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The Best Kinds of Toys to Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind

The Best Kinds of Toys to Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind

The Best Kinds of Toys to Stimulate Your Dog’s Mind

If you’re reading this article, two things are most likely true.

  1. You have a dog / or someone important in your life has a dog.
  2. You care about that dog’s well-being. 

We’d like to take a moment to congratulate you on caring about that special dog in your life. You’re probably already aware of the basics of dog care: food and water, daily walks, a proper living space, and plenty of human company.

However, there’s another need that is often overlooked, even by the most responsible dog owners: mental stimulation.

Most dog owners buy dog toys, but have you ever wondered why they’re necessary? Is it just because we know that dogs like to bite things that squeak?

There’s much more to it than that!

Why Dog Toys are Important

You may not know this, but toys are very important to a dog’s physical and mental well-being.

They have many benefits that will make a huge impact on your dog’s life:

Dog Toys Promote Exercise: every responsible dog owner knows that dogs need physical stimulation and exercise, which is part of the reason why walking our dogs every day is extremely important. But did you know that toys play just as important a role in a dog’s exercise? 

By chewing, chasing, and tossing a toy with their mouths, dogs stimulate healthy blood flow, flexing and strengthening their muscles, and keeping their limbs limber and agile!

Dog Toys Help Relieve Boredom: If your dog is left home alone for extended periods of time without any toys, they’ll get bored and find something else to relieve stress and keep them busy.

This can lead to the development of bad habits such as excessive barking, gnawing on furniture, or the destruction of toilet paper rolls, pillows, or other items within their reach.

Like PawsinTraining states: “Toys are excellent mental stimulators that encourage active play and minimize periods of boredom. This reduces the risk of destructive or attention seeking behaviors manifesting in your pet.”

Dog Toys Help Relieve Stress: You’re probably aware that exercise helps relieve stress in people, but did you know that this is also true with dogs? 

By tugging on a rope toy and chasing a tennis ball, dogs are expending pent-up energy and getting a flood of positive endorphins! 

The more time your dog spends indoors, the more stress relief and healthy energy release they need. Dogs shouldn't sleep through the day, which they’ll do if you’re not around! So make sure to leave them plenty of toys to keep them busy while you’re gone!

Like RSPCA Victoria says: “Toys can help your dogs relax, making them happier. Playing is a rewarding experience for them which counteracts the effects of stress. They also give your pup more control of their environment, which also helps to keep their stress levels at bay. And the more toys they have to choose from, the more relaxed they’ll feel.”

But what kind of toys should you buy?

Here are the best mental stimulation toys for dogs!

Chew Toys 

When you read the words “dog toy” you probably pictured something in a bright color that squeaks when a dog bites it, right? 

That’s a chew toy, and they’re the most common dog toys you can find in stores.

And with good reason! Chew toys come in all sorts of fun shapes and sizes, and come with a wide variety of benefits too!

From helping teething puppies find some much needed relief, to giving you and your dog plenty of bonding time by playing catch, chew toys are always a great choice!

We Recommend:

Antlers are the perfect blend between a chew toy and a treat! Antlers are hard, durable, and won’t spoil. It’s best to look for an ethically-sourced antler toy, which are usually taken from the antlers that elk shed naturally.

Antlers are great because dogs love to hide them (usually between sofa cushions!) and save them for later. This hiding and then seeking out of the toy provides mental stimulation!

Puzzle Toys

Like humans, dogs love a good challenge! They have keen instincts that have been developed specifically for hunting, which include an incredible sense of smell, impressive problem-solving skills, and the ability to dig and uncover hidden bits of food or clues that lead to prey.

Because of all these skills, dogs enjoy solving puzzles…as long as there’s a reward for them in the end!

That’s where puzzle toys for dogs come in. Dog trainers and specialized dog content creators highly recommend puzzle toys. 

Taylor McDonald, a famous “dogtoker” on TikTok, states: ““Dogs actually benefit from the act of foraging and looking for their food and working for it, not the actual obtaining the food itself. In most cases dogs love to do food puzzles] because they release dopamine in their brain.”

Puzzle toys can be classified as any toy that a dog can play with to stimulate their brain, usually involving the hiding of food or a treat, which acts as a reward in the end. 

These toys are also known as “sniff toys,” because dogs sniff to find the hidden treat! Sniff or hidden treat toys are some of the best toys for bored dogs!

We recommend:

Treat-hiding toys! Some treat-hiding toys are very simple, essentially just chew toys with a hollow interior where a treat would fit perfectly. Your dog will play with the toy, using their paws to pin it to the ground and using their snout to manipulate the toy, find the opening, and lick the treat inside!

Fetch Toys

Fetch toys are…you guessed it! Any toy that can be used to play fetch! 

Fetch is probably the oldest and most popular game you can play with your dog, and it’s no mystery as to why. Dogs absolutely love it!

Any dog owner can recognize when their dog wants to play fetch. They go find their favorite toy then bring it close to you, barking to let you know they want you to toss it!

This behavior is most common in puppies and young dogs, but even older dogs will still bark at you while standing over their favorite toy, beckoning you to come play. 

Contrary to popular belief, balls like tennis balls aren’t actually the best toys to play fetch with. The best toys to fetch with are toys that incorporate a rope or longer section.

The idea is to have a toy that is long enough to play a light game of tug of war with your dog once they bring the toy back to you for you to toss once again!

When your dog brings the toy back to you, they’ll naturally begin to learn not to let it go, so you can embark in a fun and mentally-stimulating game of tug of war with them, adding a much more interactive and engaging element to the throwing and retrieval formula of the classic game of fetch.

Lick Mats

A lick mat is a relatively new kind of dog toy. Usually made from silicone, it’s a flat piece of plastic covered in different kinds of patterns and textures.

When you smear a soft treat like dog-friendly peanut butter, your dog will enjoy licking off of different patterns, textures, and grooves in the silicone.

Lick mats are similar to puzzle toys in that they challenge your dog to find the treat. Here, they must think of the best ways to lick around the textures and pathways and get the delicious treat!

Enrichment Boxes

A relatively new phenomenon in dog toys is the “enrichment box,” a DIY (do it yourself) toy that’s become quite popular in social media circles recently. 

To make an enrichment box, you can fill a cardboard box with many kinds of toys and then scatter dog food pellets or other treats inside the box and around, beneath, and inside the toys!

It may not seem like much, but your dog will love diving into the box and digging around the toys to find the treats! This kind of enrichment toy for dogs promotes problem solving, seeking through sniffing, and lets dogs do something they love: go on the hunt to find a hidden treat!

Any of these types of toys are great toys for smart dogs, as they’re interactive, encourage your dog to think and solve problems, and can be used either when your dog is alone or when you’re home with them!

Remember, dogs are highly intelligent and active creatures! They need physical activity, mental stimulation, company, and plenty of time outdoors.

A bored dog can develop many unhealthy conditions, both psychologically and physically, including excessive barking, biting, scratching, and anxiety.

So be sure to give them plenty of company and plenty of toys to play with while you’re gone!

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