We humans love the fun that dogs bring into our lives. Playing goes a long way in forging a wonderful connection. Everyone can strike a balance between engaging in play with our dogs and providing fun and mentally enriching activities that are independent. The items in this recommended list offset boredom, which is a leading cause of behavior complaints. Here are ideas for toys, chews, and food foraging devices. Enrichment activities are part of a comprehensive wellness campaign that also includes training and behavior management.
These toys are fun for everyone. Use them as training motivators, with a structure in the game that includes obedience cues. Short (5-10 minutes) and frequent daily playtimes work best, especially for puppies.
ChuckIt Indoor Roller– available in different sizes
Chuckit Air Fetch Balls – different sizes
Chuckit Kick Fetch Ball – two sizes AND a glow in the dark version
ChuckIt – Paraflight Max Glow and Flyer (disc)
Hyperpet Flippy Flopper Frisbee – easy to toss and for the dog to pick up
Booda Soft Bite Tail Spin Flyer Floppy Disc – lighter version nylon frisbee
iFetch Automatic Ball Launcher – Not inexpensive, but super-fun for the fetch-aholic AND provides great mental stimulation
JW Hol-ee Roller Dog Toy – lots of holes catch and tug
JW Pet Crackle Heads Ball/Ricky the Raccoon – crackly, squeaker fun for fetch and tug
JW Pet iSqueak Ball – all toys are better with a squeaker
Kyjen/Outward Hound Hide a Squirrel Puzzle – a plush toy with other animal varieties; a game for the four-legged “problem-solver”
Kyjen/Outward Hound Plush Squeaker Matz – these durable tug toys are available in several lengths; go for the long toys for larger breeds
Kyjen/Outward Hound Hedgehog – it grunts; enough said
Kyjen/Outward Hound fire Biterz Tug Toys – available in a variety of critters
Kyjen/Outward Hound Flirt Pole Tail Teaser – a great outlet for dogs who love to leap
Kyjen/Outward Hound Zip and Zoom Agility Kit – a fun way to play and train; indoor and outdoor versions
Ethical Pet Skinneeez – long, stuffingless toys are great to play tug; they squeak, too
Ethical Pet Giggler Chicken Dog Toy – these are good puppy “chewers”; funny when shaken
Ethical Pet Latex Soccer Ball – buy multiples. One to fetch, then drop, and one to restart the game. Supervised play with a human only. This is not a chew!
Frisco Rope with Squeaking Toy – appropriate for small and medium dogs
Frisco Hide and Seek Toys – various critters to fetch and find
Squishy Face Studio Flirt Pole V2w/lure – great outlet for leapers and tuggers
KONG Wubba Floppy Ears – durable fun for fetch and tug
KONG Shakers Dog Toys – for those dogs who like to “shake and kill”
KONG Squeez Action Ball – fun and durable
KONG Tugger Knots Frog – plush toy with ropes, suitable for small and medium dogs
ZippyPaws Throw-a-Duck – or a Bluebird, or a Goose, or a Robin – all with squeakers
All dogs love a good gnaw, and puppies, especially, need to learn chewing preferences. Who wants chomped up stuff? These items, like the food foraging devices that follow, develop chewing preferences and are wonderful outlets for puppy nipping redirection AND offsetting boredom in adolescents and adults. ALWAYS AUDITION THESE ITEMS UNDER SUPERVISION. When you must remove a chew, swap it with a high value food bite – cheese, chicken, or hot dog. Some dogs resource guard, so be on the lookout for tension while in possession. Plan to address resource guarding ASAP.
USA Bones and Chews – knuckles, smoked marrow bones, antlers, bully sticks, hooves, sterilized bones, cow hooves
Chasing Our Tails – smoked marrow bones-sourced and processed in the USA. The company produces great treats “Farm to Pet Bowl”
Earth Animal No Hide chews-flavor and size varieties
Ferrara Farms Naturals – marrow bones, beef tendons, antlers, cow ears, and bully sticks
Himalayan Chews – made from yak milk and very long lasting; can be microwaved for a crunchy treat. No waste.
Yaki Churra – Similar to Himalayan Chews, but smaller and an easier “chew”; great for puppies and available in several flavors, such as cheese and fish.
Merrick G.I. Bones – Smoked natural bones. Your dog can settle into a satisfying gnaw.
Nylabone – Puppy Chew Teething Rings, Keys, Pacifier – use to redirect puppy nipping as well as crate time; some are flavored
Nylabone – Dental Puppy Chew – nubby appeal for the little ones
Kiwi Liver-Basted Lamp Ears – Kiwi offers a variety of products, ethically sourced, minimally processed
Nature’s Own Pet Chews Moo Cheeks – from the USA
Venison Joe’s Hickory Smoked Bones and Bullies – sourced and processed in the USA
Food Foraging Device Recommendations
Food foraging is a game changer for people and their dogs! Every meal can become an enrichment activity. Animal behavior studies bear out that mental exercise fatigues dogs faster than physical exercise. Want to play your dog out? Ask him to think! The problem-solving involved in dispensing food from devices is a fantastic way to do this. The KONG Classic leads the list: it is the best beginner foraging device. Every dog needs at least one. (My dog has three….) N.B. Skip the puppy version and buy a red or black one.
KONG Classic – perfect device to introduce your dog to foraging for his meals; every dog needs at least one; buy the black version for insane chewers.
KONG Stuff A Ball/Puppy Activity Ball – two age appropriate styles; use it to play ball AND deliver dinner
KONG Wobbler – fun for the more advanced food “forager”; available in two sizes
KONG Puppy Teething Stick – rubber ridges that can be filled with peanut butter, etc. or not
PetSafe Busy Buddy – a collection of food-foraging toys in order of challenge (easy to difficult): Puppy Squirrel Dude, Twist n’ Treat, Kibble Nibble, Barnacle, Magic Mushroom, and Tug-A-Jug; most are available in several sizes
JW Pet Hol-ee Treat Ball – fun and well-designed for a practiced “forager”; perfect for kibble, not just treats
JW Pet Treat Tower – works well for mealtime kibble; challenging
PAWS5 Wooly Snuffle Mat – Oh the joy of working for food! This is a must-have. Sniffing and foraging for dinner and treats.
LickiMat Brand lick mats – Available in different styles; lots of options for wet food and dry kibble foraging concoctions
Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball – double fun: eat and play. Use it for meals
Starmark Treat Dispensing Bob-A-Lot – another “mindful” meal delivery option.
OurPets Atomic Treat Ball – works great for mealtime kibble; a bit more challenging than the KONG Classic
Trixie Windmill Activity Strategy Game – this line of toys is excellent for the high-drive types
Trixie Mad Scientist Turn Around Interactive, Level 2 – inspired by Chemistry class
Ethical Pet Spot Push-N-Pop Treat/Food Dispenser – great for everyone, including puppies
Ethical Pet Spot Dura Brite Treat Ball – meal kibbles fit nicely and a good beginner food ball, gummy texture
This list is certainly not the limit of toy, chew, and food foraging options. Every dog has his own play preferences, and the most fun is to GO WITH IT. Plenty of fun comes from playing in a kid-size pool, a sprinkler, chasing soap bubbles, foraging food from an empty water bottle (all paper and plastic removed), a tug toy made with a water bottle inside of a tube sock, and ice cubes, especially frozen with chicken or beef stock.
Training in skills and maintaining a cognitive mindset in your dog is the path to a calm and well-mannered companion. These are achievable results. To learn how to get there, visit my website www.kimberlymandel.com/solutions, email kbmandel.verizon.net, or call 908-358-4783.
Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC