It’s an early Saturday morning and you want to spend the day out with your pup. You two start off on a long hike and finish it with a game of fetch. After you get home, you’re tired and ready to relax, but you notice that your dog is running around like the energizer bunny. You can’t help but wonder why your pup is so charged after all of that physical exercise. Well, this is because dogs need just as much mental stimulation as they do physical exercise.
There are all kinds of ways for your dog to get their mental stimulation fix - such as scent hunt, letting them stop and sniff the flowers on a walk, playing hide and seek, and teaching them new tricks and commands. All of these are beneficial and a lot of fun, however my personal favorite that I use daily are interactive feeding toys.
What are interactive feeding toys?
Interactive feeding toys are toys like games and puzzles designed to challenge your dog’s problem solving skills and to enhance mental stimulation through play. These toys not only keep your pup busy, but it gives them an opportunity to work for their treats (or food) and makes treat and meal time a lot more fun. Even though nothing replaces daily exercise, adding an interactive toy to your dog’s daily routine will help them focus their excess energy on something positive, fun and playful. In addition, let’s say you aren’t able to get out for your daily walk, you can still tire your pup out mentally through these feeding toys.
What are the benefits?
1. Fast eaters. Dogs often will swallow food and chews whole which can be scary for any pet owner. Interactive feeding toys help slow down meal and chew time, provide the chance for them to work for their food and chews, and enhance enrichment.
2. Picky eaters. It’s true that dogs get bored very easily, and with the same routine of meal time every single day, meal time can get boring too! Whether your dog just doesn’t care to eat his meals right away or simply isn’t impressed with what you are putting down for him, interactive feeding toys help satisfy your pup’s natural desire to hunt and work for their food and make it fun! Some dogs are so bored they won’t even eat out of their own bowl, so putting their food in these types of toys helps!
3. Teething pups. We all know how destructive puppies can be, especially during their teething phase. Instead of your puppy directing their energy to destroying your household items, provide them with an interactive feeding toy they are allowed to chew on stuffed with some greek yogurt.
4. Need a break? Admit it - owning a dog is a LOT of work and sometimes you just need a moment to yourself. Whether that means you want to relax in the bath, read a book or watch your favorite TV show without any distractions, fill your pup’s toy up with a high quality treat or chew and enjoy the quiet… for now. Your pup benefits from this just as much as you do as they are getting their mental stimulation fix in.
5. Senior dogs. If you have noticed your dog can’t keep up much anymore on your daily walk around the block, you can still help him get excess energy out by giving him his favorite interactive toy to chew on.
6. Recovering dogs. Maybe your pup is recovering from an injury or surgery and you are told that their physical exercise needs to be limited for awhile. This is hard for dogs to accept as well as the owner because it’s not ideal to see your pup confined to the house. Put a few treats in a snuffle mat and let your dog go to town!
Which ones are the best?
There are hundreds of interactive toys out there on the market and it’s tough choosing the best ones. Personally, I like to do my research before purchasing feeding toys just for the looks of them. Here are some of my trusted favorites -
KONG. I feel as though everybody I know that owns a dog has some toy made by KONG. If you don’t, you should definitely get one. KONG has made toys for 40 years that provide mental and physical stimulation. KONG’s plush and non rubber toys are made in China, but they are designed and tested in the US. However, KONG’s rubber toys are all made in the USA.
Kong Classic Dog Toy: Durable with an erratic bounce that is ideal for dogs that like to chew while also fulfilling a dog's need to play. To extend play time, stuff with treats, food or even natural peanut butter!
Kong Interactive Wobbler: Treat and food dispensing toy that sits upright until pushed by a dog’s paw or nose and then periodically dispenses treats as it wobbles, spins and rolls. The Wobbler can also be used as an alternative to a dog bowl to help slow and extend mealtime while providing exercise for your dog. Unscrews for easy filling and cleaning.
West Paw. West Paw is a very underrated company. All products are made in the USA, eco-friendly, 100% washable and non toxic. They will replace or refund you for anything that doesn’t work out. West Paw makes my favorite interactive feeding toys since you can even fit small and medium sized chews inside!
West Paw Qwizl: Mentally stimulating, durable toy that you can use for treats or chews and stands up to tough chewers. This toy extends the life of dog treats and prolongs play.
West Paw Tux: Tough and durable toy that come in 2 sizes for small and large dogs. You can stuff with treats, peanut butter, greek yogurt, etc. and freeze.
West Paw Toppl Zogoflex: Soft, rounded inner 'teeth' contain a contoured cavity to hold treats in place until your dog nudges them out. To change up the challenge, connect the small and large (sold separately) together to make Toppl even tougher.
Planet Dog. Also another underrated company. Their prices are pretty competitive for what you get out of their toys. All Orbee-Tuff products are durable, eco-friendly and made in the USA. They offer a full refund within 30-days of website purchase if you are not satisfied and also offer one replacement of a toy per customer as long as the item is $9.99 and up.
Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Snoop: Non-toxic, BPA free, phthalate free, FDA approved. Buoyant, bouncy and infused with natural mint oil.
Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Mazee: The outer shell combined with the harder inner maze activates several of the dog's senses - they can hear, see and smell the treats while they solve the puzzle.
Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Link: Designed to be linked together allowing it to transform into different shapes for different levels of difficulty. As an added bonus, Link works great as a slow feeder.
Nina Ottosson. This company is based in Sweden and is mainly known for their unique puzzle toys of different levels of difficulty. All of the plastic games and toys are splinter-free, poison-free and some are FDA tested and approved for food.
Nina Ottosson - Outward Hound Brick Puzzle: Level 2/intermediate dog puzzle. Hide treats in the bone puzzle pieces to offer your dog a stimulating and engaging challenge. Easy to clean and holds both dry and wet food.
Nina Ottosson Outward Hound Twister Puzzle: Level 3 puzzle toy. Pull handles out to unlocked position to slide paw panels. Place treats or food in compartments. Line up sliding paw panels and lock them in place by pushing handles in.
Whether you have a small or large dog or a puppy or a senior, interactive feeding toys are great for all breeds of all sizes. Mental stimulation is key for a healthy, happy life. Physical exercise is extremely important, but mental stimulation is what tires pups out most. For dog’s new to these types of toys, introduce a fairly easy feeding toy so that your pup doesn’t get frustrated and give up. Next mealtime switch out your dog’s regular food bowl with an interactive toy to make mealtime a lot more fun and tiring - your pup will thank you!