January 31, 2020
One of my biggest worries as a pet owner is whether my animal is going insane by themselves while I while away my time at work. Dogs need stimulation — mental and physical — and if they don’t get it, well, the consequences of dog boredom can be numerous.
Interactive dog toys require participation; unlike plush toys that can be a comfort, these toys respond to your dog, which usually means your pup will spend more time with them. The physical and mental stimulation these toys provide can dramatically decrease your dog’s boredom (as well as their chances of tearing up your stuff when there’s nothing to do).
Because the definition of an interactive dog toy is so broad, we broke down this list into five different categories at a few different price points. These are the best interactive dog toys of 2020.
These food-delivery toys, which can be stuffed with treats or kibble, provide a clear incentive for your dog to start playing — and keep playing! By design, they challenge your dog to use their natural animal instincts and a little creativity to dislodge the mini-prizes. These toys also encourage your dog to eat more slowly, which can help with some dogs that wolf down their food too quickly.
The Kong Wobbler, the OG interactive kibble toy, keeps dogs moving while providing them with action- and treat-packed stimulation. It sits upright until your dog knocks it with their paw or nose, spilling treats or kibble to reward their efforts. Its unpredictable wobble movement gets and keeps dogs interested, meaning they’ll be a lot less bored throughout the day. It’s also as durable as it gets!
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This IQ Treat Ball rewards your dog for being active while slowing down how quickly your dog consumes their food. Its ball shape makes it ideal for rolling around and having your pup chase it, meaning extra movement and exercise. You can also adjust the interior disc to different levels of difficulty, ensuring your pup won’t get tired of it. Talk about extended playtime!
The mushroom shape of this fun purple toy allows it to wobble unexpectedly, keeping your dog interested. It has flexible prongs that can be adjusted to make the flow of treats plentiful or few and far between. It’s made for heavy chewers and has four adjustable levels of difficulty, ensuring that your pup won’t tire of it.
This extra durable Furry Fido treat-dispensing ball is designed to raise your dog’s IQ. Simply stuff it with treats and watch your pup push, gnaw, and tumble around with the ball. Its rugged exterior is designed not only to massage your dog’s gums but also scrub their teeth. And we can get behind some oral hygiene help for our dogs — in any capacity!
This translucent, squishy snuff from Outward Hound can be adapted for any dog’s particular style of play: You can put treats in it, add a smaller (2.5 inch ball) inside the nook, or even fill it with peanut butter. Your dog will nose, nudge, and nibble to get at whatever tasty treats you have inside. It’s both brain stimulating and long lasting.
Any dog owner recognizes that the best way to encourage a dog to play is to provide food or treats. What separates interactive puzzle toys from treat-dispensers is another layer of mental stimulation. Your dog has to do more than slap around a ball or snuffle in a mat, they have to actually solve the puzzle to get their reward.
Some of these toys can be quite complex, so it’s important to start at the right level of difficulty to encourage your dog. They will lose interest if the toy doesn’t yield any results; or worse, send the whole thing flying in frustration. And while that’s one way to get all the delicious treats inside, it probably wasn’t the reason you bought the toy in the first place.
This unique puzzle toy from Trixie is as cool as it looks. Who doesn’t want their pup to be a mad scientist? There is no right and wrong way to play this game, but the idea is that your dog will turn the elements to get the treats. There are three turning elements and they each come with two lids, meaning you can adjust their difficulty. It won’t only keep your dog entertained for hours, it will also improve their motor skills. Place some treats inside the beakers and watch how creative your dog gets!
This bright and colorful puzzle is shaped like a paw for both maximum cuteness and hidden compartments. It has seven holes where you can stuff treats or kibble. This sort of product stimulates your dog’s animal instincts, which will help alleviate any boredom. It also acts as a slow feeder to prevent dogs from choking on their food. Exercise their mind while feeding them at the same time? Yes, please!
