So I thought I'd share the standouts from my crew's toy box. Please keep in mind that this list is not comprehensive, and of course, every dog's personal preferences should come into play. What makes my dogs happy might not make your dog happy, but I can highly recommend all of these based our OUR experience. Oh, and one other thing to note - you'll probably notice the marked absence of anything stuffed or fluffy on this list. I'm sure there are many great options out there that fall into that category (and please feel free to share them in the comments), but I have very little experience with them since anything soft and cuddly in my house meets a swift and violent end.
Kong Tug: Not every dog likes to play tug, but my Pit Bull Quincy sure does! And after destroying eleventy-jillion other tug toys, I discovered Kong's version. It takes regular abuse from our tug sessions at least a couple times a week, and it has remained intact and useable for over a year now. I appreciate the rubber-coated handle, and Quincy appreciates well... all of it. There are important rules to follow if you play tug with your pooch, and I recommend this article from Whole Dog Journal if you want to find out what they are.
Chuck It: I've owned a Chuck-It for years now, and it's a life-saver. Well... that's a little dramatic. Let's call it a "clean hands saver." My fetching dogs will slime up a ball in no time at all, and that makes for a less than pleasant play session on my end. With this toy, you never have to actually touch that foamy, goopy mess that was once a tennis ball. Chuck-It now comes in a compact size, and in my opinion, it makes a good product even better. The shorter length still gives you plenty of distance on throws, but it actually fits in your bag when you head to the beach or park.
Chase It!: This toy is FUN. You know those cat toys that everyone has that basically is a long stick with a long string with feather or jangly thingamajig on the end? Well, they make them for dogs now and it's awesome. When I first bought it, I had no idea how each of my dogs would react to it. But every single one of them (and I have a relatively large sample size) loves it. My original one broke about a year after I purchased it, but luckily, they've since improved the toy to prevent the problems that caused the original issue. And my new version is still alive and kickin' after quite a bit of use. Oh, and bonus feature - the toy on the end is removeable and replaceable should the poor creature meet an untimely death. LOVE this toy!
Nina Ottosson Puzzle Toys: Pups don't just need physical exercise... they need a mental workout too. And these toys are perfect for that. She has several different versions, and while we haven't tried them all, the three different types I have at my house have been a big hit. Most of them require a dog to remove certain pieces or move different parts of the toy around in order to access a treat. But they all definitely require the dog to use their brain. They're not inexpensive, but I think they're worth it. And I have a feeling that if you give one a try, you'll want to continue adding to the collection.
Kong Wobbler: This is my dog Oliver's toy of choice (although he's not the only one that likes it). Ollie usually isn't big on most toys, but when he sees this, he dances a jig on his tiny tippie-toes. It's basically a big giant version of the Kong that most folks are familiar with, but it has a weighted bottom so instead of falling over, it just rocks back and forth when a dog nudges it. Your pup will soon discover that if they nudge it hard enough, delicious treats fall out. I actually just use Ollie's regular kibble, and sometimes will even feed him his meal in this so he has to work for it. It keeps him occupied, and he loves it! It's also dishwasher safe in case you want to fill it with messier treats.
Hyperflite Jawz Frisbee: All frisbees are not created equal, and the Jawz Frisbee proves my point. I originally read a review for it in the Whole Dog Journal and decided to give it a try. You see... the regular frisbees you buy from Target are made for humans. They fly well because they're rigid plastic, but when your dog leaps up and bites down to grab it out of the air, they quickly puncture and become sharp objects of death that rip your dog's gums to shreds. But a lot of the frisbees made for dogs are floppy and soft, and while they don't harm your dog, they don't fly very well either. But the Jawz Frisbee is both safe for your dog and it flies like a dream. While you probably won't find it at your local pet store, it's worth paying for shipping to order it online. I already have plans to order another so I have a spare.
Kong Frisbee: This was my go-to dog frisbee before finding the Jawz. While it falls into the "floppy" category, it's a little firmer than most others, and it flies pretty well. I still use it on occasion, and it's convenient because it does fold up so it fits in a small bag or pocket. It's also usually easy to find at your local pet store.
Katie's Bumpers: There's nothing super fancy about these bumpers, but I really like the size and shape. And they are very well-made. The two I purchased years ago still look as good as new. These are just a good, basic and high-quality retrieve toy that I very much recommend.
Kong Water Wubba: This is another great water retrieval toy. It's not quite as indestructible as the ones from Katie's Bumpers, but my dogs really like the shape and style of the Water Wubba. And while I don't have any scientific evidence to back me up, I think my pups can see it in the water a little better than other water toys I've used.
Galileo Bone: This bone is for power chewers (and don't be fooled... tiny dogs can qualify as power chewers too). The Galileo bone is similar to Nylabones in that it's man-made, but it lasts SO much longer. There's no way I could give my Quincy a regular Nylabone because he'd destroy it in no time, but the Galileo bone lasts for months. Two words of warning on this one... 1) Once your dog chews it down small enough to fit in his or her mouth, that means it's small enough for them to swallow it whole so throw it out and get a new one (this holds true for any chew toy) and 2) Don't let your dog drop this on your foot or you will say a bad word... trust me.
Elk & Deer Antlers: Love, love, love these and so do my dogs. They're all-natural, and no animals are harmed in order to harvest these because the elk or deer shed the antlers naturally. They don't splinter and crack the way bones do so that makes them a much safer choice for your dog (and rawhide is super dangerous people... Just Say No!). They also don't slime up your carpet they way bones sometimes can. And they last a really long time... even with my power chewers. They're still sort of hard to find in your neighborhood pet shop, but I highly recommend the ones from Best Bully Sticks. And make sure to sign up for their mailing list because they send out good coupons!