Dogs are generally dynamic and energetic beasts. Ok, some more than others! Still, while not every dog needs intense and ongoing mental and physical stimulus and attention – some breeds undoubtedly crave it more than others – every dog needs to have fun and burn energy to stay healthy.
Even the laziest couch potatoes are up for a play, and though you have to train this in dogs that aren’t so willing, it’s well worth it to keep your dog healthier and happier in the long run!
Whether you’re stuck at home, need a break or just want a new way to keep your dog entertained – this article will look at our eight best toys to keep dogs busy. We will discuss the types of toys, why they are suitable for the wellbeing of your dog as well as some handy hints and tips.
Best Toys to Keep Dogs Busy – Our Top 8
1. 🏆 Zicosy Snuffle Mat for Dogs
|Snuffle Mat for Dogs- Feeding Mat for Dogs (12" x 18") - Grey Feeding Mat - Encourages Natural...||Buy on Amazon|
Snuffle mats are innovative toys that provide a whole host of health benefits to dogs as well as fun. Essentially, these dense mats are designed to mimic the undergrowth.
They feature thick piles of fabric that have to be ‘snuffled’ through to find treats hidden within.
This stimulates a dog’s sense of smell and triggers their innate ability to sniff out food. The challenge of finding the food makes the treat even sweeter! This can help increase your dog’s appetite or prevent it from eating too quickly.
The Zicosy Snuffle Mat is particularly durable, suitable for dogs of any size, and is made from non-harmful upcycled fabrics.
The whole mat is machine-washable, and it doubles up as a mat suitable for a lie down after a hard session foraging for food!
- Dogs that eat too quickly
- Dogs that are disinterested in food
- Stimulating the sense of smell
2. GREEN Interactive Feeder
|Company of Animals GREEN Slow Interactive Feeder for Dogs, Size Large, Best Fun Slow Feeder Dog...||Buy on Amazon|
This follows an identical concept to the above product, though it’s made from more rigid rubber instead of fabric.
Once again, the idea is to provoke a dog to search for its food, stimulating its sense of smell and salivary glands while slowing down the rate of consumption.
This helps prevent bloating and vomiting in dogs that have a habit of eating too quickly. It’s also super-fun and emulates the process of foraging for food in the wild. It’s a win-win!
This interactive feeder is dishwasher safe, but it’s very easy to hose down or put under the tap.
The construction is sturdy, and it caters for dogs of all sizes as there are two sizes available, small or large.
- Working up an appetite over mealtimes
- Dogs that love to forage for food
- Stimulating motor skills and smell
3. Nina Ottoson Dog Brick Treat Puzzle Dog Toy
|Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Level 2 Dog Brick Interactive Puzzle Toy For Dogs All Breed Sizes||Buy on Amazon|
Got a dog that breezes interactive feeders and needs a greater test?
This innovative dog puzzle is extremely fun for both you and your dog; you can watch as he or she wrestles, nuzzles and paws the contraptions in search for hidden treats.
Your dog will be rewarded for its hard work, and if they persist, they will find yet more hidden riches inside this awesome puzzle!
This puzzle has three core functions; a dog can either flip the lids of compartments for a treat, slide them over to reveal a treat or remove sections for a treat.
It’s mentally and physically stimulating and like with other dog puzzles; it helps reduce overly fast-eating while also positively reinforcing the enjoyment of eating for dogs that are often disinterested in food.
- Providing dogs with a unique and fun challenge
- Stimulating input into feeding
- Reducing overeating or fast-eating habits
4. KONG – Wobbler – Interactive Treat Dispenser
|KONG - Wobbler™ - Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog Toy, Dishwasher Safe - For Small Dogs||Buy on Amazon|
No toy lineup would be complete with a KONG product! This all-time classic treat-dispensing toy helps regulate doggy mealtimes while encouraging physical exercise and mental engagement.
The design is simple but effective; you twist the cap off and fill it with small treats or kibble and replace the cap.
