6 Best Dog Enrichment Toys to Beat Boredom
We all know that our dogs need daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. However, their bodies aren’t the only things that require regular workouts. Our dogs get big benefits from mental exercise, too. And dog enrichment toys are a great way to keep your dog’s brain active and happy.
These unique toys and games are designed to encourage dogs to tap into their natural drives, like foraging, digging, scenting, and chasing. So, much like a long walk or game of fetch helps dogs burn off extra energy, a good enrichment session gives dogs an outlet for their natural curiosity. Not only does that help keep doggie boredom at bay, it leaves your dog tired, but fulfilled. All in all, a good way to end any day!
What Are Enrichment Toys for Dogs?
Enrichment toys for dogs take the fun of everyday play to the next level. While any sort of play could be considered inherently enriching, toys that are built for the task challenge dogs to think creatively, use skills like scenting and pawing, and stay on-task to win.
Enrichment toys are designed to provide constructive social, physical, cognitive, and/or sensory stimulation, which can be helpful when you’re trying to combat destructive habits or problem behaviors in your dog.
Just be sure to consider what kind of stimulation your dog needs most when choosing an enrichment toy for your dog. Many dog puzzle toys use food as a component, which is highly motivating for most dogs. However, if you’re trying to limit treats to help your dog maintain a healthy weight, look for interactive dog toys that provide a non-food reward, such as discovery or retrieval.
Whatever type of engagement you’re looking for, enrichment dog toys appeal to dogs of all ages and abilities and are a great way to engage your dog’s brain while playing.
Choosing the Top Dog Enrichment Toys
With over 20 years of dog training experience and six years behind the counter at my pet products shop, I know what dogs love, what pet parents appreciate, and what’s new and exciting in the world of dog gear.
To zero in on the best-of-the-best dog enrichment toys, I also factored in criteria like durability, value, size options, and feedback from pet parents. My two very playful (and picky) dogs Millie and Olive round out my product review team.
Our Top Picks
The following interactive toys for dogs are some of our favorites, with options for different preferences and play styles.
All featured products are chosen at the discretion of the author. However, Vetstreet may make a small affiliate commission if you click through and make a purchase.
- Best Overall Enrichment: Kong Classic
- Best Slow Feed Enrichment Bowl: Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slow Bowl
- Best Enrichment Toy for Low-Key Play: Lulnuer Snuffle Mat
- Best Non-food Enrichment Toy: Zippy Paws Woodland Friends Interactive Toys
- Best Value Enrichment Toy: Jolly Pets Monster Mouth
- Best Enrichment Toy for Brainy Dogs: Nina Ottosson Multi-Puzzle Interactive Toy
6 Best Dog Enrichment Toys
Best Overall Dog Enrichment Toy
Our Pick: Kong Classic
There’s a lot to love about the toy that started it all! The Kong Classic dog toy was one of the original dog enrichment toys, and at this point, it’s almost a “must-have” for dogs of all sizes. The toy’s unique soft-serve ice cream shape gives it an unpredictable bounce, making it a great option for retrieving games. But of course, the real draw is filling the Kong with treats. Most dogs either settle down to “unpack” the goodies, or opt to toss the toy over and over to dislodge the treats. Either way, we consider the Kong one of the best enrichment toys for dogs on the market.
- Six sizes and four different rubber strengths to choose from, making it a great large dog enrichment toy
- 60-day satisfaction guarantee
- Additional toy shapes and sizes available
Things to Consider
- Some dogs can destroy even the toughest version
- Can be challenging to clean
- Dogs may become frustrated and give up if they can’t get the treats out
Best Slow Feeder Enrichment Bowl
Our pick: Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slow Bowl
Yes, even mealtimes can provide opportunities for doggie enrichment. Rapid food consumption puts dogs at risk for a number of reasons, ranging from choking hazards to an increased likelihood of obesity. And one easy way to slow down speedy eaters is by providing a bowl that makes it tougher to plow through meals. The Outward Hound line includes a variety of sizes and designs that can make meals last up to 10 times longer, while also aiding in digestion and preventing regurgitation and bloat. The veterinarian-recommended bowls are slip-free and are made from food-safe materials, with sizes that work for petite pups up to the big dogs.
- Available in five sizes and six patterns
- Dishwasher safe
- Works with wet and dry food
- Cats enjoy them, too
Things to Consider
- Breeds with shorter snouts might have trouble with some of the designs
- May prove too frustrating for some dogs
- The bowl can be flipped over
Best Enrichment Toy for Low-Key Play
Our pick: Lulnuer Snuffle Mat
Sometimes we just need our dogs to chill out and be still — like when they’re recovering from injuries or could use some downtime. That’s where this snuffle mat comes in handy. This dog enrichment toy features tons of fabric layers, patterns, and compartments that you can fill with treats and goodies to keep your pup occupied. But what really makes it unique (and a life-saver) are the suction cups on the bottom that secure it to smooth surfaces. Rather than encouraging dogs to chase the toy around to dislodge the goodies, this toy engages your pup while keeping them happily anchored in one spot. We love that it’s complex enough to keep a dog’s attention for an extended period but not so challenging that it becomes frustrating.
