When you first got your dog, you swore that you would play with it for at least two hours every single day. Trips to the park, long walks, and endless sessions of fetch — you were ready for it all.
Then life happened. You came home late one day, you’re sick, it’s raining, or you just don’t have it in you to play today — it happens to us all, regardless of good intentions. Good luck explaining that to your pooch, who may take his energy out on your couch.
As dog owners, we owe it to our pets to provide at least a little stimulation, and what better way to do that than with an interactive toy? These fun gadgets will challenge your dog’s mind, helping to tire him out even if you can’t give him much in the way of exercise.
And, thanks to the in-depth reviews below, you can skip all the tedious and expensive trial-and-error to find one that’s stimulating, durable, and fun for the both of you.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
The 10 Best Interactive Dog Toys
1. Outward Hound 67338 Puzzle Toy – Best Overall
Just like humans, many pups enjoy a good brainteaser, and this puzzle toy can keep your dog occupied for hours on end. It allows you to hide treats in tiny compartments inside the puzzle, and your dog can only get to them by sliding the latches open. It may sound simple, but for a dog, it’s endlessly challenging — and rewarding.
Even better, the toy is made of a composite material that’s easy to clean, so you don’t have to worry about your pup getting sick (or smelling the remnants of several weeks’ worth of caked-on cookies).
There are seven different treat chambers, so it can keep Fido occupied for quite some time when fully loaded. All the pieces are attached to the toy itself, so there aren’t any small parts to create a potential choking hazard (provided your dog doesn’t chew it to bits, of course).
2. Pet Qwerks TBB3 Talking Ball – Best Value
If you can’t be there to talk to your pup throughout the day, this babble ball can fill in while you’re gone. It comes pre-loaded with 20 sounds or phrases, which can help keep lonely dogs company (and keep them from eating your shoes).
It’s motion-activated, so the slightest movement will set it off. This is good for keeping your pet occupied, but it can get annoying if you’re stuck inside with it all day, so don’t be surprised if you stash it in a drawer after a few hours.
However, given the low price point and the way it drives dogs wild, it’s still one of the best interactive dog toys for the money. As a bonus, you can toss it during a rousing game of fetch, so the added versatility is a nice touch.
Outdoor mutts will love the Tumbo Tugger, as it can provide them with hours of entertainment in any weather. The design is simple, as it’s merely a dog toy attached to a bungee cord that you hook up to a tree, fence post, basketball player, or other tall, sturdy object. Despite its simplicity, though, it can keep your dog endlessly entertained, especially if he’s a strong puller.
It’s created with your dog’s safety in mind, so there are no metal components or other parts that might damage teeth. It’s also durable enough that it’s unlikely to snap at an inopportune moment, which could hurt your pup.
That durability extends only to pulling on it, however, as a dedicated chewer can tear through the cord eventually — and this toy’s expensive enough that you won’t want to replace it every few months.
4. StarMark SMBALS Bob-A-Lot Dog Toy
This toy is basically a large chamber you can fill with treats, which fall out of a hole on the bottom as your pet rolls it around and plays with it (kind of like a Weeble-Wobble for dogs).
It’s a challenge to dispense treats, which constantly stimulates the dog’s mind instead of expanding its waistline. If your pup scarfs down meals, you can even use the Bob-A-Lot at feeding time to slow him down and reduce the risk of bloat.
While it has adjustable openings to customize the difficulty of the toy, they’re not terribly effective, and some dogs will instantly figure out how to get to all the treats. Lazier dogs will quickly give up. So, unless your dog takes to it instantly, you’ll likely struggle to generate a sustained interest once he’s abandoned it.
Also see: Water toys for your dog!
5. Wobble Wag Giggle Ball
This ball has six pockets that make it easy for your pooch to pick up and carry around — and when it moves, the internal noisemaker creates a giggling sound. This is extremely enticing to dogs (and extremely terrifying when it goes off in the middle of the night, causing you to hear giggling from the darkness of the living room).
It doesn’t require any batteries, so you won’t spend a fortune keeping it up and running. It also works with a variety of playing styles, so your dog should enjoy it regardless of whether he likes to chase, shake, or gnaw on his toys.
