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10 Best Stimulating Dog Toys – Mental Stimulation and Games for Smart Dogs

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Friday 26 June 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
best stimulating dog toys
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A mentally and physically stimulated dog is a happy dog. Physical exercise is great for dogs, but it’s only half of the equation. Your dog also needs plenty of mental exercise. Stimulating dog toys not only provide opportunities for physical activity but also require your dog to mentally engage with them.

Stimulating toys for dogs will target your dog’s senses – they might be brightly colored, have a flavor, distinct smell, or perhaps even move on their own!

What are Stimulating Dog Toys?

Stimulating dog toys are toys that target your dog’s senses. A stimulating dog toy might be made with different textures, interesting scents, flavors, and sounds incorporated into the design. As opposed to a regular dog toy, such as a rope or bone, stimulating dog toys are specifically designed to be more mentally stimulating for our pets. This means more fun and less boredom for your dog.

Stimulating dog toys are also a good choice for dogs who are missing one or more of their senses. For a dog who is visually impaired, a squeaky dog toy might be more interesting to them than a colorful one. For a dog who has hearing loss, a scented and flavored dog toy might be more alluring than a regular squeaky ball.

what are stimulating dog toys
A stimulating dog toy might be made with different textures, interesting scents, flavors, and sounds incorporated into the design.

How To Choose a Stimulating Toy For Your Dog?

With so many stimulating dog toys on the market, it can be difficult to choose what’s best for your furry friend. We’ve narrowed down the most important aspects to consider when choosing a new toy: stimulation, size, durability, and fun factor. Take a look!


Stimulating dog toys target one or more of your dog’s senses. The toy might provide a scent, taste, sound, bright color, or texture that keeps your pet engaged with it. The best stimulating dog toys will incorporate the five senses into them for the best possible sensory experience.


Dogs explore the world through scent. Some dog toys are made with smells that dogs can’t resist – beef and chicken are the most commonly found scented toys on the market. These scents encourage chewing. Other scents like lavender and chamomile are also used but are marketed as “calming” dog toys rather than stimulating dog toys.


Taste encourages dogs to chew. For this reason, many dog toys on the market contain flavorings that dogs love or allow you to add treats. Jerky, beef, chicken, pork, and bacon are just a few of the many options to consider. You know what flavors your dog loves best, so a flavored stimulating dog toy might be just what they need to stay occupied.


Dogs enjoy toys with sound because they appeal to their wild instinct to catch and kill small prey. By engaging with our dogs’ natural curiosity and instinct to play with squeaky toys, owners can ensure that their pup stays active and entertained throughout the day. Unfortunately, many dog toys with squeakers tend to break down quickly, so it’s important to find the most durable stimulating dog toy to prevent disappointment.


Color is another element to consider. While we can’t ask our dogs to pick out colors or read an eye chart, behavioral studies suggest that our pets see in shades of yellow, blue, and gray. Ironically, many popular dog toys today are red or green – the very colors that dogs can’t see as we do. Some stimulating dog toys are specifically designed with colors that dogs can see more clearly. This makes it much easier for them to pick the toy out from the green of your lawn or find when it goes missing.

colors of stimulating dog toys
Select a dog toy with colors your dog can see clearly.


Finally, the texture of a stimulating dog toy is one of the most important aspects of all. Our dogs explore the world with their mouths. Teething puppies in particular will like to vary the texture of their toys. Not only this, but varied textures in a dog toy can help to maintain dental hygiene. Raised bristles can help to remove tartar from their teeth.


The size of your pet’s toy is an important element to consider. You should avoid toys with small parts that are a choking hazard. A general rule to follow is that anything small enough to fit behind your pet’s rear molars is a choking hazard. At the same time, you should avoid toys that are too large for your dog to chew on. If your dog is unable to play with the toy, they may become frustrated and ignore the toy altogether. You want the safest toy for your pet, so make sure you take the size of their new toy into account before making your purchase.

size of stimulating dog toys
Avoid buying dog toys with small parts.


