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In this Leaf Score series on eco-friendly, non-toxic dog toys, I’ve already looked at which dog chew toys you’ll want to avoid (with some names that might surprise you), and some factors to consider when choosing a chew toy for your dog.
This time, I offer my top picks for eco-friendly, non-toxic dog chew toys.
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Highlights: A great choice for dogs that love chewing on sticks or gnawing on furniture. Save your table legs from harm by getting this toy made of solid olive wood, hand-harvested and sustainably sourced, then soaked in olive oil.
Materials: Olive wood and olive oil
The Himalayan Dog Toy Ruff Bone is a great choice for dogs that love chewing sticks or gnawing on furniture. Save your table legs from harm by getting a Himalayan Ruff Bone made of solid olive wood, hand-harvested and sustainably sourced, then soaked in olive oil.
Unlike sticks or furniture, Ruff Bones don’t splinter, they mulch. This means your dog can gnaw away without worry and clean their teeth at the same time. They’re also great for teething puppies, but can withstand power chewers too. These ‘bones’ don’t stain or smell and come in four sizes.
Hip Doggie Starfish Loofa Organic Dental Toy [Staff tried and tested]
Highlights: Designed to floss your dog’s teeth as they play, this cute starfish/seastar is made with natural loofah material and natural flavoring. It’s pretty small and will shred eventually, but it will keep most dogs entertained for several weeks first!
Materials: Luffah plant fiber (and natural ‘meat’ flavor)
Alright, so this one is more of a ‘shred’ toy than a chew toy. Made with the same natural loofah material used to make back scrubbers, this toy is flavored with natural ‘meat’ flavoring, has no stuffing (it is 100% loofah), and measures approximately four inches across. The idea is that your pup chomps and chews and pulls at the 100% organic vegetable dental toy to help floss their teeth.
The Hip Doggie Starfish Loofa Organic Dental Toy is the winner of multiple Editor’s Choice and Eco Excellence Awards. The company also makes a slightly larger loofah sandal that is sold with the starfish.
All of the loofah type toys from Hip Doggie are packaged with a recycled plastic info card and the loofah itself is a sustainably sourced material. Indeed, you can actually eat the young fruits of luffa plants as they’re a bit like zucchini or squash. Once they mature, these fruits become very fibrous and are harvested for use as natural scrubbing materials and, now, for dog toys.
As a company, Hip Doggie also make a whole bunch of not so eco-friendly or non-toxic pet products and don’t seem to have any charitable arm to their business operations. As such, I’d only recommend the loofah chew toys from Hip Doggie.
Highlights: This rope toy is free of herbicides and pesticides, plus it’s naturally resistant to mold and mildew.
Materials: Hemp plant fiber
The Otter® hemp chew toy is a favorite of the staff at Modern Dog magazine and is a top choice for an eco-friendly, non-toxic dog chew toy. Made in the USA from all natural hemp, this rope toy is a fantastic alternative to plastic and synthetic rubber chew toys and training aids.
Because hemp is such a hardworking fiber, made from a resilient plant that supports soil health and controls weeds all by itself, this hemp rope toy is free of herbicides and pesticides and is naturally resistant to mold and mildew. It’s also biodegradable and the Otter® Hemp Rope Dog Toy comes in eco-friendly packaging made with 100% recycled, 50%+ post-consumer waste. Otter® also use printing inks produced from renewable resources such as soybeans and other vegetables.
Other things I love about this product include the fact that it meets and/or exceeds the requirements as laid out by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and ASTM F963-11, meaning that this is a dog toy made to comply with standards created to ensure the safety of human infants. Specifically, these standards ensure that the toy does not contain a dangerous high level of lead or other heavy metal and that it does not contain small parts that constitute a choking hazard.
The rope toy is also available in four different weights ranging from $9.99 to $17.99, so there’s bound to be one suitable for your pup, whatever their size and bite strength:
- Mini: Dogs Up to 6 lbs. (not intended for puppies)
- Small: Dogs 7-18 lbs.
- Medium: Dogs 18-44 lbs.
- Large: Dogs 45 lbs. and up
Otter® are a small Wyoming start-up and the hemp rope toy is their first product to launch. As one of the best eco-friendly pet products made in the USA from sustainable materials, I’m keen for folks to support this company.
Unlike almost every other pet product company out there, Otter® are committed to going beyond the voluntary pet industry standards to ensure their products are sustainable and safe for your dog and the rest of your family. They also help support non-profits and shelters and offer free shipping on orders over $38.95, so put in a bulk order with friends and spread the love.
