Top 4 Stimulating Dog Toys: Expert Recommendations

Top 4 Stimulating Dog Toys: Expert Recommendations

If your dog is bouncing off the walls, it might be time for you to help them burn off that excess energy with some stimulating dog toys. While a tired dog is a good dog (usually), a bored dog can be a little more mischievous! 

With so many different options out there, it can be hard to know where to start! We're here to help you figure out exactly which stimulating toy your dog will enjoy the most, from classic treat dispensers to interactive dog toys. We'll help you find the perfect toy to keep your pup entertained for hours.


Benefits of Stimulating Dog Toys

Just like us, dogs need mental stimulation to stay happy. Beyond just keeping them occupied, stimulating dog toys offer several other benefits, too. 

Let’s explore why these engaging toys will benefit your dog’s playtime.


Bye Bye Boredom 👋

A bored dog can often spell: t-r-o-u-b-l-e! When left without anything to do, under-stimulated dogs try to create their own ways to stay busy. As Aryel Lafleur, a veterinarian technician explained, boredom can lead to various behavioral problems, including anxiety, destructive behavior, and excessive vocalization.

Stimulating dog toys provide a fun outlet for your dog to challenge their mind and expend energy. Keeping your dog mentally engaged helps prevent boredom from stirring up undesirable habits. 

Dogs are at their best when there are several engaging activities available.


Boosting Brain Power 🧠

Mental stimulation is vital for your dog’s wellbeing beyond just physical exercise. Stimulating toys can challenge your dog’s thinking skills, helping improve their problem-solving abilities and cognitive function. 

Think of it like a mental workout for your dog. This benefit may be particularly useful for senior dogs, who often have some decline in mental capacity. 

Strengthening Your Bond 💪

Many stimulating toys allow you to play with your dog. Playtime strengthens the bonds between you and your pup.

Types of Stimulating Dog Toys

Now that you know why having stimulating dog toys is beneficial, let’s explore the many types of stimulating dog toys you can choose from.

Interactive Puzzles 🧩

Interactive puzzles require your dog to use problem-solving skills to uncover treats or kibble. These mentally stimulating toys come in many different difficulty levels and sizes. 

They can help keep your dog engaged for a long time, especially if you choose something challenging. 

There are many subcategories of interactive puzzles, too, including:

  • Slide puzzles: These puzzles have open compartments to reveal hidden treats. 
  • Level puzzles: These require your dog to complete several different tasks, like lifting levers or turning knobs, to access the reward. 
  • Maze puzzles: These puzzles require your dog to “navigate” a maze with their nose, sometimes pushing a box along the path to the end. 

Interactive toys are a great way to keep your dog entertained for an extended period when you can’t engage with them. 

Treat-Dispensing Toys 🍬

Treat-dispensing toys are very similar to puzzle toys but are often simpler. As your dog plays with the toy, more treats are released, encouraging your dog to play more

These toys are great for dogs who tend to eat too fast, as they can slow their eating speed. They may also encourage exercise, especially if the dog requires more movement to release the treats. 

Treat-dispensing toys are versatile options that can be used for playtime, training, or even keeping your dog entertained while you have to pop to the store.

Chew Toys 🍖

Chewing is a very natural behavior for dogs. It’s important for helping your dog’s teeth remain clean, and it’s a natural stress relief for dogs. 

Stimulating dog chew toys take this a step further to help make chewing more engaging and challenging. 

Often, stimulating chew toys have hidden compartments where you can hide treats and kibble. These added treats can help encourage chewing sessions. Others have bumps and textures that help massage your dog’s gums. Some chew toys are even flavored with bacon and peanut butter, making them even more interesting for your dog. Others are designed to be gripped like a bone and loaded with treats.

Fetch Toys 🎾

Many dogs love fetch, but some toys make it extra-stimulating. Look for fetch toys that aren’t just your usual tennis ball. For instance, balls with erratic bounces are often a bit harder for dogs to catch so they can provide some extra stimulation. 

Water-fetch toys are also great. Swimming and fetching can be more challenging for dogs than just fetching on dry land. 


Factors to Consider When Choosing Stimulating Toys

With so many stimulating dog toys available, choosing the right one for your dog can feel overwhelming! 

But don’t worry; there are only a few factors you need to keep in mind:

Dog size: Different toys are made for differently-sized dogs. Aryel recommends choosing “a size slightly larger than smaller to prevent choking hazards.”

Age: Teething puppies tend to chew more than other dogs. But their skills are still developing, so Aryel recommends “lighter toys with larger holes to accommodate their developing skills.” Adult dogs often do well with various toys, but their cognitive abilities may decrease as they age so they may need an easier puzzle toy as they get older.

Play Style: Active dogs often need toys that challenge them mentally and physically. Look for fetch toys with erratic bounces and random movements. Interactive puzzle toys that focus on problem-solving are a great option for calmer dogs.

Chewing Habits: If your dog is an aggressive chewer, prioritize durable toys that can stand up to their strong jaws! For moderate chewers, you may not need to prioritize durability quite as much. For the dogs who don’t have any interest in chewing, a fetch toy may be more entertaining for them.

Dogs tend to be happiest when they have several different varieties of toys. When in doubt, choose a few toys that are very different from each other and cycle them in and out so your dog doesn’t get bored with them all at once.  


Top Picks: Expert Recommendations

Based on these factors, Aryel shares a few of the best interactive dog toys she recommends to keep your dog stimulated and entertained.


