Skip to Content

Should puppy always have access to toys?

Toys are an important part of a puppy’s development and enrichment. Chew toys provide mental stimulation, relieve boredom, and satisfy a puppy’s natural urge to chew. However, some experts recommend limiting a puppy’s access to certain toys in order to prevent possessive behavior, injuries, and destruction.

Why are toys important for puppies?

Toys serve several key functions for puppies:

  • Mental stimulation and boredom relief – Puppies have curious minds and short attention spans. Toys provide mental enrichment to engage their developing brains and prevent destructive behaviors resulting from boredom and excess energy.
  • Chewing instinct – Puppies have a strong natural urge to chew while they teethe. Chew toys satisfy this instinct in a safe, acceptable way and help relieve sore gums.
  • Bonding and play – Interactive toys allow puppies to play with their owners and other dogs. This helps build strong relationships and satisfies a puppy’s need for socialization and physical activity.
  • Training – Toys can be used as rewards during training to reinforce desired behaviors.

Potential risks of unlimited toy access

While toys are very beneficial, some potential risks come with allowing a puppy unrestricted access to toys at all times. These include:

  • Possessiveness and aggression – A puppy may guard toys aggressively if they have uncontrolled access. This can lead to behavior issues if not corrected.
  • Safety hazards – Puppies are at risk of intestinal blockages, choking, and other injuries if left alone with destructible toys.
  • Excessive chewing – Free access to chew toys outside of teething phases can encourage over-chewing and destructive behaviors.
  • Boredom with toys – When toys are always available, puppies lose interest more quickly and do not value them as much for enrichment.

Best practices for managing puppy toy access

Here are some guidelines from veterinary behaviorists for manageing your puppy’s toy access:

Rotate toys frequently

Rotate your puppy’s toys every few days by making only a few available at a time. Then, put those toys away and introduce different ones. This keeps toys novel and interesting.

Use toys for enrichment activities

Incorporate toys into fun enrichment activities for your puppy, like hiding kibble in a puzzle toy or placing treats inside a rubber toy for them to sniff out. This mimics mental stimulation from natural foraging behaviors.

Limit plush toy access

While plush, stuffed toys are enjoyed by many puppies, it’s best to only allow access when actively playing together. Unsupervised puppies may tear apart and ingest the stuffing, risking intestinal problems.

Watch playtime with rope toys

Rope toys should also be put away after supervised playtime. Unsupervised chewing can unravel strings that may cause dangerous intestinal obstructions if swallowed.

Avoid toys too small or easily destroyed

Any toy small enough to be fully lodged in a puppy’s mouth or easily torn into small pieces poses safety risks and is best avoided until a puppy matures.

Correct resource guarding

If your puppy shows possessive behaviors like growling with toys, talk to your veterinarian about correcting this through training and behavior modification right away.

Provide teething toys as needed

Give supervised access to sterilized cold chew toys when your puppy is teething for comfort. Limit access outside of active teething periods.

Use toys to redirect chewing

Have safe, durable chew toys available to redirect your puppy when they start chewing on unacceptable objects.

Recommended toy guidelines by puppy age

Puppy toy needs change with age. Here are general guidelines veterinarians recommend for puppies at different stages:

8-12 weeks old

  • Soft rubber chew toys or cloth toys larger than the puppy’s mouth
  • Rope toys and balls under supervision only
  • Avoid any stuffed toys
  • Use toys with food or treats for enrichment

3-6 months old

  • All toy types including soft plush toys, but always supervised
  • Introduce balls and ropes for fetch
  • Use puzzle toys stuffed with kibble
  • Avoid small toys that can lodge in throat

6-12 months old

  • Durable chew toys help relieve pain during remainder of teething
  • Rotate a wide variety of toy types – plush, rope, rubber, balls
  • Monitor play for destructive chewing
  • Avoid easily torn stuffed toys if destructive chewing starts

Over 12 months old

  • Adult dogs can safely play with most toy types
  • Rope toys and soft toys should still be used under supervision
  • Small balls and toys are safe with most adult dogs
  • Continue rotating toys to keep them interesting

Best toy options by puppy activity

Certain puppy toys are tailored to specific developmental needs and playful behaviors. Here are top toy recommendations based on your puppy’s activity preferences:

If your puppy enjoys… Try these toy types
Chewing Rubber chew toys, sterilized bones, knotted rope toys
Fetch Balls, frisbees, knotted rope toys
Tug-of-war Rope toys and tug toys designed for tugging games
Puzzles and games Puzzle feeders, snuffle mats, hide-and-seek toys
Cuddling Soft stuffed toys like plush toys and squeaky toys

Most versatile toy

For a toy that satisfies chewing, playing, and cuddling needs in one safe package, look for:

  • A sturdy rubber exterior chew toy
  • With a stuffed animal shape that also appeals for snuggling or light play
  • And that produces a gentle squeaking sound for interactive play


While toys provide important physical and mental enrichment for puppies, unlimited access can lead to problematic behaviors and health risks. Following guidelines on access, supervision, and tailoring toys to your puppy’s age, interests, and tendencies allows dogs to benefit from play in a safe, controlled way as they develop. Rotating toys, using them for interactive play, and removing hazardous toys prevents potential downsides while still meeting a puppy’s needs.