Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
Best Toys for German Shepherds
If you have a German Shepherd (also named Alsatians or abbreviated GSD), you already know how intelligent and energetic they can be, which is why it’s so important to have great toys for them.
Unfortunately, not every toy you see at your local pet store is going to be safe for your dog, especially because German Shepherds are known to tear apart poor-quality toys.
In this guide, you’ll find advice for choosing toys your dog will love, plus specific products we’ve hand-picked as great choices for German Shepherds everywhere.
Five Things to Keep in Mind
When choosing a toy for your Shepherd, there are five key things to keep in mind.
Every year, veterinarians treat dogs who have swallowed a piece of a toy that wasn’t designed well for a large, strong dog. It’s important to choose toys that are high-quality and not likely to break or be swallowed. Keep in mind that plastics, dyes, and other chemical products can be endocrine-disrupting. When in doubt talk to a vet about the quality and the materials used in the dog toys.
For safety and for value, you want toys that are designed to last. Sure, it can be fun to occasionally watch your German Shepherd rip apart a soft plush toy in a matter of minutes, but the best dog toys are ones that your dog can enjoy for months. For that, you’re going to need high-quality, durable materials. These might cost a little more upfront, but you’ll save money by not needing to replace them every few weeks
German Shepherds sure do love to be entertained. So they need toys that are a lot of fun to play with. This can include fetch toys that their humans throw for them, treat toys, and puzzle toys that can keep them entertained for an hour (or, depending on how smart your dog is, at least a few minutes at a time). The more fun your dog is having, the better behaved they’ll be too.
German Shepherds are large dogs, which means they need larger toys. Small toys designed for small dog breeds can actually be dangerous choking hazards. So look for toys specifically marketed towards large dogs. Of course, you can (and should!) choose smaller toys for your German Shepherd puppy. But replace these with larger toys as your puppy grows up. Any toy should be wider than your dog’s mouth to make sure they can’t accidentally swallow.
Just like humans, dogs get bored doing the same thing all the time. So look for a few different kinds of toys to keep your dog interested. A tip to add variety without spending lots of money is to periodically change your dog’s toys out. Put a few toys away in a closet or drawer somewhere, then bring them back out a few months later. For your dog, it will be like getting a set of brand new toys. You can rotate groups of toys around, so your dog always has something “new” and interesting.
Fun Rope and Tug-of-War Toys
Rope toys can be a blast for playing tug of war and can also be a good way to prevent your German Shepherd from chewing on other things. . . like your shoes or furniture.
However, you also need to be careful with rope toys. Strong chewers can rip them apart and swallow some of the strands, which can lead to serious digestive issues.
Typically, the best rope toys are the ones that have plastic balls or handles at the ends; these are more durable and prevent shredding. You should always supervise your dog when they’re playing with a rope toy, and throw away any toys that begin to unravel.
You should also look for toys made from a natural, undyed fabric, such as cotton. These won’t contain toxic materials your dog shouldn’t be ingesting, and they’re usually washable.
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Mammoth Flossy Rope Tug
This rope toy is designed specifically for large dogs—it’s a whopping 72 inches long and heavy. You and your German Shepherd can enjoy a serious game of tug of war. The cotton blend is also designed to help clean your dog’s teeth as they chew on it.
As with all rope toys, make sure that you put it away outside of supervised playtime to avoid your dog ingesting any strands. My advice is to not let them chew on it. Play a tug game, but then remove it to a safe location.
Rope toys are fun. Although they don't last, you can get a good amount of fun out of these. Just remember to put them away after play; they are not chew toys.
Redline K9 Tug Toy
This tug toy features a unique design: a linen center that’s big enough for your dog to grab onto, and two handles on either end perfect for human hands. The result is a more intense game of tug of war.
These toys are a favorite for serious trainers who use playtime as a training reward.
Goughnuts Tug Toy
For German Shepherds who are heavy chewers, consider this rubber alternative to rope toys for playing tug of war. This toy features a double ring made out of super durable, dense plastic.
Reviews praise its ability to stand up to even the heaviest chewers. And all Goughnuts toys come with a lifetime guarantee, so you’ll see them again on this list. These are fairly strong and durable and very nice for tug play.
One of my dogs can still destroy them by chewing when he's persistent, but it took him some time. If your dog is a real chewer, you can still take these away. They have multiple layers, and the second layer is an indicator of safety.
