“I want to adopt a really smart dog.” Yeah, I’ve heard that a few times. Prospective pup parents revel in the thought of teaching their family member cool tricks to show their friends at dinner parties, but not everyone really thinks about what it means to have a dog with an active mind. Sure, you can teach them to play dead looking down the barrel of your finger-gun, but smart dogs require lots of mental stimulation to avoid growing bored.
With boredom comes… less fun things. An occupied mind makes a happy dog, and there’s nothing more we want for our best friends. Here are 7 of the best toys to exercise those mental muscles.
Best For Most Big-Brained Dogs:
OURPETS IQ TREAT BALL
Ah, the classic ball. Always a winner in a dog’s mind. The IQ Treat Ball here has been tried and tested in my house for years, and it’s a hit with my too-smart terrier. Just unscrew the ball and fill the bottom compartment with a few treats (or dog food if you’re counting calories!), then screw the top back on and leave the rest to your pup.
Enticed by the smell of their favorite snacks, they’ll have to push the ball around to first free the treats from the hidden compartment, and then free them from the ball itself. The small openings provide a worthy challenge, and this ball keeps my little guy busy for a good while. “12/10 would recommend,” that’s what he said to me. I’m just the messenger.
WHY WE LOVE IT:
– Traditional ball shape is easy to manipulate to keep pups interested
– Average difficulty level for long-lasting fun
– Easy to take apart and clean
ENJOYED BY: Oakley the Australian Shepherd
BUY HERE, $9.99-11.68
Best For Pup Parents On A Budget:
JW EVERTUFF TREAT POD TOY
This toy is a great way to satisfy both the mind and the instinct to chew. It’s made of tough plastic with three multi-colored “pods” that separate so you can drop some treats inside. Your dog has to manipulate the pods to get the reward, and the bone stands up to some major teeth action.
Unlike a treat-dispensing toy, dogs need to work a little harder to liberate these snackies. It takes a bright mind and a food-motivated attitude to succeed, but my guess is that your dog is probably up to the task.
WHY WE LOVE IT:
– Stands up to chewing
– More challenging than the average treat toy
– Great price!
ENJOYED BY: Mugen the Corgi
Best For Dogs Who Are Too Smart For Toys:
BUSTER ACTIVITY MAT WITH 3 ACTIVITIES
The Buster Activity Mat is more of an experience than a toy. The starter kit comes with the mat itself—it’s covered in button snaps to which you can attach a multitude of different “activities.” This one includes three: The Envelope, The Water Lily, and The Cone Cloth. Your dog must unwrap, unravel, or otherwise solve these puzzles using those big brains of theirs (and, of course, reach the treats you’ve hidden inside).
The best part is that you can purchase countless additional puzzles that snap onto the mat and can be swapped out at will. Each is available at a different difficulty level. Once your pup is finished, just roll up the mat, pack it away, and store it or take it anywhere.
WHY WE LOVE IT:
– Comes with 3 activities (and you can purchase many more!)
– Your dog won’t get bored with the same toy
– Packs up easily for clean-up or travel
ENJOYED BY: Molly the Puppy
BUY HERE, $42.98
Other Toys We Love:
StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy
I can always appreciate versatility with a puzzle toy. The Bob-A-Lot’s treat-dispensing openings are adjustable to make it a little harder or a little easier to get them out. This toy gets bonus points for being big enough to fit an entire meal inside. Especially if your dog tends to inhale his food without chewing, feeding him this way slows him down AND keeps him busy for a while.
BUY HERE, $10.64-12.39
Swinging, pulling, thrashing, chewing… this toy takes it all in stride. Fill the bottle portion with food or a few treats and watch your genius doge shake loose the goods. Even without the added reward, the Tug-A-Jug is just plain fun to play with. Plus, it can help keep teeth clean and provide a nice gum massage with the knotted rope and nubby rubber ball.
BUY HERE, $6.95-14.95
Very much a treat toy AND a traditional toy, you can either stuff the Snoop with treats or insert one of Planet Dog’s rubber balls for a different sort of fun. The unique concave design means dogs need to push, roll, and drop their way to yummy goodness. Unfortunately, we now need to put a gate at the top of our stairs because our terrier has learned to push his treat toys down and have the steps do all the work… I can’t honestly say if he’s lazy or a genius. Possibly both.
BUY HERE, $20.95
No one likes to brush their teeth, especially not dogs. And while dental toys are not equivalent to a toothbrush and toothpaste, they certainly don’t do any harm. Playay’s super nubby treat ball mixes things up by having you shove food or treats between the rubber nubs. Instead of nudging them loose, dogs have to put in a bit more elbow grease to give their teeth a good “brush.” It’s cat-friendly, too.
BUY HERE, $9.99
I’m a strong believer that variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to my dogs. A little fun goes a long way for minds that never stop working, and your rugs and fine home furnishings will thank you for occupying a chronically bored canine.
Featured Image via @jennycarlsso/Instagram