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Garden Dog Toys

5 min read
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Whenever the weather is nice and the sun peeks through, it’s time for those of us lucky enough to have a garden to get out there with our dogs and make the most of our own bit of the great outdoors.

Finding the best toys to play with your dog in the garden will be the ideal way to enhance your relationship and provide vital physical and mental stimulation, and that isn’t just good for your pet! Research has shown that dog owners are fitter than the average person thanks to the increased daily exercise and the chance to play games. Find extra motivation to get active and outside with your dog this summer, with this list of our all-time favourite garden dog toys.


While historically the most popular dog toy, this might well not be the best. While most dogs love a game of fetch – and balls are easy to throw and simple for your dog to retrieve – they can be overused.

We now know that the hard acceleration, sudden stops, and quick turns of repetitive fetch games can cause serious joint and pain issues. Also, some dogs become balloholics – as it stimulates the internally-rewarded thrill of playing out their predatory sequence, and they can become so addicted that they are unable to concentrate or think about anything else when it comes to games.

When hunting (or even playing at hunting) naturally, a dog will mooch about for a bit, suddenly spot something (“squirrel!”), give chase until it usually goes up a tree… and then go back to mooching again. It isn’t a constant and repetitive chase over and over again. So, while we think fetch games are ‘natural’, they aren’t – and they certainly shouldn’t be used to tire your dog out in the shortest possible time! If your dog loves retrieve ball games, play them intermittently and only for some of your garden times.

You can also play retrieve games where you hide balls for your dog to find and bring back to you rather than throwing them. This is just as enriching for them but without the risk of joint and skeletal injury.

So don’t think you can’t play ball games – especially if your dog loves them – but think about quality and not quantity.

There are plenty to choose from too. Dog balls can be found in a huge variety of different shapes, sizes, and materials, so choose a ball that is size and weight appropriate for both your dog and you – although if you have a greenhouse or are playing close to windows, you are going to want to look at the softer varieties. Some balls come with rope or handles, useful both for your dog to carry in their mouth, and for you to get hold of for an impromptu game of tuggy.


Tug of war toys

These brilliant dog toys are great games to play with outside. This will give you lots of space to encourage your dog to have lots of fun pulling, tugging, chewing, and taking turns to win the game.

Some dogs are reluctant tuggers (as they find it a bit intimidating) – while others absolutely love it. As always it is about choosing those games – and so toys – that your dog enjoys. Quite often the reluctant tuggers can learn to love these games if you find a really soft dog toy that has no stuffing in it (you’ll find them online) and let them chase it while you just hold it and drag it along the floor – and if they grab it, let them do any tugging NOT you.

People used to say that you should always WIN a game of tug with your dog, so they didn’t become ‘dominant’ and try and take over the world. Thankfully we now know that is rubbish – and let’s face it, why would you want to play with someone who always makes sure you lose. So take it in turns.

Tug of war garden dog toys come in a variety of different shapes, sizes, and materials. Some are simply a thick rope tied into a figure of eight; others feature knots and tassels at each end; some have handles or balls, and they can be made of plastic or rubber, and others are soft plush toys.

Think about your dog’s size, weight, and breed and jaw strength when it comes to choosing the best tuggy toy for them. A Labrador will have very different needs to a Shih Tzu and will need a totally different toy.



Puller dog toys function in the same way as tug of war toys but double up as a retrieve toy too. Shaped in a ring or a figure of eight, and made from a durable rubber material, these dog toys are great for interactive fun! The shape and material make a brilliant fit for most medium to large dogs, and they come in different sizes. The softness of the rubber is easy on your pet’s jaw, but you still want to let your dog do the pulling and not you so you know that there is no damage to their teeth, jaws or neck.

You can use pullers to play fetch and tug of war, as well as utilising them for practising more formal retrieves. A great thing about these multi-purpose garden dog toys are that they are washable (and sometimes even dishwasher proof) and they float! If your dog enjoys burying their toys, getting wet, or splashing in the paddling pool during their game of fetch, this will make the perfect toy for them.


Agility course

If you really want to take your dog garden games to the next level a fun agility course is the perfect solution!

You can easily make your own DIY versions of each agility course element or purchase ready-made items. Either way, these fantastic garden dog toys make for a great outdoors bonding session with your pet. Agility courses help with fitness and balance, ensuring your dog flexes different muscles and joints than they would just wandering around the garden, and provide a training and bonding opportunity as well as being a source of mental stimulation. Keep the challenge fresh by changing the order of obstacles in your dog’s course every time they play.

Each obstacle needs to be taught separately and using lots of treats while your dog learns what is expected of them for each one.

You can find a variety of difference challenges for your dog agility course, but below are a few of our favourite garden versions:

Agility hoop

First train your dog to walk through the hoop – and then when you are happy, it can be lifted off the ground slightly, so they have to jump.  Make sure they are well secured so your dog can’t get their legs caught in it and frighten themselves. Also remember your dog shouldn’t be jumping until they are over 12 months old (older for large breed dogs).

Weaving poles

It might take your pet a little while to understand that they have to weave their way through this line of flexible poles, and you will have to teach them slowly using a treat to lure them and rewarding after each one.

Some dogs get the hang of this quite quickly – while others never really see the point! An alternative version is to stand with your legs apart and using a treat to lure them, teach them to weave in and out of your legs.


Most tunnels can stretch out as a long snake – or can be squashed down as a thick hoop. Start off with it as short as it will go and encourage your dog to walk through the tunnel. This can be a bit scary for some dogs – so make it fun, try throwing a toy through it or have someone to help you so you can kneel at the other side with a favourite treat or toy.

Once your dog has got the confidence, you can start to slowly stretch out the tunnel until your dog can happily go through it at full length.

Other garden dog toys

Sometimes we don’t think what our dogs would love to play with as it isn’t always toys you can buy online or at a pet store.

Sometimes it is garden experiences that are far more enjoyable for our dogs. The water babies might love nothing more than a paddling pool to splash about it, while the diggers (often terriers) might be totally thrilled about having their own safe digging pit.

Most dogs will love things that give them different levels to play on or things to explore (and old tractor tyre can be one of the best toys you can find as it can be climbed on, jumped on or stood on – and you can hide treats in) – while some might even love a sensory garden full of safe and interesting plantings and textures.

Often it is about changing your garden into a place your dog will want to play as much as it is about finding the best toys.

Next, discover our top five dog sports that are incredibly fun for both the pet and the owner.

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