- Adheres to most flat surfaces with 4 suction cups
- Various fabric designs/sections (flowers, bee, grass, honeycomb, fabric cup) provide plenty of places to hide treats
- Middle section can be separated and used as a slow feeder in your dog’s bowl
- Designed in dog-friendly colors
- Eco-friendly, non-toxic polar fleece fabric is machine washable
Things to consider
- May not be the best option for larger/stronger dogs or heavy chewers
Best Non-Food Enrichment Toy
Not only do these plush dog toys provide a fun enrichment activity, but they’re also adorable! This series features a variety of woodland creatures, from chipmunks to black bears, that “hide” in stumps, logs, and dens. Dogs can burrow into the plush base to find their “prey” and discover additional stuffed squeaky toys. We love the creative problem-solving these toys inspire, as dogs work to free the animals from their hiding place. And even once they’re free, you can use the little animals as fun retrieving toys.
- Available in six sizes and species
- Base can be used with other appropriately sized dog toys
- Encourages focus and creative play
Things to Consider
- Plush toys aren’t a good fit for destructive dogs
- Might not hold attention as long as food-based toys
Best Value Enrichment Toy
Our pick: Jolly Pets Monster Mouth
Got a ball-crazy dog who needs a job? Meet the Monster Mouth, an enrichment toy that offers the best of both worlds. This fierce-looking ball/monster hybrid features a “mouth” that can be squeezed open and filled with treats, kibble, or even frozen goodies for hours of brain-engaging fun. Even better? The durable Monster Mouth is priced at under $8, making it a great value.
- Two sizes
- Can be used for fetch as well as food-based enrichment play
- Softer rubber makes it easy to fill and clean
Things to Consider
- Tough chewers can rip pieces off
- Might frustrate some dogs if the “payoff” doesn’t come quickly enough
Best Enrichment Toy for Brainy Dogs
We’ve been Nina Ottosson fans since she launched her line over ten years ago because her toys changed the enrichment game. These challenging puzzle toys are all about focus and creative thinking. They range from simple “push and grab” treat dispensers to this brain-busting expert-level option, which requires a series of complicated steps to uncover the goodies hidden inside. While it’s the most challenging toy in the line, the level of difficulty can be adjusted as your dog graduates from beginner to expert!
- Great for older dogs with mobility challenges
- Takes time to complete the full puzzle
- Other puzzle options available for beginners
Things to Consider
- Not chew-proof and not designed for solo play
- Some dogs might get frustrated and give up
Dog Enrichment Toys Buyer’s Guide
Choosing the best enrichment toy for your pup often requires some careful research and comparison shopping. Here are some expert tips to consider when purchasing puzzle toys for dogs:
Buy the right size. Purchasing a gargantuan puzzle toy for your petite pup or a teensy toy for your giant breed is sure to disappoint. The wrong size can make enrichment toys frustrating and unsolvable or, worse yet, dangerous.
Know your dog’s strengths and preferences. Not every toy is a hit with every dog. Think about what types of activities and play your dog likes best, then choose a puzzle toy that plays to their natural strengths.
Consider clean up. Complicated toys can be fun for dogs. But, remember: You’re the one who’s going to be on cleanup duty. If you’re a tidy pet parent, you may want to steer clear of puzzle toys with lots of parts or separate components.
Buy the best quality you can afford. Super-durable dog toys tend to be more expensive. But the extra investment is often worth it. Nothing is more disappointing than a puzzle toy breaking or wearing out before your pup can solve it.
Put safety first. Indestructible dog toys don’t exist, so supervise your dog during initial play to make sure the toy remains in one piece.
Dog Enrichment Toys FAQs
Why do dogs like toys?
Dogs enjoy toys because the size, texture, and sounds often approximate prey objects. They often fulfill dogs’ instinctual drive to chase and chew. And most importantly, dogs like toys because they’re fun!
Do dogs get bored?
Definitely! Just about every dog could benefit from more engagement — both mental and physical — and interactive dog toys are a great way to keep them entertained.
Can I make a DIY dog enrichment toy?
Yes! With a little creativity, you can create fun and challenging DIY dog enrichment toys or brain-training activities with items found around your home. Just be sure to use pet-safe items that won’t endanger your dog. One example: Hide treats in a muffin tin and then cover all the openings with tennis balls, so your dog has to work at discovering their treats.
Can dogs play with cat toys?
Short answer: Stick with toys specifically designed for dogs. Cat toys aren’t as durable as dog toys and many have small or delicate components, like feathers, that could present a choking risk for dogs.
Dog Enrichment Toys: Tips for Success
Remember that mental enrichment toys for dogs should be fun. A toy that’s too difficult may frustrate your dog to the point that they won’t even play with it. So look for ways to make a toy less challenging at first. For example, stuff the Kong so that goodies fall out quickly, so your dog associates effort with reward. You can always increase the difficulty of the “pack” as your dog figures out how to play with it.
Also, remember that the types of treats you use matter! Some dogs might not be motivated to hunker down and unpack boring biscuits. So, if you find that your dog isn’t engaging, try stuffing your enrichment toy with high-value, moist and meaty goodies.
Finally, inspect your dog’s toys frequently for wear and tear. Always replace any toy when you notice any sign of damage that could present a choking hazard.