A dog can smell out the food before proceeding to move the wobbly toy around; a wobble might trigger the toy to dispense food. Eat and repeat!
KONG have an exceptional reputation for dog products, and this is no different.
Its safe construction is ideally suited to almost any dog, especially given that it comes in both large and small sizes.
- Inquisitive dogs that love to interact with moving objects
- Dogs that eat too quickly
- Exercise around mealtimes
5. KONG Classic Dog Toy
|KONG Classic Medium Dog Toy Red Medium Pack of 2||Buy on Amazon|
This classic stuffable dog toy combines a superb set of benefits into one simple package.
With a hollow interior, dogs are faced with the mental and physical challenge of manipulating the toy to get it into the best position for accessing the goodness inside.
This helps positively reinforce good mealtime routines and behaviours while stimulating exercise, especially in the jaw.
This flexible toy can also be thrown or kicked, and due to its spherical shape, it’ll bounce around unpredictably, perfect for a boost of exercise post-dinner!
- Providing a treat with a challenge
- Working up an appetite around mealtimes
- Games of fetch and catch
6. Trixie Dog Activity Flip Board
|TRIXIE Intelligence toy dog activity "Dog Activity strategy game flip board, ø 23 cm” - 32026||Buy on Amazon|
Trixie dog toys are for the real brainiacs of the canine world.
At a glance, you wouldn’t be alone to think ‘how on earth will my dog work that out?!’ but actually, with stellar reviews across the boards and a tremendous reputation, you have to try it to believe it!
Trixie products do require some guidance; you’ll have to show your dog how the parts work to get them started but do not underestimate the mental capacity of your dog, you might be amazed at how fast they can crack the puzzle to obtain their much-earned rewards.
The Trixie Flipboard stimulates your dog’s mental faculties, they’re highly creative, but they really work and can significantly heighten your dog’s mental dexterity and skill.
With time and practice, you might even be able to upgrade to Trixie’s higher tier of dog puzzles, reserved only for the Einsteins and Newtons of the hound world.
- Intelligent dogs who love a challenge
- Dogs who are disinterested in normal toys
- Dogs that eat too quickly
7. AWOOF Dog Puzzle Toys, Pet Snuffle Feeding Mat
|AWOOF Snuffle Mat Pet Dog Feeding Mat, Durable Interactive Dog Toys Encourages Natural Foraging...||Buy on Amazon|
This interactive feeding mat provides a whole jungle of fun for any dog that loves to forage and search in the undergrowth.
It features many excellent fabric features, more so than any other snuffle mat around, and is sure to keep dogs active and occupied when it comes to dinner.
Like other feeding mats, the underlying concept is to space out food to prevent a dog from eating too quickly, thus leading to vomiting and bloating.
A dog will also have to put in physical input to find food heightening the reward of doing so – this benefits dogs who are disinterested in food.
This feeding mat can be buckled up for storage or transportation and is fully machine washable. The thick and durable cloth piles and pouches are sure to stand up to plenty of wear and tear. With the thick seams and an all-round high-quality construction, this mat will last the test of time, even when faced with the most aggressive snouts.
- Dogs that love the outdoors
- Overeaters, fast-eaters or under-eaters
- Dogs that enjoy the stimulus of finding food actively instead of being given it
8. Trixie Dog Activity Turn Around
|Trixie 32019 Dog Activity Turn Around,white/blue, 22 × 33 × 18 cm, All Breed Sizes||Buy on Amazon|
Another awesome dog puzzle with Trixie, this cool toy tests your dog’s motor skills, concentration and problem-solving ability to suss out the mechanism and reliably dispense treats.
It’s pretty simple; dogs have to use their paws or snouts to rotate the tubes until gravity causes the treat to pull itself through the holes.
The holes can be reduced in size, meaning the dog has to hold the tubes upside down for longer to dispense a treat.
Like all Trixie products, this awesome dog puzzle is superbly well-built, and though you might have to show your dog the ropes before he or she has a go, it’s intuitive and doable for dogs from many breeds.
