12 Interactive Dog Toys and Puzzles for the Smartest Pets of Them All
Stimulate Fido's mind (as well as his appetite) with skill-enhancing board games, high-tech devices, and treat-dispensing toys.
According to Stanley Coren, PhD, from the University of British Columbia, the average dog has the same level of intelligence as a two-year-old human child. At a 2009 convention, Coren spoke at an American Psychological Association (APA) convention and explained that household pups have the ability to understand more than 150 words. "There are three types of dog intelligence: instinctive (what the dog is bred to do), adaptive (how well the dog learns from its environment to solve problems), and working and obedience (the equivalent of 'school learning')," he said at the time. Different breeds of dogs show varying levels of intelligence, but his research concludes that the smartest dogs compare to the intelligence of human toddlers.
Based on other research from 2016, our canine companions have a cognitive structure similar to us. Dogs learn by example, like we do, but they can figure out problems on their own as well. Most of us know that our dogs are more likely to get into trouble when they're unoccupied with nothing to do. Walking our dogs is a good daily regimen, but that's not the only thing we should be doing to keep our pups healthy. "Dogs need mental exercise," says Brian Kilcommons, dog trainer and owner of Great Pets Resort. We can enrich their lives by providing toys that offer interactive play or require problem solving.
Puzzle toys have enclaves to hide toys or homemade treats, allowing your dog to "hunt" for the item. Other games allow your dog to play fetch or "chase" games all by themselves. Of course, you still want to spend play time with your canine pal, but these toys give your dogs the opportunity to solve problems on their own. You'll have the smartest dog in the neighborhood.
What toy should every canine have in their toy box? The best-selling Odin is one of the most durable treat dispensers. Place a kibble (or up to a cup of food) inside of the toy and let your pup work to get it out. Its modular design allows for two or more toys to be connected to change playtime.
Shop Now: Up Dog Toys "The Odin" Treat Puzzle Toy, in Gray, $23, amazon.com.
This toy features a custom falcon-claw design with two treat cavities—for both dry food (like kibble) and spreads (like peanut butter) simultaneously—while the interlocking shape allows multiple toys to combine for added functionality. The modern colors blend into any décor while also optimizing for your dog's visible color spectrum.
Shop Now: Fable Falcon Toy, $23, fablepets.com.
Wild One Toy Kit
This bundle comes with three toys: the Triangle Tug, the Bolt Bite, and the Twist Toss. Since it's not a perfect sphere, the ball will bounce in an unpredictable manner. This means that your dog will have to act fast in order to catch it. You can hide chew treats inside of the toy for an extra reward. The rubber is 100 percent natural and completely BPA-free, so you know your dog is getting the best.
Shop Now: Wild One Toy Kit, in Tan, $58, wildone.com.
This is an innovative puzzle for dogs, offered at three levels of difficulty appropriate for your dog. To play, your dog nudges the movable tiles to find the hidden treats.
Shop Now: My Intelligent Pets "Genie" Dog Sudoku, in Medium, $52, myintelligentpets.com.
The Flip Board
To prep this game for play, hide treats in the compartments. (Not every compartment will have a treat, so your dog will need to be able to figure out which ones do.) If he pushes the right levers with his paw, he can find a savory surprise. This game is designed for dogs that have intermediate puzzle-solving skills, and you should supervise your dog's playtime with this one.
Shop Now: Trixie Pet Products Flip Board, $11, amazon.com.
Who knew there was a way to play fetch with your pup while you're at work? The iFetch is an automatic ball launcher that kicks on when your dog drops a ball in its chute—throwing a ball up to 30 feet every time it brings it back.
Shop Now: iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher, starting from $130, amazon.com.
Wickedbone Smart Bone
Looking for the perfect toy for your pup when you're away at work? This motorized Smart Bone lets you control its speed and movements straight from your smartphone, so you can play with your dog remotely.
Shop Now: Wickedbone Smart Bone, $99, amazon.com.
Tether Tug Outdoor Dog Toy
Now, your dog can engage in some stimulating "solo" play in the backyard. Securely attach the bungee cord to a tree or sturdy post so that your pup can play a game of tug-of-war. The bungee action means that your dog will be able to catch the rope more than once without the risk of losing it under the bushes or fence.
Shop Now: Tether Tug Outdoor Dog Toy, starting from $65, petco.com.
Hide N' Slide Interactive Dog Toy
Once your dog is ready to graduate to harder games, give this one a try. The bone-shaped pegs can "lock" the treat drawers so that your dog has to figure out how to "unlock" them. You can also leave the drawers unlocked. Your dog can use his nose or his paws to find the treats.
Shop Now: Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Hide N' Slide Interactive Dog Toy, $15.15, chewy.com.
Zippy Burrow Log with Three Chipmunks
Cute plush squirrels hide within a plush tree stump. Each squirrel has a squeaker inside that your dog will find irresistible! Your pup will love trying to get the squirrels out of the tree. Make it more interactive by also playing a game of fetch using the squirrels.
Shop Now: Zippy Burrow Log with Three Chipmunks, $20, zippypaws.com.
StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy
The larger chamber in this toy can fit an entire meal! Your dog can work for his dinner with this game that provides an opportunity to hunt and solve problems. It's also great for helping your dog to not overeat.
Shop Now: StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy, $11.19, chewy.com.
All dogs have a natural foraging instinct, and this mat engages their sense of smell. Hide treats into the shaggy fabric so that your dog can hunt by smell. Let him stick his nose in the snuffle mat to find all the goodies. (Don't worry, it's machine-washable.) It reminds him of the great outdoors, but provides a tastier reward.
Shop Now: PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat, $40, amazon.com.