Best Dog Toys for Mental Stimulation

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best dog toys for mental stimulation

The truth is, your dog needs mental exercise as much as he needs physical activity. Interactive dog toys are just one of the many mental stimulation ideas.

Keeping your pup engaged for a long time helps prevent things such as boredom, loneliness, separation anxiety, and other behavioral issues.

In fact, the concept of mental stimulation is so important that the market is literally flooded with dog puzzles and chew toys that keep dogs busy while their owners are away.

Here are a few reasons why you should probably get one of these yourself.

Benefits of Dog Toys For Mental Stimulation

Control Aggressions: 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.

Decreases Stress: Stress never leads to anything good. In dogs, it can lead to anxiety disorders, and other behavioral and health issues.

Increases Confident: Dogs are actually proud of themselves when they manage to solve a problem. This can lead to better overall confidence, which reduces unhealthy habits caused by timidity.

Prevents Boredom: Toys keep your dog busy while you’re at work, particularly, toys like the ones on this review. These games are very popular, and are recommended by many dog behaviorists to help keep dogs occupied.

Combats 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.

Promotes Brain Health: Although the brain isn’t a muscle, it can be trained to improve cognitive functions. However, dogs usually don’t get enough mental stimulation, which is why toys and brain games are vital.

Reduces Hyperactivity: Dogs that stay at home by themselves are full of excess energy. A combining of daily walks and dog toys/puzzles is the best way to calm hyper dogs.

Below are the best dog toys for mental stimulation.

What Are the Best Dog Toys for Mental Stimulation?

1. Arf Pets Dog Treat Dispenser

Arf Pets Dog Treat Dispenser - Dog Puzzle Memory Training Activity Toy - Treat While Train, Promotes Exercise by Rewarding Your Pet, Cat, Improves Memory & Positive Training for A Healthier & Happier

Not only does this treat dispenser give you a chance to spend some one on one time interacting with your best friend, but it will also keep him happily occupied in your absence.

Simply load the dispenser with your dog’s favorite treats, or even some kibble, and you’re good to go.

This toy teaches your dog reward-based behavior, as he will quickly learn to paw at the button with his nose or paw to activate the release of treats.

While it may get a little boring for some dogs, particularly those who require more mental stimulation, there’s an unpredictable element, as the dispenser releases either a lot or a little bit at a time.

As an added bonus, there’s also a pleasing sound component to the button being pushed. This provides your dog with another area of reward and entertainment.


  • Easy to learn
  • Keeps dogs occupied


  • May be too simple for some dogs

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2. Kruuse BUSTER ActivityMat

Kruuse Buster ActivityMat, Starter Set w/3 Activities

This is basically an activity mat, and although it doesn’t look impressive at first look, you’ll be surprised at how challenging and entertaining it can be.

Plus, multiple pets can play this game at the same time without fighting over it.

The top of the mat is made of strong canvas, and the bottom is made of rubber to prevent it from moving around during playtime.

When it’s open, the mat size is 27″ x 19″. The product, however, comes rolled inside a carrier bag for easy storage, along with three activities to start with.

The activities can be attached to the mat using up to thirty-five press studs, separately or together for solving more tasks.

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

Each activity has a number of pockets where you can hide dog food or treats. Your dog will have to figure out how to deal with different problems, including opening up 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/or teeth.

For best results, you should introduce the game to your dog gradually by leaving the parts open, and folding them once he’s starting to get the hang of it.

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


  • Keeps dogs entertained
  • Easy to store
  • Has various tasks
  • Durable material


  • Only three activities included

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3. Nina Ottosson Hide N’ Slide

Nina Ottosson Outward Hound Puzzle Toy for Dogs - Stimulating Interactive Dog Game for Dispensing Treats

Nina Ottosson is famous for designing many different types of dog puzzles, and her treat dispensers are a good way to challenge bored and energetic dogs.

This toy is just what it sounds like. You simply hide dog treats or kibbles inside the different compartments, and let your dog figure out how to release them by sliding the cups and rotating the flaps.

The 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.

Unlike wood, it won’t splinter or break while your dog is playing, but be sure to not let him chew on it.

On top of that, there are no removable parts that can be pulled out, which helps to keep the toy intact and safe for playing.

Level 2 toys, such as this one, requires dogs to solve more complex tasks. This is great if your pup is ready for new challenges and need more mental stimulation. However, keep in mind that some dogs may solve this puzzle too quickly.

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


  • Challenge dogs to think
  • Durable design
  • Good for short-nosed dogs


  • May be easy for some dogs

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4. Outward Hound Dog Tornado

Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Puzzle Toy - Stimulating Interactive Dog Game for Dispensing Treats

This toy provides lots of physical and mental stimulation, as well as pure fun!

It has twelve treat compartments which can be quite challenging, but at the same time, it keeps your dog busy and reduces bad behaviors.

Also, this is a level 2 puzzle, which means your dog will have to work a bit harder to solve it and retrieve the treats.

To play this game, all your pup has to do is spin the pieces, and take out the white bone covers to find his prize.

Note that you can use it with or without the white bones, although it would probably be easy for some dogs, as the bones blocks make it a bit tougher.

That said, the plastic bones can be an issue if your dog loves to chew.

Besides hiding treats, you can use this toy to feed your dog his kibbles, which is a great idea if he’s a picky eater who refuses to eat his food out of a bowl. It’s also quite easy to clean afterward.


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


  • Not ideal for chewers

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5. Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel

Outward Hound Hide a Squirrel Fun Hide & Seek Interactive Puzzle Plush Dog Toy, 4Piece, Small

This is a perfect toy for all the hunting and chasing canines out there. In fact, hide and seek is a great game for dogs, as it helps to keep them mentally sharp and prevent 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 these removable furry creatures to play a game of fetch, or buy more of them for more challenge.

But keep in mind that plush toys aren’t made for aggressive dogs or chewers, as they’re very thin and easy to tear open.

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.


  • Works on hunting instinct
  • Prevents boredom
  • Can also be used to play fetch


  • Not very durable

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6. West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl

West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog Puzzle Treat Toy for Dogs, 100% Guaranteed Tough, It Floats!, Made in USA, Small, Aqua Blue

If you have a dog who likes to chew, this tough toy is a perfect choice.

It’s extremely durable and guaranteed against damage (at least to some extent), and not only does it satisfy your pup chewing needs, but he also has to figure out how to extract the food inside it.

In addition, it prolongs playtime, which is great for preventing separation anxiety, all while tiring out your pooch as he’s working for his food.

You can fill it with just about anything — from plain kibbles to dog biscuits to carrot sticks, and even cheese strings.

But perhaps the best option would be to stuff peanut butter, canned food, or canned pumpkin inside the holes, and freeze the whole thing to help teething puppies, and make sure it lasts longer.

Like any other high-quality dog toy, it’s non-toxic and doesn’t contain latex, BPA, or phthalates. Additionally, it’s dishwasher safe for easy cleaning, and can be recycled once it’s time to get a replacement.

Remember, as long as you pick a game that won’t be too easy to figure out, and switch things up to prevent boredom, your dog should get plenty of mental stimulation.


  • Strong and durable
  • Great for separation anxiety
  • Can be freeze
  • Non-toxic


  • Not suited for extremely aggressive chewers

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