Best Dog Toys for Mental Stimulation

No one wants their dog to get bored and develop bad habits, but the truth is that if your dog doesn’t get enough exercise, physically and mentally, he will do just that.

As a matter of a fact:

Solving problems can tire a dog more than physical exercise does.

That’s why it’s so important to add mental exercise to your dog’s routine and avoid things like separation anxiety and other behavioral problems.

Interactive dog toys are just one of many dog mental stimulation ideas, and because this is so important, the market is flooded with dog puzzles and chew toys that keep dogs busy while you’re away.

In this review, I’ll share my best dog toys for mental stimulation.

I’ll also tell you why you and Fido need these challenging dog toys and how they can prevent common issues in canines.

Quick Comparison: Best Dog Toys for Mental Stimulation

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5 Best Dog Toys for Mental Stimulation Reviews

1. Kruuse BUSTER ActivityMat Review

The first toy is an activity mat by Kruuse, and although it doesn’t look that impressive at first, you’ll be surprised at how challenging and entertaining it can be.

The top of the mat is made of strong canvas, and the bottom is made of rubber to prevent its movement during playtime.

While it’s open, the mat size is 27″ x 19″. However, the product comes rolled inside a carrier bag for easy storage, along with three activities to start with: The Envelope, The Water Lily, and The Cone Cloth.

The activities can be attached to the mat using (35) press studs, separately or together for solving more tasks. Although, you should introduce the game to your dog gradually by leaving the parts open and fold them once he’s starting to get the hang of it.

There are nine more additional activities sold separately, some of which are more advanced and fit dogs who need more challenge.

Each activity has a number of pockets in which you can hide dog food or treats. Your dog will have to figure out how to deal with different problems, including opening a velcro or sliding out a wooden dowl in order to win his prize.

Both the mat and the activities are durable against wear and tear and should last for a long time, even if your dog is a bit aggressive and trying to get to the treats using his paws, snout, and teeth.

Unlike other puzzles out there, this one is dynamic and has multiple tasks instead of just one. So it’s unlikely that your dog will get bored with this toy anytime soon.


  • Keeps dogs entertained
  • Easy to store
  • Strong materials
  • Multiple tasks
  • Different levels


  • Only 3 activities included
  • Buying more tasks can get expensive

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2. Nina Ottosson Hide N’ Slide Review

Nina Ottosson is famous for designing many different types of dog puzzles, and her treat dispensers are a great way to challenge bored and energetic dogs using a system based on rewards.

Hide N’ Slide is just what it sounds like — you hide dog treats or kibbles inside the different compartments and your dog needs to learn how to release them by sliding the cups and rotating the flaps.

This game has a real wood look to it, but it’s actually made from a stronger material that’s more durable and easy to clean with just warm soapy water. And unlike wood, this won’t splinter or break while your dog is playing (but don’t let your dog chew on it).

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Furthermore, there are no removable parts that your dog can pull out, which help to keep the toy intact and safe for playing.

Level 2 toys, such as this one, requires dogs to solve more complex tasks, which is great if your dog is ready for new challenges that will give him that extra mental stimulation. However, some dogs may solve this puzzle too quickly.

If you have a short-nosed dog such as Pug, or Boxer, the Hide N’ Slide is perfect because it has elevated play pieces that help these dogs slide around the pieces and get to the treats easily.


  • Challenging dogs to think
  • Durable design
  • Advanced level
  • Good for short-nosed dogs


  • Can be easy for some dogs

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3. Outward Hound Dog Tornado Review

Outward Hound also makes treat puzzles for dogs, which provides fun physical & mental stimulation. This one has 12 treat compartments which can be quite challenging, but at the same time it keeps your dog busy and reduces bad behaviors.

This dog toy is a level 2 puzzle, which means your dog will have to work a bit harder to solve it, usually by combining actions to retrieve the treats. In this case, Fido will have to spin the pieces and take out the white bone covers.