However, it’s the latter play style that may be the most problematic. The ball is made of hard plastic, but it can easily crack when set upon by a dedicated chewer. Besides leaving you with a ruined toy, it can also create lots of plastic shards, so be sure you pick them up before your pup can swallow them.
6. SPOT Seek-A-Treat Bone Toy
This puzzle game is similar to our top pick from Outward Hound, but it’s not quite as durable. That’s because it’s made of wood instead of plastic, something that makes it more environmentally friendly, but less able to withstand the attentions of a dedicated chewer.
That could also pose a potential problem if chunks are bitten off and swallowed, so only let your pup play with it under your supervision, and don’t be surprised if you have to vacuum up a few splinters after every session.
That said, it’s still a fun and challenging game that should keep your dog occupied for quite some time. There are treat compartments at either end of each slot, so you can alternate which one holds goodies, preventing your pooch from figuring it out too quickly.
7. KONG T2 Classic Dog Toy
This one’s called the “Kong Classic” for a reason, as you’ve likely seen it in every dog-friendly household you’ve ever visited. It’s a big, cone-shaped hunk of dense rubber, and it’s fairly hard to destroy (but don’t tell your dog we said that — he’ll take it as a challenge).
It doesn’t offer much in the way of bells and whistles, but the secret to its versatility is the holes on either side. You can stuff it with kibble or the company’s custom treat sticks, and you can even fill it with peanut butter and freeze it to give your pup a cold treat on a hot day.
You can also toss them, as the irregular bouncing action may inspire some dogs to give chase, but we feel they have limited value as a fetch toy. All in all, expect your dog to be enthralled for as long as there’s food inside, but know they’ll likely lose interest afterward.
8. ZippyPaws Food Buddies Burrow
Unlike many other options on this list, this toy isn’t necessarily designed to be used with food. Instead, there are three plush popcorn-shaped squeaky toys that you can hide in the provided bucket, at which point your canine friend will have to fish them out to play with them.
While that’s fantastic for limiting your dog’s food intake, it requires you to rely on fragile squeaky balls for the toy to have any value. Aggressive chewers and shredders will probably make short work of the popcorn balls, so you’ll have to replace them or buy a new toy periodically — and it’s not very cheap.
Of course, you can always hide different toys or other items inside the box (yes, including food), but at that point, you might as well buy a different, more durable toy.
9. Wisedom Dog Treat Ball
This little soft rubber toy has three separate treat chambers, so you can add a little variety to your dog’s diet, which should encourage him to play with it longer. Pets can sit and try to work treats out on their own, or you can throw it for them and watch it bounce unpredictably while occasionally dispensing food.
The keyword here is “occasionally.” The treat holes are tiny, so only treats of a certain size can be used with it — and then it’s a matter of finding “Goldilocks-sized” treats, as larger ones won’t come out; but if you go too small, they won’t stay in.
Your pup may think you’re playing some sort of cruel trick on him by giving him all those treats and then not letting him get to them (and he might get revenge by destroying the toy — or, you know, pooping in your shoes).
10. Bullibone Spinning Dog Chew Toys
If you’ve ever looked at your dog and thought, “He’s almost perfect, but what he really needs is a fidget spinner,” then this is the toy for you.
Made from nearly indestructible nylon, this three-pronged bone can spin on its side at high speeds. This should pique your dog’s interest, and you can spin it across the floor to give him something to chase. Once he’s finally gotten it in his jaws, he can chew on it to his heart’s content (and since it’s bacon-flavored, he’ll likely want to chew on it for quite a while).
The Bullibone is far from perfect, however. It’s exceptionally hard, which could potentially damage your dog’s chompers. Even if it doesn’t, it may be too tough for gnawing to be pleasurable, at which point, you’ve got a relatively expensive, bacon-flavored paperweight.
You may think buying an interactive dog toy is a mindless procedure: just buy one, see if your dog likes it, rinse, repeat…right? While there’s nothing wrong with that approach, it can be an expensive way to entertain your pooch — and buying Rover a bad toy could end up being harmful to his health.
So, with that in mind, what should you look for when buying a toy? Below are a few factors we think are important.