- Dogs that love to interact with objects using their paws
- Clever dogs who enjoy challenges
- Increasing a dog’s attention span
Keep Them Exercised
If you own a lazy dog, it’s best not to get complacent and think ‘well this is just how he/she is’, even breeds with a reputation for laziness like Bulldogs, Great Danes or Mastiffs need to exert themselves and will likely be happier by doing so.
Of course, for highly energetic and excitable breeds like Border Terriers, Jack Russells and Cocker Spaniels, keeping busy and well worked-out is essential for the good mental and physical health of the dog.
Walks are the primary method for keeping a dog busy as walks exercise the senses as well as the muscles, allowing your dog to investigate new and curious environments.
Toys, though, are essential to give you another option for occupying your dog between walks or when conditions aren’t suitable for going out. For real couch potato dogs that are hard to get out on any meaningful walk, indoor play should play an important role in moderating your dog’s health.
Why Do Dogs Get Bored?
It all depends on the breeding, but by and large, dogs are bred to be purposeful and not ornamental or purely aesthetic.
The vast majority of dog breeds, even toy dog breeds, still hail from gene pools of working dogs. Take a Pomeranian as an example, though this dog might seem very far removed from any ‘working’ purpose, e.g. hunting, it still descends from Spitz, a type of North European working dog that aided in herding and hunting.
Many dogs still retain the innate urge to be purposeful, active and engaged with their owner and environment. It is literally in their DNA.
This isn’t always the case, Chihuahuas and Pugs, for example, were not bred for work. Still, this doesn’t mean that they don’t also require stimulation and purpose. All dogs are instinctive animals with high intelligence; they get bored like many other creatures and crave for something to do.
The Benefits of Mental Stimulation
Mental stimulation rewards dogs and helps them feel fulfilled, just like we do when we crack a tricky puzzle or finish a particularly tough level on a video game. Mental stimulation for dogs helps keep their reward pathways working correctly, reinforcing good behaviours and ultimately, keeping the happiness flowing.
Keeping a dog’s spirits high is particularly important when you’re at home more often. Dogs that spend a lot of time outside will satisfy their natural desires for curiosity by rummaging around in the leaves, digging and chasing creatures but when you’re at home, occupying a dog is like occupying a child, it keeps them occupied and out of trouble!
When you’re not at home, this is an even more important time for your dog to have access to toys to reduce separation anxiety and help prevent destructive chewing and other troublesome behaviours.
Mental wellbeing and physical health and fitness are closely tied, a mentally stimulated dog will sleep better, eat better, have more energy and will be less likely to become anxious or agitated.
Dog toys also frequently double up as chew toys that massage the gums and mouth, vital during puppy teething. The mental stimulation of toys keeps a dog physically active too, especially if they have to work hard to reach the prize, e.g. treats buried deep within a hollow rubber toy!
Toys can also further benefit dogs that tend to overeat or rush their food, thus causing vomiting and bloating. By dispensing food at longer intervals, dogs won’t be able to wolf down their entire dinner in seconds and will also have to provide a bit of input for their reward. This helps stimulate the digestive system and positively reinforce good mealtime habits.
Types of Dog Toys
Dog toy designers and brands have got pretty creative with some of the puzzle toys out there, and truth be told, some are surprisingly tricky and complex!
Puzzle toys for dogs are remarkably similar to children’s toys with the added motivation of a treat that is often granted upon completion of a puzzle.
Puzzle toys are not suitable for all dogs, there are certainly some breeds that are more likely to get very frustrated with difficult puzzles and resort to throwing the puzzle around and breaking it (just like we might), but on the whole, dogs possess awesome problem-solving skills, and you just might be surprised!
Some toys filled with treats require manipulation or grip in a certain way to dispense treats or food. Some might feature bases that need to be grappled and secured to the floor with paws so a dog can effectively eat from the opening, others might dispense treats when a dog actively moves it around.
