Brain Teaser Toys for Dogs

Your dog needs lots of interaction with you, but when you must work at the computer,  interactive toys may keep him happily occupied nearby.
i let Go image by Elliot Westacott from

Your busy lifestyle often means not spending much quality time with your beloved dog, who may grow bored without interaction. You can't teach him to read while you vacuum, but you can make the most of your home time with him by providing clever interactive toys to stimulate his brain.

Bouncing and Rolling Toys

Almost every dog owner is familiar with the “Kong” toys that encourage dogs to lick, roll and bounce them around to get their treats. There are many variations – the “Everlasting Treat Ball,” “Tug-a-Jug” and “Canine Genius” among them. These are the simplest of the brain teasers, but often they provide the longest and most active stimulation, because they dispense treats slowly and randomly. Your dog will need to fully engage herself in moving the toy around if she wants the reward. This is a great way to get a lazy dog to move. Many of these can hold a good portion of your dog's daily kibble. Though these are generally considered safe for solo play, it is wise never to leave your dog unsupervised with any toy he may chew into pieces.

Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys such as “Dog It Mind Games,” “Aikiou,” or Nina Ottosson's line of interactive toys such as the “Brick,” require ingenuity and persuasion to obtain the treats. Many feature sliding or removable covers. Dogs solve the puzzles to unlock them and find the treats. Supervise your dog, as most of these toys are plastic and contain small parts. Some are made in sturdier wooden versions, and many offer size variations to suit the size of the dog. While they require some brain power, these toys do little to encourage physical activity.

DIY Toy Ideas

Commercial dog toys are expensive, but you can create home-made games, as long as you supervise. One easy stand-in for the “Brick” puzzle toy is a muffin-tin toy. Put a treat in each compartment of a muffin tin. Place a ball or other small dog toy on top. Your dog will enjoy removing the toys to find the treats. You can recycle a sturdy plastic jar or use a bowl-like plastic container to make a substitute for the “Kong” treat-dispenser toy. Cut small holes in the sides, put a handful of kibble inside, screw or snap the lid on tightly, and let your dog tumble and bat at the object to make treats fall out.

Cautions and Recalls

If your dog is a strong chewer, never leave him alone with plastic toys that may shatter and cause injury to his mouth or throat. Tiny pieces or parts from toys – either homemade or commercial – pose a choking hazard for dogs who tend to mouth and chew their toys. Many puzzle toys have pieces that can easily fit whole into a dog's mouth. They may become lodged there or in the throat. Any toy has the potential to be dangerous to your dog, so use caution when choosing toys, and research the product recalls.

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