Choosing a durable dog toy will allow your pet more time to play with their new favorite toy. Dogs have sharp teeth and their toys are thus vulnerable to lots of wear and tear. You should avoid toys that will fall apart easily to avoid disappointment for yourself and your pet. The toy should be durable enough to hold up to your dog’s strength – a weaker toy might break during play and cause injury, or cause your pet frustration as you take their new present away so soon. A durable, high-quality toy is not only better for longevity, but also ensures your dog’s safety whilst they spend hours playing with their stimulating dog toy.


The main purpose of a dog toy is to be fun, so naturally, you’ll be looking for a dog toy that will keep your pet occupied! This part will be down to you as an owner. You know what your dog finds the most fun – some will prefer squeaky toys, whereas others might prefer toys that move on their own. Keep in mind what your pooch prefers whilst you search for their new toy. Stimulating dog toys that target all of the senses guarantee hours of fun for your pooch. Each time they play with their toy they should find something new to experience!

10 Best Stimulating Dog Toys

Choosing the best stimulating dog toy can be difficult with all the choices on the market. We reviewed countless stimulating dog toys to identify the best of the best. Here, we rate the toys based on safety, functionality, fun factor, and customer reviews. We’ve narrowed down our search into our top 10.

1. ZippyPaws

The ZippyPaws Woodland Friends Burrow is made using soft fabric and features three squeaky chipmunks. This toy has two holes in the sides and a hole straight through the middle. While the chipmunk squeakers are not replaceable the company offers replacement chipmunks for this toy.

This toy’s soft fabric is easy on the teeth and thus is perfect for teething pups and playful adults alike. The three chipmunks included offer your pet hours of satisfying squeaks. Dogs will love to dig the squeaky toys out of the burrow for a challenging game they can play with you or alone! Smaller breeds might be able to fit inside the burrow too, making for extra sensory fun.

The downside to this stimulating dog toy is that it’s not the most durable. Some larger breeds are able to rip stuffing out of the burrow. The chipmunks are also easy to destroy, but on the upside, replacements can be bought.

2. Wobble Wag Giggle Ball

The Wobble Wag Giggle Ball is made with flexible phthalate-free vinyl. This ball contains six “clutch pockets” to make the toy easy for dogs to pick up. The internal tubes produce a giggling noise when moved, without the use of batteries.

This toy’s unique sound is great for any curious pet. Dogs enjoy shaking, rolling, and playing with this ball to elicit the giggling sounds from it. This helps to keep dogs active and entertained for hours throughout the day. Games of fetch are bound to be even better with this fun toy!

At the same time, this stimulating toy is not very durable. Some buyers describe the ball as easily broken and potentially dangerous. This toy is not a chew toy and is better for rolling, throwing, and chasing.

3. Joe’s Home Dog Snuffle Mat

Joe’s Home Dog Snuffle Mat contains felt polar fleece. The mat features several different textures and hiding places for treats. It works as either a feeding mat or a puzzle toy for dogs. In addition to this, the product also comes in two sizes, small and medium.

Much like a puzzle toy, this snuffle mat turns feeding time into a challenge. Most dogs love to actively sniff out their treats on this mat. Owners can hide treats in the nooks and crannies and make it easier or more difficult depending on the abilities of their pet. Furthermore, the different textures add to the overall sensory experience.

This mat may be too easy for some dogs. The lack of a solid base means that dogs can pick up and shake the mat to reveal the hidden treats. In addition, the mat is also not very durable. It can be torn easily if owners do not supervise them.

4. Sniffiz SmellyMatty Snuffle Mat for Dogs

Sniffiz SmellyMatty Snuffle Mat contains Oxford cloth and polar fleece material, has a non-slip bottom, and an “anti-flip” structure. This mat is also machine-washable. With 11 layers of pockets and grass, this snuffle mat encourages nose work and slow feeding.

The snuffle mat features five treat puzzles as well as several places to hide treats. Its unique and varied design encourages dogs to sniff for their favorite treats for hours on end, not only supporting natural behaviors but mentally stimulating your pet as well.

This mat is not as durable as other stimulating dog toys. Some pets prefer to chew on the mat instead of searching for the hidden treats. Others pick up the mat to shake the treats out. In addition, the toy is designed in red and green, the two colors that dogs can’t perceive like humans. Moreover, this means that the color design is not as appealing to dogs when compared to other stimulating toys.

5. Hyper Pet Doggie Tail Interactive Plush Dog Toys

Hyper Pet’s Doggie Tail Interactive Toy is a plush stimulating dog toy that wiggles, vibrates, and barks. The ball inside is made with hard plastic. This toy requires 3 AAA batteries. You will find batteries with the packaging.

With interesting sounds, erratic movements, and a crinkly tail, this plush toy captures the interest of any dog and keeps them mentally stimulated. The toy appeals to your dog’s senses of touch, vision, and audition all at the same time.

The main downside to this product is its lack of durability. Indeed, larger dog breeds are able to pull the plastic ball out from the toy because they can open the velcro sealing it inside. Other buyers report that the toy arrives broken or does not work.

6. StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy

StarMark’s Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy is made with hard plastic and functions as an adjustable treat dispenser. Available in a large and small size, this toy wobbles and drops treats as it moves. It has adjustable openings so that the owner can customize the difficulty.

This toy is sure to keep your hungry dog occupied for hours. It encourages pets to work for their food as they must move the toy around for the reward. Its plastic material causes the treats inside to rattle around audibly which encourages some dogs to try to get more.

When compared to other treat dispensers, this stimulating toy is not as durable and may be unsuitable if you must leave your dog unattended. In addition to this, some small dogs have caught their teeth in the dispensing hole.

7. Nina Ottosson Dog Smart Beginner Dog Puzzle Toy

Nina Ottosson’s Beginner Puzzle Toy is a simple hide-and-seek treat dispenser made with hard plastic. The board features 9 bone covers that need to be removed to reveal the treats. The challenge level can be altered by slightly tilting the bones to make the puzzle easier.

This puzzle toy is a great way to introduce your pooch to problem-solving games. Dog Smart is sure to keep your pup busy and mentally engaged, and can even help to prepare them for more complex food puzzles in the future!

Some dogs chew through the plastic bones easily or pick the puzzle toy up to reveal all the hidden treats. For some dogs, this puzzle toy is too easy and does not provide significant mental stimulation.

8. Nina Ottosson Puzzle Brick Dog Toy

Nina Ottosson’s Puzzle Brick Toy features 20 compartments, 4 removable bones, and 8 slidable pieces. Tasty treats can be hidden inside each compartment to encourage dogs to work for their food. The toy’s design is red, blue, and white. The Puzzle Brick can be cleaned by hand with soap and water.

This stimulating toy is perfect for food-motivated pups. With plenty of places to hide their favorite treats, this Puzzle Brick encourages your dog to use their strong sense of smell and their problem-solving abilities to complete the puzzle.

Unfortunately, the plastic material is not durable and can be chewed by some dogs. It should be noted that the plastic sliding pieces also pose a choking hazard to the more aggressive chewers.

9. Wickedbone Smart Bone

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The Wickedbone Smart Bone is an interactive toy that can be controlled via the Wickedbone app or set to interactive mode. In interactive mode, the toy automatically responds to your dog’s behavior. When your dog runs, the smart bone chases them; when your dog chases the smart bone, it turns and runs away.

This stimulating dog toy appeals to your dog’s senses of touch and vision. The material is soft on the teeth, making it fun for them to pick up and engage with. Your dog is bound to have hours of fun playing with this toy, stimulating them both mentally and physically.

Smart bone is not designed for aggressive chewers or dogs who would be afraid of being chased. Some dogs are able to chew through the toy quickly. Smaller dogs are reported to occasionally be afraid of the toy due to its erratic and quick movements.

10. VARRAM Pet Fitness Robot

The VARRAM Pet Fitness Robot is an interactive toy made with polycarbonate material. The toy is controlled either via the mobile smartphone application or can be set to auto-play mode. It has passed the IPX4 Water Resistance test and drives on a variety of indoor surfaces. The toy plays with your dog by zooming around the room and rewarding their interactions by dispensing treats.

Your pet is sure to enjoy playing with the VARRAM Fitness Robot! Its lightweight design and simple interface make it easy for owners to use, and its interactive treat dispenser mechanism encourages dogs to keep on playing. This toy stimulates a dog’s senses of touch and vision as they chase and play with this fun robot. Furthermore, the robot is shipped with a protective case to help guard it against damage from larger dogs.

The downside to this product is that it initially causes fear in some dogs. Having the app is also a necessity if you wish to utilize the full potential of the toy. With the app, you may manage playtime, choose play patterns, and set schedules for activities.

Stimulating Dog Toys – FAQs

Have any questions about stimulating dog toys? Our Frequently Asked Questions section should have all the answers you need!

How do you Mentally Stimulate a Dog with a Toy?

Engaging in play, rotating between toys, and using toys in different ways will mentally stimulate your dog. Some toys are best played with if you play as well. Throwing a ball and playing tug-o-war are just two examples of this! Some interactive dog toys are even better when you control them yourself – some robot toys allow you to program them to play with your pet in a specific way.

It also helps to rotate the toys your dog has access to. If your dog is used to having the same old toys, put some way to make them more mentally stimulating when they’re brought back out again. Finally, be creative with how you use your dog’s toys. This might include hiding treats inside a toy or throwing a toy that you usually roll around. If you want to introduce your pet to new challenges, consider buying a stimulating pet toy that offers puzzles or is fully interactive.

What Toys Can I Leave my Dog Alone with?

Your dog can be left alone with durable chew toys and toys that do not pose a choking hazard. Make sure that you are not leaving your dog with any dangerous toys. Avoid rawhide, rope toys, squeaky toys, and cloth-based toys that are not designed for long-term playtime. These toys should only be given when you are nearby to supervise your pet. Dogs can get squeakers out of squeaky toys and choke on them, and the strands of cloth or rope can be ingested by aggressive chewers. If your stimulating dog toy is not durable, contains a squeaker, or features small parts, you should not leave your pet unsupervised with it.

How do I Keep My Dog Entertained While I’m at Work?

You can keep your dog entertained whilst you are at work by providing treat-filled toys, arranging a scavenger hunt, and providing new toys. If you plan to leave your dog unsupervised with a treat-dispensing toy, ensure that it’s safe and durable. All-natural peanut butter works wonders for any bored, food-motivated dog! You can even freeze the stuffed toy for an extra challenge.

Next, a scavenger hunt might just be what your home-alone hound needs to stay occupied. Scatter a handful of kibble in the places your dog likes to hang out during the day. Hide a safe, stimulating, treat-dispensing toy somewhere in the house as the grand prize. When you leave, make sure you tell your dog to search for the hidden treats! This should help them to associate you leaving for the day with a positive experience.

Can a Stimulating Dog Toy Stimulate Multiple Senses?

Stimulating dog toys can stimulate one, two, or all five senses at the same time! Stimulating toys for dogs could only be made with a flavoring, or might incorporate elements of all of the senses for the best possible sensory experience.

choosing a stimulating toy for your dog
Keep in mind what your pup likes and dislikes when choosing a toy.

In conclusion, stimulating dog toys are a great way to keep your pup occupied! Always ensure that you choose the safest toy for your pet and keep in mind what your pooch likes and dislikes whilst making your purchase.

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