Great Balls and Toys for Throwing
If your German Shepherd is like most, they probably love running to chase a toy, and playing fetch gives them a great challenge. Playing fetch is a great way for you and your dog to have fun together.
Just remember that most balls and throw toys are not designed to be chew toys. That means you should put them away when you’re done using them for supervised play. We guarantee your dog will be excited every time you bring it out.
Sometimes you can’t beat a good old-fashioned tennis ball. Tennis balls are affordable and light, making them perfect for long throws in a game of fetch with your German Shepherd dog. Just make sure that when playtime is over, you put those tennis balls away. They’re not designed to stand up to intensive chewing, so you shouldn’t leave your dog to play with them independently.
Goughnuts Interactive Ball
These balls are designed to last and made from a natural rubber that’s safe for your dog. The unique groove cut into the sides of the ball helps your dog to grip it better and to breathe while carrying it.
These even come in a range of fun colors. Most German Shepherds enjoy ball play, never had one who didn't although there was variation in the intensity of play.
One of my dogs destroyed 5 times more toys than all others combined, a real monster, chewing through or wrecking most things in minutes. Even the "virtually indestructible toys" have no chance, but at least it takes time, these kind of toys have a decent life expectancy and offer value for there money. 5 tennis balls wouldn't even last him half an hour.
You could throw a regular Frisbee, but the thin plastic might not stand up to your dog’s teeth and in the worst case, may even hurt their mouth. Instead, consider this toy, called a Flynut. It flies like a Frisbee but is made of durable rubber.
The Best Chew Toys for German Shepherds
Sometimes you really need your dog to go sit quietly somewhere for half an hour, and for that, you need a chew toy. Chew toys fulfill a natural need in your dog to chew and are especially important for German Shepherd puppies who are teething.
Durability is especially important for chew toys because your dog will be spending a lot of time with them. As soon as a chew toy starts to rip or you see chunks missing, throw it away and replace it to avoid any dangerous choking hazards.
Kong Extreme Ball (and Other Types)
Kongs are famous in the dog world, and for good reason. They’re designed to be durable, made out of tough rubber, and dogs love them. The Kong Extreme is specifically designed for tough chewers, so you can leave your German Shepherd with it to go at it.
The Kong ball is actually the only toy I have had that my most powerful chewer has found its match in. This doesn't mean these balls and other Kong toys can't be destroyed. Depending on persistence and raw bite power they survive weeks, months, or years. The first ball was completely ravaged in a couple of weeks, but after that, he didn't feel the need to completely destroy the new ones that fast.
Most Kongs have a hollow center that you can fill with treats, making them ideal for crate training. I don't put food in the Kong balls for my older dogs, the reason is it will make them chew around the hole destroying the ball much faster, I guess it's the smell of snacks that remains.
West Paw Zogoflex Hurley Dog Bone Chew Toy
Dogs love to chew on bones, but real bones can be dangerous because pieces can splinter off and cut your dog or become choking hazards. This toy mimics the shape of a bone, but it’s safe for your dog to chew.
Bonuses: It’s dishwasher safe and floats in water.
Goughnuts Ring Toys
These colorful donut-shaped rings are designed for heavy-duty chewing. They’re made from natural rubber and reinforced with engineered carbon. These toys have a special two-layer design. The inside is red. If your dog chews down to that layer, you’ll see the red and know it’s time to replace the toy. Then simply return it to Goughnuts, and get another one for free! So your dog can continue to enjoy chewing.
We hope these options will give you some great ideas for finding the best German Shepherd toys so you can keep having fun, while keeping your dog happy and safe.
- L. Withwam, The German Shepherd Handbook: The Essential Guide For New & Prospective German Shepherd Owners (Canine Handbooks), 2020, 234p.
- K. J. Wooten & P. N. Smith, Canine toys and training devices as sources of exposure to phthalates and bisphenol A: quantitation of chemicals in leachate and in vitro screening for endocrine activity. Chemosphere, 2013.
- Palika L. & Albert T. Your German Shepherd Puppy Month by Month, 2nd Edition: Everything You Need to Know at Each State to Ensure Your Cute and Playful Puppy., 2016, Alpha, 352 p.
© 2020 Sam Shepards