Many toys have adjustable difficulties so you can test the mettle of your dog, it might seem just a tiny bit cruel watching your dog pine for a delicious treat that it just can’t seem to obtain – you won’t be able to resist making his/her job that little bit easier!
Rubber Stuffable Chews
Also known as Kongs after the highly popular brand, stuffable chews are rubber toys that can be filled with treats that a dog then has to work out from within the toy.
Peanut butter, fruit, kibble, cheese; stuffable toys can be filled with your dog’s favourite foods to present a tasty challenge that doubles up as a physical and dental workout. Stuffable chews are a classic dog toy that can also be thrown, and they help during teething.
Rope and Cord Toys
Lastly, classic rope and cord toys allow you to play games of tug-of-war with your dog, helping it stretch its leg and jaw muscles while burning up some energy in the process.
Rope toys are super-cheap, very durable and they’re very safe also, provided they’re big enough to be unswallowable.
The Sizes of Dog Toys
Size matters when it comes to dog toys. Big toys may be far too tricky for little dogs to grasp, and they may become overly frustrated and bored to give up on the toy, maybe forever eventually!
Toys that are too small for your dog present a swallowing risk. This isn’t always an issue with supervision or for highly intelligent or trained dogs bit still, an excited dog can become overzealous and accidentally swallow the smaller components of some puzzle toys.
Of course, designers try and bear this in mind, and many puzzle toys do not have removable or breakable components, but again, you never know the lengths a dog will go for a treat!
How and When to Use Dog Toys
Dog toys should not replace other forms of play but supplement them instead. Walks and forms of more intense exercise are very important for the vast majority of breeds; you can’t keep your dog in all day and give it just one window of play each evening using a dog toy or puzzle.
It does depend on the dog, but don’t be surprised if a puzzle makes your dog snowball in energy – that’s the point! You might find your dog finds a well of vigour and determination when presented with a puzzle he or she enjoys and this is great, but if they don’t show immediate interest then don’t be surprised or perturbed.
The bottom line is, dog toys still require you to put in some of the hard work. Not all dogs can be left to their own devices; many will need your input to perk their interest and show them how to play with a toy.
Without this, they might not even know if they’re allowed to play with it. Show your dog how a puzzle works, move the parts around and illustrate how they can get a treat by completing the puzzle and that they are free to try to do so.
Hints and Tips
Provide Multiple Toys
Variety is the spice of life, and you may find that your dog enjoys a few different puzzles, moving between one and the other relatively freely without getting bored. Other dogs might take little to no interest in some puzzles, but then, suddenly something clicks, and they go berzerk for a puzzle they’ve never encountered before.
Dogs that pick a favourite may then never change their minds; they remain loyal to that one toy they know and love. Trying different toys is vital to unlocking your dog’s enjoyment of them, if at first you don’t succeed then try, try again!
Watch for Wear and Tear
Toys are not indestructible, and though they are pretty much invariably designed to withstand some level of wear and tear, you will have to inspect them to make sure they aren’t developing cracks or sharp edges.
It’s also crucial that you keep dog toys relatively clean, especially if your dog plays with them outside. A bit of dirt is unlikely to hurt, but filthy toys can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
An awesome lineup of toys here! Of course, your choice will depend on what you might think your dog will like. Don’t be too hasty to write off some of the more complicated toys, though; your dog can easily surprise you!
When using toys, always bear in mind that dogs all think in different ways, and you can never truly predict their approach. You will have to be willing to troubleshoot and persevere to get your dog interested in toys, but once they’re hooked, you might find that they keep coming back for more!
On the other hand, though, some dogs might not even try to attempt puzzle toys, even if they know their favourite treat is waiting for them. Always feel free to try out new toys and hopefully, you might just crack the code and find the key to your doggy’s dodgy mealtime habits, insatiable appetite for curiosity or blinding intellect!
We hope you found our guide to the best toys to keep dogs busy helpful. You can check out more of our dog toy guides here. Don’t forget to comment in the section below or follow us on our Facebook page.