1. Earth Rated Enrichment Toy

Earth Rated’s Enrichment Toy is a versatile snack toy with several functions. Made from natural rubber, you can stuff the toy with wet or dry treats to keep your pup entertained for extended periods. 

We highly recommend this toy for dogs who love to gnaw and need an outlet for their chewing. The natural rubber is gentle on their gums but the real star of this toy is its functionality as a snack holder. You can stuff the inner cavity with your dog’s favorite treats, turning playtime into a mental challenge, too. The toy is also designed to be gripped and held like a bone - an instinctual motion for your pup!

This toy is a great way to keep your dog busy for a while. Aryel uses them during her reactive dog classes, where the toys help “keep their dogs engaged and settled down” so the owner can better pay attention to the class. 

Compared to traditional chew toys, this Earth Rated option offers an additional layer of enrichment. While it may not be as complex as some puzzle toys, the snack-holding feature stimulates dogs' minds while they chew.


2. Earth Rated Fly Toy

The Earth Rated Fly Toy is another great option that focuses more on physical activity than chewing. It’s a brightly colored flying disc designed for active dogs who love to play fetch. It’s made from lightweight TPE, which allows it to float and makes it very gentle in your dog’s mouth during retrieval—unlike some heavier frisbees that can scrape gums and teeth. 


Because it’s so lightweight, this fly toy works well for puppies and smaller dogs. 

What Aryel loves about this fly toy is its versatility. It also floats in water, making it ideal for playing fetch in pools or lakes. Plus, it’s dishwasher safe, making cleaning it easier than other toys.

We don’t recommend this toy for aggressive chewers. It’s made of softer material, which is less durable against persistent gnawing. 


3. Earth Rated Treat Toy

For dogs that are food-motivated, the Earth Rated Treat Toy is an interactive treat ball that helps keep dogs mentally stimulated. It’s made of natural rubber and wobbles and rolls in unpredictable ways. It has an inner compartment where you can add treats, which are released as the toy moves. 

If you have an easily bored dog, this engaging toy is the one for you.

This Earth Rated Treat Toy promotes a very active play experience compared to traditional treat-dispensing puzzles. The wobble design encourages problem-solving and movement, which keeps energetic dogs stimulated. It’s also a very helpful tool for slowing down fast eaters, as it makes the dog work for their food. 


4. Earth Rated Fetch Toy

Earth Rated’s Fetch Toy isn’t like your average ball. It’s made in a unique bubble knot shape that creates an unpredictable bounce, keeping your dog entertained and interested. Because your dog has no idea where the toy will go, it keeps them guessing. 

The natural rubber construction is very durable, even for the most enthusiastic fetchers. It’s also very gentle on your dog’s mouth, which can be a problem with some fetch toys. We also love the high-visibility yellow, which makes it easy to find this toy in tall grass or water. 

Unlike many other toys, the Earth Rated Fetch Toy is dishwasher safe which means you don’t have to soak it for hours to get it clean.

While there are many fetch toys available, this one provides a unique twist on the classic ball design. 

DIY Stimulating Toys

If you have some spare time on your hands, you can even create your own stimulating toys. 

“Training sessions, teaching new tricks, scavenger hunts for food around the house, and controlled games of fetch are all excellent ways to keep your dog's mind sharp and engaged,” explains Aryel. 

Here are some quick enrichment toys you can make at home:

  • Sniff-And-Find: Cut up some old fabric into squares. Place treats inside the squares and tie them up with ribbons. The resulting fabric bundles become puzzle toys that challenge your dog’s sniffing skills. Hide them around the house and let your pup find them.
  • Homemade Tug-of-War: If your dog loves to play tug, you can skip the store-bought ropes by braiding old shirts or fleece blankets into a thick rope. This heavy-duty tug toy is gentle on your dog’s teeth and provides a familiar scent and texture for added fun!
  • Tennis Ball Feeder: Cut a slit in a used tennis ball and stuff it with kibble or treats. The treats should gradually dispense as your dog rolls and chews on the ball, functioning like a store-bought slow feeder.

Use these ideas as a springboard to create your very own creations. Many household items can be transformed into stimulating toys when you let the creative juices flow! 

Safety Tips for Using Stimulating Toys

Keeping your dog entertained has many benefits, but it’s important to prioritize your dog’s safety. Stimulating toys provide fantastic mental and physical exercise for your dog, but they can also cause harm if not properly monitored.

Toys can break and become choking hazards very quickly, and you don’t want your dog eating something they can’t digest. 

It’s a good idea to regularly inspect your dog’s toys for signs of wear and tear. Look for cracks or weak spots that may be about to break. Discard any potentially dangerous toys. 


Final Thoughts

Stimulating dog toys can keep dogs entertained for hours. These toys require your dog to use their minds to solve problems and reveal delicious treats. From puzzles with levers to toys with hidden compartments, simulating toys take classic dog toys to a whole new level.

Elevate your dog's playtime and mental stimulation with our Earth Rated stimulating dog toys, designed to keep them engaged and happy. Perfect for promoting calm and preventing boredom.



How do you mentally stimulate a dog?

To mentally stimulate a dog you can provide them with stimulating dog toys. These toys require your dog to use their mental skills to interact with the toy. The cognitive function required to release treats or catch the toy is what stimulates a dog’s mind. 


What is the best way to clean a dog toy?

It depends on the toy! Earth Rated toys have been tested and are top-rack dishwasher safe. We recommend putting them in the dishwasher for a quick and easy clean. Alternatively, a quick soak and scrub in a sink works great too. If cleaning by hand we recommend a bottle brush for any hard to clean areas.

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