The Nina Ottosson Dog Brick engages your pup from start to finish with its colorful design and multi-play options. Your dog will have to flip, slide, and find the rewards that lie within its eight compartments and four removeable bone pieces. Start off slow without the bones or add them in and see how your pooch navigates this puzzle. The compartments are easy to flip so your dog won’t get too discouraged and will continue playing for hours.
Bring out your dog’s (or cat’s) inner genius with this interactive feeder toy that both slows down your pet’s eating (to avoid choking or excessive weight gain) while also stimulating them mentally. You can adjust the toy’s height to personalize it for your dog. Add some treats or food to the wheel mechanism on top and your pet will nose or paw it down. Their rewards will then land on a slow-feed plate that poses another challenge for your pup. At the end of meal time, they will be entertained (and full)!
This Trixie toy is for intermediate players; its four boxes can be used together or individually for different types of gameplay. Each of the four boxes poses a different challenge to your dog to rescue the treats inside: flaps, knots, ropes, and drawers. It has non-slip feet to keep the game in place while your pup noses around to get their rewards. (It also contains an instruction booklet with tips and tricks so the humans don’t get confused either.)
These toys come in many different shapes and sizes, some as fun for the owners as they are for the dogs. Hide-and-seek toys rely on the fact that dogs prefer toys they’ve “found” as the experience feels earned. Playing hide and seek with your pup also helps build up your relationship with your dog, without really requiring too much effort from your side.
Hide-and-seek toys come with detachable pieces and something to stuff them into so you can either encourage your dog to ply out the smaller pieces from their home base or hide them throughout your home. The latter only really requires stashing the pieces in different places and encouraging your dog when they get closer to their prize. You can even play this game of hot and cold from your couch. Your dog will be expending energy while you don’t have to!
This Outward Hound Hide-a-Squirrel toy combines the best of a few worlds. The plush toys work for small and big dogs and their squirrel shape means you have a tail to hold on to when your pooch engages you in a game of tug of war. This comes in a few sizes, but the large is our favorite because it leaves plenty of holes for your pup to pull out the squirrels — and plenty of squirrels to go around (so you won’t be picking up two or three all the time). Bonus: Dogs even love the trunk this comes in!
Zippy Paws has really cornered the market of hide-and-seek toys and there is no shortage of amazing shapes and sizes its toys come in. We chose the chicken bucket because it’s bright and colorful, but also the drumsticks are a great shape for some tug of war action with your pooch (it comes with three!). Dogs love chewing on anything reminiscent of meat and their fun squeaky sounds will stimulate your pup’s animal instincts.
Another hide-and-squeak masterpiece from Zippy Paws, this coffee mug features three brightly colored donuts for easy finding (for dogs and humans). Its cute “Donut Disturb” label and pretty bright pink mug make it a fun visual addition to your dog toy collection. Its donuts also provide a unique and easy-to-grab shape so you can engage in some tugging playtime with your pup.
These adorable plush toys — eight in total — fit perfectly in their rainbow treehouse trunk. Coming in all different shapes, these toys squeak when your dog gets their teeth around them. The trunk has three holes so your pup can grab the toys from multiple angles. It’s not designed for heavy chewers, so beware if your pup regularly destroys toys. It also comes with a carry bag for easy storage.
This Boba Milk Tea Dog Toy from DexDex Dog contains three squeaking boba balls that are housed inside the larger cup. You can stuff them in the one hole to watch your pup try to pull them out. It’s got a cute design and the boba balls are a good color for dogs who tend to get things dirty. The balls’ shape won’t really allow any tug of war action, so if your pooch likes to pull and play, this might not be your best option.
For dogs who suffer from intense bouts of separation anxiety, responsive or talking toys can make a big difference. They come in many different shapes and sizes, but all of them react to your dog playing with them. Meaning your dog will feel like there’s another side to their doggie conversation.
While some of these toys may drive you crazy if you were to keep them on constantly while you’re at home, they can make dogs feel less alone by providing a steady stream of feedback and sounds.
