Boxers are ultra playful dogs.
They are great improvisers and don’t need fancy toys to make a game of things.
All the same, your Boxer will appreciate a well chosen toy.
When picking toys for your Boxer, avoid toys that are:
- non-mentally stimulating
- non-physically stimulating
- agitating or crazy-making
- rough on the mouth
- synthetic material designed to be chewed
- non toys
1. Toxic Toys
You might assume all dog toys would be non-toxic, given the manufacturers intend them to end up in a dog’s mouth.
Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Pet toys are not regulated, which means they can be made of almost any material.
As a Boxer owner, don’t outsource decisions on safety.
It’s up to you to be the quality control officer when it comes to your Boxer’s toys.
If a toy doesn’t pass muster, don’t risk it — no matter what the packaging says.
A great many of the products you’ll find at your local pet store or online retailer will have been made with chemically treated materials that are less than safe.
Avoid toys that have:
- dyes that will likely run when wet with your dog’s saliva
- plastic containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals like phthalates, BPA or BPS
- batteries that can be extracted (the contents of batteries will leak if chewed and are poisonous)
- strong smells (toys should be odorless, an odor indicates the presence of chemicals)
- bright colors (this usually indicates artificial colorings)
One test commissioned by a concerned dog owner found tennis balls made for dogs contained lead at levels far exceeding what’s considered safe in children’s toys.
Choose toys that are:
- made in USA (China has a poor safety record on dog treats, let alone dog toys)
- 100% natural rubber
- made from all-natural, contaminant-free materials like organic cotton
2. Swallowable Toys
Choose toys that are large enough for a Boxer.
They should be so big that they can’t accidentally be swallowed if he’s running with them or holding them in his mouth while lying upside down.
Even right-size toys can quickly become choking hazards in the jaws of a curious Boxer.
Inspect toys for small parts that can be detached, as your Boxer is likely to see it as a challenge to chew off sewn-on eyes or noses on soft toys.
Know what your dog is like with toys.
Some Boxers are trustworthy with just about any toy.
Others are liable to rip up small soft and furry toys or swallow them whole.
Even the humble ball can be dangerous if it’s too small.
Balls are among the objects most commonly causing life-threatening gastrointestinal obstructions, requiring surgical removal by vets.
If your Boxer is a destroyer, you will need indestructible toys.
3. Non Mentally-Stimulating Toys
The worst toys for a Boxer might interest him while they’re brand new, but quickly become boring once the novelty wears off.
The very best toys for a Boxer engage the mind.
Search for canine enrichment toys like puzzles that require your Boxer to sniff out treats and problem solve in order to access them.
Some, like snuffle mats, you can make yourself at home using a rubber door mat tied with strips of fleece.
Hide treats in the mat and watch your pup hunt out every last one.
Boxers have a keen sense of smell and love to use it.
Sniffing is stimulating yet relaxing for dogs, and tires them out in a way less challenging play won’t.
4. Non Physically-Stimulating Toys
Toys that your Boxer can chase are a great way to engage his prey drive, that innate urge to pursue things that move.
The good old tennis ball can’t be beat.
Flirt poles (that have a flap of fabric on the end of a rod) are a variation on the typical chase toy.
You can DIY these.
A soft soccer ball or a half-deflated football will still roll but your Boxer will also be able to carry and shake it.
Frisbees are great fun, with a couple of caveats.
Firstly, make sure they are made from soft material, not hard plastic that can injure soft mouths and break teeth.
Secondly, throw frisbees in such a way that your Boxer jumps long and low to the ground.
Acrobatic leaps high in the air might look impressive, but they are not natural moves for a dog and will damage your Boxer’s joints.
Some Boxers love a ball suspended over grass on a bungee.
5. Non-Interactive Toys
Play should be interactive.
A basketful of toys are just inanimate objects that will soon sit unused, whereas a single toy that your Boxer associates with direct play with you?
It’ll be a firm favorite that never goes out of style.
Tug toys are a great way to build engagement and bond with your Boxer.
Plus, tugging uses just about every muscle in a dog’s body, so it makes great exercise.
