Play between dogs and their humans creates a strong bond of companionship and trust. This includes games we play together as well as providing fun, independent activities. Boredom is a leading cause of behavior complaints. It is also a top-ranking source of stress for dogs.
Toys vs. Chews
Separate your dog’s playthings into two categories: toys and chews. You and your dog play together with toys. These include balls and discs as well as plush and tug toys. When the game is over, put those toys away.
Chews provide independent engagement, environmental enrichment, and mental stimulation. Chews include bones and bully sticks, antlers, Himalayan chews, and hooves, among others. Check with your vet to make sure your choice is healthy for your dog.
Meals delivered in food foraging toys are loads more fun and mentally stimulating than those delivered in the conventional food bowl. When dogs are busy foraging for their meals, they are not seeking out other, less desirable activities.
The following toys are safe and fun for everyone. Use them as training motivators and practice obedience cues during playtime. Short (5-10 minutes) and frequent daily playtimes work best.
ChuckIt – there is a glow-in-the-dark ball option for fetch games at dusk
ChuckIt – Paraflight Max Glow and Flyer (disc)
ChuckIt Kick Fetch Ball – two sizes AND a glow in the dark version
JW Hol-ee Roller Dog Toy – lots of holes to catch and/or tug
JW Pet Ruffian Chicken Squeaky – just funny; available in two sizes
HyperPet Flippy Flopper Frisbee – easy to toss and for the dog to pick up
Booda Soft Bite Tail Spin Flyer Floppy Disc – another version of the above
Kyjen/Outward Hound Hide a Squirrel Puzzle – a plush toy with other animal varieties
Kyjen/Outward Hound Fire Biterz Tug Toys – available in a variety of critters
Frisco Rope with Squeaking Ball – appropriate for small and medium dogs
Frisco Hide and Seek Toys – various critters to find and fetch
Zippy Paws Throw-A-Duck – or A Bluebird, or A Goose, or A Robin, all with squeakers
Zippy Paws Jigglers Dog Toy – various critters
Ethical Pet Skinneeez Extreme Triple Squeaker – various critters; good length for all dogs
Pet Qwerks Flip Stick Tug – lots of excitement for those energetic leapers and tuggers
Squishy Face Studio Flirt Pole V2 w/ Fleece Lure – another version of the above for types who need “extra”
KONG Wubba Floppy Ears – durable fun for fetch or tug
KONG Shakers Dog Toys – for those dogs who like to “shake and kill”
Chews include items that dogs love to gnaw on as well as food-dispensing devices for foraging. These items help puppies and adult dogs enjoy crate and quiet time. Always check packaging for “sourced” and “processed” information.
USA Bones and Chews – knuckles, smoked marrow bones, antlers, bully sticks, hooves, sterilized bones, cow hooves, cow ears
Barkworthies Cow Tails
Kiwi Liver-Basted Lamb Ears – Kiwi offers a variety of products
Nature’s Own Pet Chews Moo Cheeks
Earth Animal – No Hide chews – flavor and size varieties
Venison Joe’s Hickory Smoked Beef Hooves
Himalayan Chews – made from yak milk and 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 various flavors
Merrick G.I. Bones – Smoked natural bones. Your dog can settle into a satisfying gnaw.
Nylabone – Dental Puppy Chew – nubby appeal for the little ones
—————————————Food Foraging Toys———————————————
Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball Interactive – this one is designed for experienced food foragers
Kyjen/Outward Hound Fun Feeders – available in a variety of colors and designs; helps to slow down food “inhalers”; good choice for novice foragers
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 sizes; use it to play ball AND deliver dinner
KONG Wobbler – fun for the more advanced food “forager”; available in two sizes
KONG Spin It and Gyro Dog Toys – two types of meal dispensers; small and large sizes
PetSafe Busy Buddy – a collection of food-foraging toys in order of challenge (easy to difficult): Puppy Squirrel Dude, Fun Durables, Twist n’ Treat, Waggle toy, Chuckle, Kibble Nibble, Barnacle, Magic Mushroom, and Tug-A-Jug; most are available in several sizes
PetSafe Sportsmen Squeak-N-Treat Booya – Eat and play
JW Pet Hol-ee Treat Ball – fun and well-designed for a practiced “forager”; perfect for kibble, not just treats
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
Spot Push-N-Pop Treat/Food Dispenser – great for everyone, including puppies
Spot Dura Brite Treat Ball – meal kibbles fit nicely
Nina Ottosson Puzzles – wonderful variety of interactive fun from the “Founding Mother of Dog Puzzles”; marketed under the Outward Hound brand
Snuffle Mat – emulates a dog’s greatest joys: sniffing and foraging for nibbles
Simple can be lots of fun: a kid-size swimming pool, blowing bubbles, an empty water bottle inside a tube sock, ice cubes, especially those frozen with chicken or beef stock.
Where to Find the Good Stuff
Especially when buying food and chews, read the fine print on the packaging. Look for products that are sourced and processed in the U.S. Packaging can be deceiving. There may be an American flag on the bag or a “made in America” statement, but it is produced elsewhere. When in doubt, ask your vet!
Faux Paws Pet Shop (Summit, NJ)
Woof Gang Bakery and Grooming (Westfield, NJ and other locations)
Cherrybrook (Garwood store and online)
Animal Crackers (Clark, NJ)
Pet Valu (multiple locations)
Pet Supplies Plus (multiple locations)
And Amazon, of course
Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel CPDT-KA, 2020 all rights reserved
Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC