When you haul out your pup’s giant, oversized rope toy, you’re rewarded with an impressive butt wiggle of excitement. They know a tug-of-war game is coming, and they can’t wait! Tug-of war is a popular game with every canine age group, from puppy to senior. It’s a delightful game on both ends of the rope, but are there hidden dangers? Let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of rope toys for dogs, and how to choose the best product for your pooch.

The Benefits of Rope Toys for Dogs

Rope toys provide your dog with tons of physical activity and mental stimulation, making them a great toy to include in your daily fun. They are the perfect combination of enough toughness for your dog to sink their teeth into for hours of play, but not as hard as bones and other chew toys that can potentially damage your pet’s teeth. 

Here are four reasons why rope toys are a good option for your pup’s daily playtime. Playing with your dog with a rope toy:

  • Promotes healthy exercise — Without incentive, does your pooch turn into a couch potato? An exciting toy that encourages your dog to chew, tug, and wrestle will promote a healthy play session each day.
  • Provides oral health benefits — Any chew toy, but particularly one with fibrous materials, will help keep your furry pal’s teeth in good health. The abrasive action of chewing and tugging will help “floss” your dog’s teeth by scraping off plaque and tartar.
  • Offers training opportunities — Playing with a rope toy doubles as a training session for your dog. During a tug-of-war, you can teach your dog to “Leave it,” “Drop it,” and “Take it.” These commands will help your dog learn control, and prevent them from grabbing something that may be dangerous, like a dropped prescription medication. 
  • Strengthens your bond — Nothing boosts the bond you share with your dog more than interactive play. While a good toy can encourage your pup to play alone, playing together is infinitely more enjoyable and rewarding.

Rope toys can provide immeasurable fun for you and your pooch, but you must use caution with these stringy toys.

The Problems with Rope Toys for Dogs

Although rope toys can provide numerous benefits, they have one serious drawback—string loss. As your dog plays, tugs, or chews on a rope toy, the fibers will fall apart, and fall to the ground uneaten—hopefully. However, many dogs chew these toys, and ingest the strings or ropes. Linear foreign bodies can cause accordion-like pleating and gastrointestinal tract obstruction. Essentially, the strands from a rope toy can cause your dog’s intestines to bunch up, or can saw through them. 

Signs of a Linear Foreign Body in Dogs

If your four-legged friend ingests their rope toy strands, you may notice the following intestinal obstruction signs:

  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining to defecate

If you notice these signs or you catch your pup swallowing a piece of rope, contact your veterinarian immediately, because this is a medical emergency that often requires surgery.

How to Play Safely with a Rope Toy

When playing with a rope toy, exercise caution to prevent a potential gastrointestinal obstruction in your dog. Additionally, some dogs may become overly excited when playing tug-of-war, so always keep your dog’s limits in mind. Here are a few pointers on playing safely with rope toys:

  • Match the toy to your dog — Choose a rope toy large and durable enough to withstand heavy play from your dog. 
  • Watch carefully for falling fibers — As you play, fibers are sure to fall off, so watch carefully, to ensure your dog doesn’t snatch them up. 
  • Play cautiously with young children — Your dog may become amped up when playing tug-of-war and can play too rough, especially with young children. Monitor tug-of-war games between small kids and your dog, to ensure they don’t become too rowdy.

Overall, rope toys can provide a wonderful outlet for your pup’s energy and a great deal of mental stimulation and exercise. However, keep a close eye out for loose strings that can create an issue.

How to Choose the Best Rope Toy for Your Dog

Rope toys are a common toy in dog-owning households, since they provide versatile fun, come in a variety of intriguing textures, and generally create less mess than stuffed toys. They also are typically squeaker-free, granting you peace, while your manic chewer gnaws at their toy. 

However, not all rope toys are created equal. You certainly get what you pay for when you purchase dog toys, so opt to splash out a bit more cash on a sturdier, more durable toy that is less likely to disintegrate with one good tug. Also, choose a toy that suits your dog. Ensure the toy is large enough to not be easily destroyed, and made of a material that fits your dog’s chewing style. Puppies and senior dogs are better off with softer fabrics, while tough chewers need a more durable material. And, if your dog loves to play tug-of-war, choose a rope toy with a handle at one end for easy gripping. 

Some rope toys offer two toys in one, by providing multiple types of play. For example, some rope toys are threaded through a ball, which allows your pooch to play a combination game of fetch and tug-of-war. Other rope toys form a “skeleton” inside a plush animal, but these fabrics are typically quite durable and can hold up to rough play. Plus, they’re usually free from stuffing, making them less likely to cause a mess.

No matter the rope toy you choose for your dog’s play style, check carefully for loose threads after each play session. Scoop up any strings and toss them away before your dog has a chance to eat them, and replace a toy that shows signs of unraveling.

Rope Toy Alternatives

If you’re leery of letting your pooch play with a rope toy for safety reasons, try a tug toy. Tug toys are typically made from rubber, plastic, or a combination of strong materials that can hold up to rough play and do not have any strings that can be ingested. Rubber and plastic tug toys, which are designed to stretch without snapping back in the players’ faces, offer a safer alternative to rope toys.

Are you unsure whether your pooch should be allowed to tussle with rope toys? Consult your veterinarian for safe, personalized toy recommendations for your dog.