paying for an entirely new product.
It is worth mentioning that this tug toy has a mild rubber smell, similar to a car tire. This is expected as it is made from rubber after all. This smell is strongest when the Goughnuts MaXX is brand new and fades over time.
I will add that the Goughnuts Maxx is too heavy for a smaller dog. This tug toy is much heavier than it looks.
The fact that it’s made right here in the USA is icing on the cake. If you want to play tug-of-war with your power chewer, the Goughnuts MaXX should be your only choice.
Best dog tug toy for puppies
If there is one thing puppy teeth are good at, it’s shredding. Those small, pointy needles that they call teeth are great at tearing anything to ribbons – dog toys, plush toys, even your shoes!
During testing, we found that sharp puppy teeth excelled at pulling off small pieces of rubber from the edges of toys. For this very reason, our number one puppy pick is entirely made from fabric – another bonus of fabric is that it’s soft on the gums of your pup.
The Tuffy Ultimate Ring was perfect for a gentle game of puppy tug. The reinforced stitching and edges showed very little sign of wear. At the end of testing, there were no loose strands or fraying on this soft tug toy.
But what I like best about these rings is they don’t contain stuffing. Even if my puppy pierces the fabric, I don’t have to worry about her pulling out and swallowing any strands of polyester filling that poke through.
It’s also one of the very few tug toys that squeak. Sewn inside the ring are four squeakers. Great for a puppy with a short attention span – a quick squeeze was all it took for our puppy tester to continue playing.
Now, I must say that one of these squeakers was punctured during testing and no longer made any noise. Fortunately, the three remaining squeakers made up for this. When playing tug, we were careful to offer the broken squeaker edge to our pup to extend the life of the remaining squeakers.
The Tuffy Ring is available in two sizes:
- Ultimate – 9 x 1 inches
- Mega – 14 x 1 inches
Choose whichever size is appropriate for your puppy.
When it comes to cleaning, a trip through the washing machine was all it took to remove that “funky dog smell” that toys often pick up.
I know that everyone categorizes a puppy differently. For example, a regular at my local dog park refers to her 18-month Great Dane as a puppy. I personally refer to it as a horse.
When I say puppy tug toy, the Tuffy Ring is suitable for smaller puppies who still have their baby teeth. If your puppy has lost his baby teeth or is a giant breed, check out our other recommendations in this guide.
But for everyone else, this is the best fabric tug toy for puppies by far.
The dog tug toys that didn’t make the cut
Not every product we review can be a winner. While each of the following brands of tug toys had something going for them, they were beaten in one way or another by our top picks.
Let me be clear that none of these products are inherently bad. But the tug toy category is very competitive. With most of our top picks being made right here in the USA and offering replacement guarantees, the bar set for winning was high from the start.
Here are the tug toys that didn’t make the cut.
The Petmate Dogzilla also had our favorite figure-eight design. The rubber was firmer, we liked that it was textured, and it was priced similarly to our top picks, but it didn’t offer enough to stand out from the pack.
Another design in the shape of an 8, this time from a very well-known brand. The Kong Tug Toy had finger grips that made it slightly easier to win a game of tug-of-war against our pooches. However, it was highly priced and didn’t offer enough compared to our top picks.
The simple design of the Nylabone Go!Active was instantly appealing. However, we noticed considerable wear when playing with dogs that liked to twist their heads back and forth. It didn’t break during testing, but I’d be dubious that it would hold up to a few more weeks of play.
JW Pet made some of the most affordable tough toys we reviewed. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. Despite the name, the Invincible Chains didn’t make it through our testing process. One of the rings snapped after a good yank from our Border Collie. You may have luck using it with a smaller dog.
The Kong Ballistic Sqwuggie Toy is made from fire hose, the same stuff firefighters use when putting out fires. It didn’t take much use before it began to fray, even with small dogs. The handle also digs into your hand with extended play. We don’t recommend this as a tug toy.
The Ray Allen U-Stuff-It Fire Hose Dog Tug Toy performed just as poorly as the Kong above. Although, admittedly, it appeared to be better made and took considerably longer to fray.
Oh and every rope tug toy we reviewed. We don’t recommend any rope toys for games of tug-of-war. Let me explain…
What about rope dog tug toys?
Most of the tug toys we came across were made from rope. Considering this, you might find it odd that none of our recommendations are rope dog toys.
Well, there is actually a good reason why no rope toys made the cut.
Sure, dogs loved to give it a good pull, but as a tug toy, rope performed poorly. There are two reasons for this…
1. Rope frays
Rope is actually made of thousands of pieces of string like fiber, twisted together. With continued use, your dog’s teeth will pull and fray these individual strands. It was a natural result of the tugging.
If your dog swallows these small pieces of string, deadly problems, such as intestinal blockage, can occur. Your dog will need surgery to remove it.
All knotted rope toys that we tested frayed during testing. Even rope toys that were part-ball or part-rubber. The rope was the weak point, prone to fraying. Once we noticed fraying, we stopped using that product for the sake of our dog’s health.
2. Mouth health
Next is the way that your dog’s teeth sink into the rope. Long, sharp teeth can become stuck in the rope. All that pressure from tugging is being placed on to your dog’s teeth, which can harm their health, particularly in puppies.
Also, rope is much coarser than rubber or plush tug toys. One dog owner said that she stopped using rope tug toys when she noticed it was making her dog’s gums bleed.
3. Uncomfortable to grip
Have you ever experienced rope burn? It sucks!
You probably won’t get rope burn from a tug toy. Well, unless your tug sessions go on for longer than 20 minutes.
But the fact remains…
Rope tug toys just are not as comfortable to hold as those made from rubber or fabric.
As the rope moves in your grip, it uncomfortably scrapes against your skin. When you are focused on beating your little ball of muscle, this discomfort can be quite distracting.
It is for these reasons that rope tug toys didn’t make our top picks.
The myth of the indestructible dog tug toy
Is your dog a super chewer, capable of gnawing his way through any dog toy that dares to call itself indestructible?
Well, you might be on the hunt for a durable tug toy that will hold up to your dog’s aggressive play.
I hate to break it to you:
There is no such thing as an indestructible tug toy!
Yep, if your dog is a chewer or has an incredibly strong bite, he will make short work of even the most heavy-duty tug toy.
But if you let your dog chew on his tug toy, then you are partly to blame.
You see, tug toys are designed with tug-of-war in mind. They are durable enough to hold strong when pulled in two opposing directions.
But chewing? Not so much.
While all our recommended tug toys could be described as heavy-duty, they won’t last long if used as a dedicated chew toy.
It’s easy to find reviews from unhappy owners reporting that their dog had chewed through their tug toy. Even the toughest tug toy we tested had the same complaints.
All the tug toys we recommend held up to regular use, even from strong biters.
So, what are these people doing wrong?
I suspect they are leaving their tug toy with their dogs to chew on. A tug toy is not a chew toy. It should not be left with your dog unsupervised.
Which leads me to toy care. Every dog toy can break when not used correctly. A tug toy is designed for pulling play. It should only be used under supervision when playing tug-of-war.
When the game is over, pack the tug toy away and give your pooch his go-to chew toy instead – doing so will extend the life of your tug toy for months or even years.
If you made it this far, congratulations! You now know which tug toy is ideal for your dog.
A recap of our results…
The best tug toys we tested:
- Tuffy Ultimate Ring – Puppies
- West Paw Bumi – Small dogs
- SodaPup Tug Toy – Medium dogs
- Gouhnuts MaXX – Large dogs and power chewers
Which tug toy do you use to play with your pooch? Let me know in the comments below!