The last thing you want to do is hurt your pooch, so thoroughly inspect any toy before giving it to him. Make sure it’s not made using questionable ingredients; this includes any materials that could be harmful to him if swallowed, like wood or plastic. If it’s made of those materials, be sure it’s durable enough that parts won’t fall off, or else resign yourself to closely observing every time the toy is in play.
The toy’s country of origin should be considered as well, especially if it uses food-grade materials. Some Chinese-made toys aren’t subject to the same safety standards used in other parts of the world, and dogs have gotten sick from eating items from that country. We recommend sticking to products made in the USA.
While many interactive toys aren’t made to be chewed on, let’s face it — they will get chewed on. Unless you’re fanatical about picking up your pooch’s toys the second he’s finished with them, you’ll want to find one that’s capable of withstanding a chomp or two.
You want a toy that will last long enough to give you your money’s worth, but don’t get carried away. If a toy is too tough, it might damage your dog’s teeth, which is a much more expensive proposition than replacing a toy.
Degree of Difficulty
An interactive toy should be a challenge for your pup — but, just like with durability, you don’t want to go overboard here. If a toy is too confusing, your dog will probably just give up. You want to find a sweet spot between easy and flummoxing.
However, understand that your pup is smart, and eventually he’ll figure the thing out. Even the toughest puzzle loses some challenge after the first few times you do it, so don’t expect any interactive toy to work forever.
That means you must either cycle between several options or find one that can be used in multiple ways. For example, our top pick has compartments that can either slide or swivel open, so as soon as your dog figures out one way to operate it, you can switch to the other.
Ease of Cleaning
Many interactive toys are used with food, so you’ll want to clean them after a few weeks. Otherwise, the food inside could get moldy and make your dog sick — or make you sick if you accidentally get a good whiff.
Obviously, one that’s dishwasher-safe will be the most convenient, but hand washing is fine too, provided it’s straightforward enough. Just make sure there aren’t a bunch of hard-to-reach nooks and crannies, because you don’t want to have to spend thirty minutes scrubbing a dog puzzle.
After all, you’re buying these things to keep your dog busy, not you.
If you’re looking for an interactive toy to keep your dog entertained, we feel the Outward Hound 67338 Nina Ottoson Puzzle Toy is a can’t-miss option. It’s well made and offers varying levels of difficulty, so your dog shouldn’t be able to destroy or get bored with it too quickly.
If you’re looking for something a little less expensive that’s almost as good, we recommend giving the Pet Qwerks TBB3 Talking Babble Ball a shot. It makes a variety of sounds that will hold your pup’s attention, and it’s budget-friendly.
The reviews above represent our favorite interactive toys on the market, and we feel each one would be a welcome addition to your dog’s toy chest. We know there are a lot of different options, but we think you’ll find a winner on this list.
A word of warning, though: using these toys could make your dog too smart, and he could figure out how to train you to do exactly what he wants simply by cocking his ears, raising his eyebrows, or whimpering. What’s that you say? We’re too late…?
Featured image credit: Wisedom Dog Treat Ball IQ Interactive Food Dispensing Puzzle Toys for Dogs Chasing Chewing Playing, Amazon
Emily started this blog out of pure passion. She LOVES her 3 dogs; Chew Barka, Cooper & Nelson, and spends countless hours every day playing with them.
When she’s not nerding out on dogs, you’ll find her on a snowboard or in the kitchen baking chocolate brownies.
She’s been featured in PetAware, Dogtime, and ModernDog.
- A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
- The 10 Best Interactive Dog Toys
- 1. Outward Hound 67338 Puzzle Toy – Best Overall
- 2. Pet Qwerks TBB3 Talking Ball – Best Value
- 3. Tumbo LDBUNGEE Tugger Dog Toy – Premium Choice
- 4. StarMark SMBALS Bob-A-Lot Dog Toy
- 5. Wobble Wag Giggle Ball
- 6. SPOT Seek-A-Treat Bone Toy
- 7. KONG T2 Classic Dog Toy
- 8. ZippyPaws Food Buddies Burrow
- 9. Wisedom Dog Treat Ball
- 10. Bullibone Spinning Dog Chew Toys
- Buyer’s Guide
- Degree of Difficulty
- Ease of Cleaning