Highlights: Made to the same standards as products intended for children.
Materials: Food-grade silicone
SafeMade are the one company I tracked down who make pet products to the same standards as products intended for children, according to CPSIA and ASTM F963. This makes sense given that the founders of this company were children’s product developers before they started making pet products.
SafeMade perform their own tests for use and abuse, flammability, and chemical content, as well as “toxicological risk assessments and further use and abuse testing specifically designed to simulate how a pet plays and chews with [their] toys”. You can contact them directly for copies of safety certificates and test reports for any product of theirs you’re interested in buying, making them arguably the most transparent pet product company around.
Their products include the alligator shaped chew toy, which is made with non-toxic food grade silicone. There don’t seem to be many of these SafeMade toys around, however, and some are currently out of stock, so if you spot one, snap it up. This also suggests that some food-grade kitchenware (such as the handle cover for cast iron) may be a decent substitute for toxic dog toys, but I can’t confirm that.
Some SafeMade products seem less robust than you might want if you have a moderate to strong chewer. Indeed, some of the toys have tabs and bumpy pieces that might be easily broken off. As such, you definitely want to supervise your pup when introducing these toys and it’s best to inspect the toys regularly and get rid of any pieces that break away.
Highlights: Toys are tough and strong and free from toxic chemicals.
Materials: Rice husk and natural rubber, cotton (in some toys)
Beco Pets have made the world’s first rice husk and natural rubber dog toys and are a UK company that gives back to the community, donating a portion of profits to various animal charities. The Beco Chew Ball and BecoBone products are tough and strong, free from toxic chemicals, and have a slight vanilla scent.
While my trusty canine product tester hasn’t tested these toys herself, other dogs seem to love them. The bone in particular appears to hold up well to strong chewers and even if it does eventually get destroyed, there’s little concern over small pieces being ingested as the materials are natural and biodegradable.
The Beco Chew Balls come in a variety of sizes and have a slightly wonky shape, meaning they can bounce in a fun and erratic way to keep your pup entertained. There’s also a small hole in the bottom of the ball, so you can stuff treats inside for a fun treasure hunt game with your pup.
Highlights: Machine washable dog toy made from chemical-free, non-toxic cotton.
Materials: Cotton and vegetable dyes
Jerry the Giraffe is a dog rope toy made with cotton dyed with vegetable-based dyes. The cotton isn’t organic, sadly, but the company claims it is chemical-free and non-toxic, in addition to being machine washable. As such, I’d wash this toy before giving it to your pup for the first time, just in case there are traces of pesticides or herbicides associated with conventional cotton farming.
This giraffe toy is hand-knotted and naturally frays and unravels, acting a bit like dental floss to help keep your pup’s teeth clean. You’ll want to plait it back together though if it starts to unravel too much, so as to avoid the risk of your pup swallowing any longer pieces of cotton that could cause a digestive issue. If the toy gets too gross for your liking, you can throw it in the wash and dry in the dryer. Or, if it’s beyond redemption, you can bury it or compost it as it’s totally biodegradable.
These cotton toys are great for teething puppies or dogs who overheat in summer; just soak the toy in water and freeze it.
Highlights: Machine washable, naturally antibacterial, and resistant to mold and mildew.
Materials: Hemp plant fiber, organic cotton, squeaker (and dyes in some color options)
The Good Dog Company Hemp Biscuit Dog Toys are made with durable hemp and organic cotton on the outside and a raw hemp fiber filling, plus a squeaker. They are machine washable, naturally antibacterial, and resistant to mold and mildew and measure 4 inches by 9 inches.
Perfect for playing fetch, annoying the neighbors, or for a good old chew, this is a biscuit that will last your dog a lot longer than most pet store treats.
I’ve reached out to the company to check what kind of dyes they use in the blue and red toys and I’m waiting to hear back. In the meantime, my recommendation is to go for the natural, undyed, Hemp Biscuit Dog Toy.
Avoid Pigs’ Ears and Rawhide
Pigs’ ears are a potential choking hazard and may cause bowel obstruction if your dog tries to swallow or swallows large chunks. And, like rawhide, pigs’ ears quickly begin to harbor various unpleasant microbes and may even be germ-riddled before you get them home from the store. If you have a puppy or senior dog or an immunocompromised dog, these are a definite no.