Toys keep your dog’s mind and body active. They’re full of energy and they love to play. Toys don’t only keep them entertained, it helps improve their well-being too.
There are different types of toys, but we can classify them into three categories:
- Non-interactive – these types of toys– like chew toys or plushies– don’t really do anything. But they stimulate your dog’s prey drive, especially squeaky toys. Your dog can love them for years and stay excited when you play fetch with them and these toys day after day. It depends on the dog and the toy.
- Co-play – these toys require you to participate during playtime (e.g. tennis balls, tugs, frisbees) or even during your training sessions.
- Interactive – your dog can play with these toys by themselves when you’re not around or when you’re busy. Your dog would have something to occupy them to distract them from the fact that you’re away or there might be some stressful events going on, like many visitors during a garden party, fireworks, or a loud storm.
In this article, we talk about interactive toys for dogs.
Why interactive toys are great for dogs
Mental and physical exercise
Interactive toys make your dog move around and think, providing mental and physical exercise. The mental exercise that toys provide will exhaust your dog more quickly than a 30-minute walk, giving them less energy to cause mischief!
Interactive toys encourage your dog to solve problems, which helps them stay mentally sharp and fend off dementia in the long run.
Self-entertainment and independence
Dogs are pack animals and were not designed to be left alone for long periods of time. However, it's not always possible to be with them all the time due to work and other obligations.
With interactive toys, your dog will learn that they can have fun even while you're not around. They'll also be more likely not to bother you when you're working from home.
Most dogs like to be busy, so it’s important to give them something to play with before they find one on their own. Interactive toys keep them away from your cushions and carpets.
Relieves stress and anxiety
Toys keep your dog entertained and relieves their stress and anxiety. They are less likely to develop problematic behaviors when they’re mind and body are constantly occupied.
Improves their learning skills
Your dog's ability to learn can be improved with interactive simulation toys. It enhances their instinctive behaviors like foraging, exploring, and playing. Interactive toys enrich your dog’s life by stimulating the part of his brain responsible for natural hunting instincts.
Dogs just love toys. It makes their life extra fun and exciting! It’s also fun for you, because you get to play with them, and make them happy.
Since you’re the one that gives them toys, your dog will associate you with the fun and excitement of play, fostering a positive relationship between the two of you.
The best types of interactive toys
You might get overwhelmed with the many variations of interactive toys available, so here are the most common types you can choose from.
These toys encourage your pooch to turn, roll and manoeuvre the toy using his nose and paws until a treat is released through a small hole.
Your dog might be at risk of choking, vomiting, and even canine bloat if he inhales his food. One thing you can do is use slow-feed bowls, and interactive treat-dispensers provide the same benefit in a far more enjoyable way.
Some good treat-dispensing toys are:
- Hound Games Hide N’ Treat – The Hide N’ Treat is a unique treat-dispensing toy that allows you to hide a high-value treat inside something like a ball-and-socket joint. To get the delicious treat, your dog has to pull the rounded ball section out of the socket hole!
For owners worried about gaining weight, this is a particularly useful toy. The Hide N' Treat works great with only one treat, given that it is enough to excite and entice your dog to work for it. This is in contrast to many other food-based puzzle toys that need large amounts of chow.
- Bob-a-lot – The Bob-A-Lot is a toy that looks like a bowling pin and is made to dispense treats or food slowly as your dog plays with it. The Bob-A-Lot is a slow feeder that can contain up to three cups of food, making it big enough to hold a complete meal.
When your dog shakes or rocks the toy, kibble will fall out of an adjustable port that is built inside the toy. Make the opening bigger if your dog finds it too challenging, and smaller if he finds it too simple.
Puzzle toys have knobs, levers, buttons and other elements. Nooks and crannies are covered with folds that can only be opened when your dog takes the right action, therefore improving his problem-solving skills.
Puzzles and strategy games are excellent for teaching dogs important characteristics like persistence, patience, and reasoning.
Puzzle toys range from easy to hard. It is advised to start easy, let your pet build confidence and improve their enrichment plan as their skills develop.
Some good puzzle toys are:
- West Paw Qwizl Treat Dispensing Dog Puzzle Toy – The Qwizl puzzle toy, which resembles a bent tube, can be filled with anything you like, including kibble, apple slices, dog biscuits, jerky strips, carrot sticks, and nut butters. If your dog prefers bully sticks, this puzzle provides both mental stimulation and a great distraction.
Even if your dog is a power chewer, West Paw claims that this is one of its strongest toys, so it might be worth a try to use this tough puzzle.