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Note that you can use this game with or without the white bones, although it would probably be easy for some dogs as the bones blocks make it a tougher thinking game. However, the plastic bones can be a problem if your dog likes to chew.

Besides hiding treats, you can use this toy to feed your dog his kibbles, which can be more appealing for picky eaters who refuse to eat out of a bowl. On top of that, it’s easy to clean after each meal.


  • Reduces destructive behavior
  • Multiple compartments
  • Increasing difficulty
  • Great for feeding dry food


  • Not for chewers

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4. Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Review

The next toy from Outward Hound is for all the hunting and chasing dogs out there who need mental exercise. Hide and seek is a great game for dogs as it helps to challenge them mentally while preventing boredom.

With Hide-A-Squirrel, you simply hide the squeaky squirrels inside the soft tree trunk and let your dog do the rest. If you like, you can also use the removable plush creatures to play a game of fetch.

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But you should know that these plush toys aren’t made for aggressive dogs or chewers as they are very thin and easy to tear open. although you can buy individual plush animals for more fun.

The product is available in four sizes to fit different dogs, so take a look at the measurements of the squirrels and the stump to decide what size is best for your dog.


  • A lot of fun!
  • Good for hyper dogs
  • Prevents boredom
  • 2 games in 1


  • Not very durable

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5. West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl Review

This tough toy from West Paw is a perfect choice for chewing dogs as it’s extremely durable and guaranteed against damage to some extent.

Qwizl won’t only stimulate your dog mentally as he has to figure out how to extract the food inside it, but it also prolongs playtime (great for separation anxiety in dogs) and tiring out your dog while he’s working for his food.

You can put just about anything inside this chew toy, as long as your dog agrees with it. You can, of course, use kibbles to encourage your dog to eat more, but don’t limit yourself just to that and give your dogs things he enjoys.

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For example — slices of apple or carrot sticks, dog biscuits, jerky treats, cheese strings, peanut butter, dental chews, and so on. Another great option would be to stuff canned food inside the holes and freeze the whole thing to make it a long-lasting treat.

Like any high-quality dog toy made in the US, this one is also non-toxic and don’t contain latex, BPA or phthalates.

Additionally, this product is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning and can be recycled once it’s time to get a new toy.


  • Strong toy
  • Great for separation anxiety
  • Made in the US
  • Non-toxic


  • Not for very aggressive chewers

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Why Your Dog Needs Toys For Mental Stimulation?

  • Control Aggression: Dogs who get enough mental stimulation tend to be less aggressive and cranky towards others, this is extremely important for a household with multiple pets and small kids.
  • Decrease Stress: Stress never leads to anything good, and in dogs, it can lead to anxiety disorders and other behavioral and health issues.
  • Increase Confident: Dogs can also be proud of themselves when they manage to solve a problem, this can lead to better overall confident which reduces unhealthy habits caused by lack of confidence.
  • Manage Depression: The mind is what responsible for us to feel good, which means that dogs that don’t challenge themselves intellectually are more likely to suffer from some kind of depression.
  • Prevent Boredom:  Toys keep your dog busy while you’re at work, particularly, treat-stuffed toys like the ones on this review. These games are very popular and recommended by many dog behaviorists to help keep dogs busy.
  • Promote Brain Health: Although the brain is not a muscle, it can be trained to improve cognitive functions. However, dogs usually don’t get enough mental stimulation, which is why puzzles are vital.
  • Reduce Hyperactivity: Dogs that stay alone at home are packed with excess energy. Combining daily walks with stimulating dog toys are the best way to handle hyper dogs.

Bottom Line

Kruuse BUSTER is one of the best dog puzzle toys in my opinion.

This activity mat ships with three activities right off the box, and has many more tasks you can get later on to keep your dog engaged for a long time.

Plus, multiple pets can play this game at the same time without fighting over it like with many other puzzle toys out there.

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Will it fit your dog? Only you have the answer to that.

As long as you pick a game that won’t be too easy to figure out, and you switch up the toys or tasks from time to time to keep things fresh — your dog should get plenty of mental stimulation.