6. Toys That Drive Your Boxer Crazy
Some toys will just tweak your dog in the wrong way.
A weighted toy that springs up when knocked over might spark incessant barking .. not in a good way.
Laser pointers might fall into this category.
A lot will depend on your dog’s temperament, but don’t choose toys that bring out his neuroses or make him highly agitated.
7. Toys That Are Rough On The Mouth
Hard plastic toys can damage the teeth and cut the gums and soft tissues of the mouth.
Avoid toys with sharp edges or edges that wear in a way that makes them dangerous.
8. Silent Toys
Boxers are very attuned to sound, and amused by it.
They also have a great sense of humor.
Silent toys can never delight a Boxer the way noisy ones can.
Giggle balls that emit funny noises and roll askew, squeak toys and toys that make a crinkling sound will all appeal to a Boxer’s sense of fun.
9. Artificial Chew Toys
Stuffed kongs may have their place.
But nylon bones, and the like, are a pale imitation of the real thing.
Why go there when you can give your dog raw meaty bones?
Better nutritionally, better all round. 100 per cent natural.
Antlers are too hard, generally unappealing and likely to crack teeth.
Ropes are a terrible idea.
A good guide is to ask yourself: would a dog chew this in nature?
If not, give it a miss.
Choose appropriate, soft bones (not marrow bones which are very dense, hard and fatty).
Always supervise bone chewing, especially if your dog is a gulper.
10. Non-Toys: Objects You Should Never Let Your Boxer Play With
Beware of everyday objects that should never become unofficial toys for your Boxer.
Boxers can have a Bowerbird-like proclivity for collecting objects.
They are experts at appropriating objects and inventing games on the spot.
If allowed, they will carry home rocks and chew on sticks.
However, certain things should remain off limits, including:
- sticks (can splinter or cause injury if they lodge in the ground when carried vertically)
- rocks or stones (can chip teeth and cause choking and blockages)
- corks from wine bottles (risk of choking and intestinal obstruction)
- rubber bands
- socks (some dogs will swallow these whole)
- children’s stuffed toys (not designed to withstand the treatment your dog will dish out, at risk of being disembowelled and consumed)
- rubber toys with a hole in only one end (can form a vacuum and trap your dog’s tongue)
This is far from an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.
Apply the same criteria to unofficial toys as you do to store-bought ones.
With a Boxer, this may force you into the role of constant party pooper .. but with some things it’s better to be safe than sorry.
How To Manage Your Boxer With Toys
Boxers move pretty fast.
Yesterday’s hot toy might struggle to spark interest by morning.
Here’s a hint: take toys away to retain their value in your dog’s mind.
Rather than leaving toys strewn around the house or having them in a basket, available on demand .. pick them up and keep them out of reach once the play session is over.
You can also rotate out toys so everything old becomes new again.
Be careful to wash toys without using chemically-laden laundry detergents.
Dr Bronner’s unscented baby castille soap is a safer alternative.
Though your Boxer will love it, try to avoid chasing him when he runs away with toys.
You want him to get into the habit of running towards you, not away.
Use toys as a way to teach a strong “Give” or “Drop it” command, which will come in handy when your dog picks up something inappropriate.
You can also work on a “Bring it” command and the more complicated “Put it in the basket”.
If you live in a multiple-dog household, police any “resource guarding” behavior or possessiveness with toys and remove them to prevent fights.
Choose your Boxer’s toys carefully to avoid ending up with unsafe toys .. or toys that are just plain dull by day two.
Remember that toys on their own have limited appeal.
Playing with YOU is what your dog wants.
All the toys in the world won’t prevent a Boxer from getting bored or destructive.
Only mental and physical activity, interaction and attention will create a happy and balanced Boxer.
Instead of buying another new toy, consider games, tricks and simple obedience training.
All of these activities will trump toys any day of the week.
Germ Warning: Lab Tests Reveal Stunning Levels on These Pet Items, Dr Karen Becker, Mercola Healthy Pets, June 22, 2018
Beware of Lead and Toxic Dog Toys, Lisa McCormick, The Bark, updated 2017