When it comes to responsive toys, Cheerble’s Wicked Ball takes the cake, especially as it also offers a special bone-shaped compartment for treats. It’s like two toys for the price of one! It’s waterproof and has three different reaction modes: gentle, normal, and active. It’s got a built-in collision detector so it won’t get stuck on any floor obstacles. It will move and shake to get your pup’s attention and when they make contact, it will respond accordingly. The Wicked Ball also features an “intelligent companion” mode that will alternate between 30 minutes of rest and 10 minutes of play, keeping your pooch entertained all day.
This Blinky Babble Ball from Pet Qwerks has a motion-activated flashing light and makes over 18 different sounds. It talks and flashes when touched, but it’s also super sensitive so that even the vibration of your pet walking past can rouse it from sleep. It’s a great way to keep your dog interested and the talking sounds can be a comfort to more anxious dogs. Made from tough material, beware it only shuts off when it’s not being used, which means you don’t have much control when it continues to babble on when you’re home.
Good for dogs big and small, the Wobble Wag Giggle Ball emits sounds and giggles when it’s rolled or shaken. It doesn’t require batteries as it has an internal tube noisemaker inside. Your pup will love fetching, rolling with, and shaking this ball. With its six clutch pockets, it’s also easy for your pooch to pick it up… which starts the noises all over again!
These high-bouncing light-up balls from Sheraton Luxury have funny sounds that will tease your dog into playing with them. They feature colorful dancing lights that are visible day or night and they shake slightly in your hands. You can bounce them, play fetch, or roll them around in a dark room and watch your pup go crazy.
This SPOT sensory ball from Ethical Pets stimulates your dog’s five senses. It’s got a bell and squeaker for sound; bright colors for sight; it’s beef-scented for smell; it’s got beef flavor for taste; and, finally, multiple different textures for touch. Your dog will be overwhelmed (in a good way!) by this multi-purpose ball.
High-tech toys can really fall into a few of the above categories, with the added bonus that they’re automated and really cool to show off to your friends. Plus you can use them when you’re not home! Naturally, they often come with a steeper price tag.
There’s not a more classic game for dogs than fetch, and this Mini Dog Ball Launcher takes it up a notch. Drop a ball into the automated launcher and select your distance — 10, 20, or 30 feet. This is perfect for any fetch-obsessed dogs and any dog owners with tired arms. Your pup can even teach themselves to play fetch by dropping the ball in the launcher and retrieving it! Your dog will never need you again! Kidding!
It may not be very “budget,” but for what it does, Wickedbone comes in at a steal. Choose between controlling this bone-shaped toy with a joystick app on your phone where you can toggle between nine movements or leave it on autoplay to entertain your pup, no human required. The Wickedbone is designed to respond to the different types of play your pooch is looking for — chasing, teasing, avoiding, etc.
This boredom-busting robot is designed to comfort your pet when they’re home alone. Using the app, you can manage play time, toss counts, sleep time, etc. You can manually control playtime for direct play or set up pre-set motions for when you’re not home. It zooms around your home and rewards your pup with treats when they interact with it. It’s a great form of exercise!
Designed by neuroscientists (what a selling point!), the Clever Pet Hub is like a game console made especially for your dog. With anywhere between 50 and 300 plays a day, the hub adjusts to a dog’s skill level, automating playtime that is never too easy and never too hard. You can manage an operating schedule through the app and track your pup’s progress and statistics. Plus it uses kibble as a reward, meaning your dog will keep coming back even when you’re not there.
This remote-controlled reward system by PetSafe uses treats to promote good behavior in the home. Designed to teach your dog new tricks, the Manners Minder has a four-week program to train your pup. You can set treats up to automatically dispense or you can use the remote yourself up to 100 feet. It comes with a target stick with removeable base for training, obedience, and agility. It fits two sizes of kibble/treats and your pup will love it all!