Enrichment toys for dogs have become a modern-day necessity for the average pet parent. Most of us would love nothing more than to stay home and play with our dogs, but the demands of work, school, and daily life mean most dogs have to spend many hours alone.
Even the most committed stay-at-home pawrent has to occasionally crate their puppy or leave their dog at home while they run errands. This is where dog enrichment toys become vital for our peace of mind. Let’s look at why interactive dog toys are key to happy dogs and list our top enrichment picks to keep our pups having fun.
Why our dogs need enrichment toys
They’re essential for our dogs’ well-being
Enrichment toys do exactly as their name suggests; they enrich our dogs’ lives. In fact, studies confirm that enrichment toys enhance a dog’s welfare and quality of life and suggest that dogs should have a variety of toys to pique their interest.
Interactive toys stimulate a dog’s natural impulses to chew, gnaw, chase, and forage. They also keep their minds busy with the opportunity to solve problems in exchange for a reward. Not only do puzzle toys give your dog’s brain a workout, but they also allow your dog a positive sense of achievement.
Like humans, being able to solve problems and being rewarded for it is good for a dog’s overall mental well-being.
They prevent unwanted behaviours
The major reason we want to keep our dogs mentally stimulated is to channel them away from unwanted behaviours. While exercise, playtime, socialisation, and training are all key to a well-behaved dog, we can’t hover over our dogs all day to ensure they don’t fall into nuisance behaviours like digging, excessive barking, or eating our favourite pair of shoes.
Making sure our dogs have puzzle toys, chew toys, and other high-value items simply keeps them busy and provides them with a positive outlet. In other words, preventing our dogs from being bored is the number one way we keep our shoes intact.
They help prevent separation anxiety
Another reason that we can never have enough toys to keep our dogs busy is that it helps our velcro puppies who grow anxious about being alone. After all, not all problem behaviour is rooted in boredom. Dogs that suffer from anxiety and stress may resort to:
- Urinating or defecating in the house
- Excessive barking
- Fear-related aggression
- Destructive chewing
Some dogs can even injure themselves trying to escape when they are left alone or affected by loud noises or other stressors. This is why having toys ready to teach our dogs that being alone can be fun and to distract them during stressful events like thunderstorms is so crucial.
The 5 best dog enrichment toys we recommend
Luckily, interactive toys that stimulate a dog’s mind are plentiful on the internet and easy to have delivered to your door. Online stores like Pet Chemist and Waggly have fantastic ranges to pick from.
But in case you’re not sure what to get your canine, we’ve put together a small list of five doggy enrichment essentials.
1. The KONG
No doggy toy box is complete without a KONG. The classic KONG remains one of the dog trainers’ and behaviourists’ favourite tools to keep our pups busy and engaged in their environment.
Kongs can be filled with treats, but a pro tip is to fill them with their dog’s dinner and a bit of broth and throw them in the freezer during summer. This makes feeding time a far more interactive experience and is great for soothing the gums of teething pups.
We love slow feeders that utilise our dog’s problem-solving skills. Not only does this puzzle toy slow our grub guzzlers down when they eat but it provides them with plenty of mental stimulation and reward.
This toy has different difficulty settings, making it suitable for dogs of all ages, and a non-slip base to keep it still while your dog puts their mind to the task of getting those treats!
The KONG Gyro is by far one of the most interesting toys to hold an active and inquisitive dog’s attention. The spinning orb in the centre holds treats, and dogs need to paw, nudge, roll, or push the toy to get their reward.
It’s a great way to get a break while your dog plays independently. It also provides that essential mental stimulation that keeps dogs occupied to ease separation anxiety and boredom.
If you have a chomper who loves to gnaw and chew, we suggest the Bone Nylon Trio Bacon Chew. Made from nylon, it won’t damage your dog’s teeth, but the flavour will ensure that they get just as much joy from it as from a real bone.
The tough core in this toy is ideal for even the strongest of jaws, and it has the added benefit of doing some dental cleaning while your dog is chewing.
A great enrichment toy is all about appealing to your pup’s curiosity, and testing their problem solving skills. The SmartyPaws Sunflower Puzzler has three tiers that, when rotated, reveal the goodies hidden inside!
Help entertain and reduce boredom, giving them a challenge and ultimately a sense of accomplishment. Perfect for small treats or even kibble, to help slow down feeding time!
Enrichment toys for dogs are not just a treat; they’re essential for dogs who need to spend time crated or hours alone at home. In general, they enhance canine well-being by stimulating their environment and channelling their natural instincts.
Whether it’s a KONG or puzzle toy, having a collection of different toys prevents your pup from getting bored of just one. Remember, providing our dogs with positive and interactive ways of problem-solving, foraging, or chewing is best to help soothe anxiety and prevent unwanted behaviours.