- OurPets Waffle Puzzle Toy – For dogs who prefer a slightly simpler puzzle to solve, this adorable waffle and syrup puzzle toy is perfect. This waffle puzzle toy is perfect for dogs who need a reasonably basic spot to start their journey—or some easy wins—because the syrup top doesn't cover all the reward holes.
A basic skill for future puzzles, it also helps your dog become comfortable using their nose to push obstacles out of the way. Some of the harder-to-reach spots need a little bit of delicacy. Even cats have been known to get caught up in this.
Electronic devices called ball launchers allow you to play fetch with your dog. By releasing balls for dogs to chase, these devices encourage them to play. For uninterrupted fun time, teach your dog to put the ball back in the machine.
Some good ball-launching toys are:
- IDOGMATE Ball Launcher – The IDOGMATE Ball Launcher is a really simple toy that has two parts: the launching station and a remote control that comes with it and can be used to modify how far the ball is thrown. The gadget features a random mode that changes the distance the ball is tossed, and you can set it to launch the ball 10, 20, 30, or 40 feet.
This interactive dog ball launcher also includes three specially made balls and a handy carrying case so you can take the toy to the lake or park.
- Playball by Couch Potato – Another automatic ball launcher made to keep your dog occupied and their tail wagging.However, it's crucial to remember that this particular ball launcher is made especially for little dogs because the balls it shoots are so tiny that larger dogs could choke on them.
It operates in the same way as most other ball launchers: You turn the device on, hand a ball to your dog, and he drops it into the top-mounted, circular hopper. A ball is fired out by the toy a short while later, and your dog can run after it.
Dogs love hide-and-seek toys because they stimulate and enhance natural behaviours like play and sniffing in a supervised, safe environment. By enhancing problem-solving abilities and stimulating the mind, they also help in relieving nervous tension and boosting confidence. They're also a lot of fun!
Some good hide and seek toys are:
- Outward Hound Hide and Seek Toy – A multi-piece package called the Outward Hound Hide and Seek Toy tests your dog's ability to locate and retrieve tiny toys that can fit inside a bigger "hiding place." When you and your dog are playing, you put the little toys inside the hiding place so that your dog may try to get them out through the holes built in the hiding place.
The toy has a soft fabric “tree trunk,” and two included “Hedgiez” (stuffed hedgehog toys). The tree trunk comes with two small holes and connected top flap, which also provides access to the toys.
- Zippy Burrow Interactive Squeaky Hide and Seek Plush Dog Toy – this toy makes your dog use their problem-solving abilities. Simply place the three unicorns inside their rainbow home to use this toy, then watch your dog try to figure out how to get the unicorns out.
The unicorn housing has two holes, one on each side, and each unicorn has a circular interior squeaker to drive your dog crazy. Due to the toy's plush feel, it is not only appropriate for interactive play but also makes a good snuggle toy.
Electronic dog toys
If your dog’s already used to his usual toys, you can surprise him with ones that are automatic and keep them entertained for a longer period of time. Electronic dog toys use sounds and lights and you can even control them with your own devices. Some examples are:
- CleverPet – this is an 11-pound plastic-shielded console that you’ll place somewhere your dog can access it easily. Simply fill it up to 2.5 cups with food that is no bigger than a cent, plug it in, and start having fun! To assist your dog in learning how the system works, the pre-loaded software is made to begin with very basic programs. The games will start to change and get harder over time.
Through a phone app, you can manage CleverPet, keep tabs on your pet's progress, and, if necessary, restrict your pet's access to the food.
- Bluetooth Foobler - Interactive Puzzle Toy Feeder – The Bluetooth Foobler Puzzle Feeder is an automatic self-reloading puzzle feeder for dogs with 6 timer-activated food pods.
You can fill the pods and set them to release at 15, 30, 60 or 90 minute intervals for up to 9 hours a day. A digital chime then rings when it's time to feed, and a double-locking system ensures the food stays inside until playtime. Now with the Bluetooth Foobler Puzzle Feeder, you can use the app to schedule the feeding times at any times you want over the day.
Important reminders on dog toys
Your dog spends their time playing by themselves, especially when you’re not around. Consider these reminders for a safe and positive playtime with your pet:
- Choose toxic-free, reliable, high-quality, and safe products.
- Make sure your dog doesn't bite or gnaw excessively because of the toy.
- Avoid giving your dogs too many treats from dispensers.
Don’t let toys replace exercise and quality time
Toys keep your dog entertained, especially when you’re not around, but don’t let them play with toys all the time. Make sure you’re still joining them in play time, and spend quality time with them.
Interactive toys are good for keeping them clean and safe inside when you can’t play outdoors, and you can enjoy your time together at home. But don’t forget to spend time with them– taking walks in the park, scheduled dog training, meal time– these activities keep them active too, much better than interactive toys.