Do you have an active dog who’s always getting into mischief? One solution to keep your dog out of trouble is to keep your dog busy with enrichment toys. In this article I’ll list what I think are the best enrichment toys for dogs.
What are enrichment toys?
As the name suggests, enrichment toys are designed to provide enrichment. Enrichment is defined at vocabulary.com as “making something more meaningful, substantial or rewarding. Enrichment improves something”.
Thus, by giving your dog an enrichment toy will make your dog’s daily life experience more interesting and fun. This in turn will tire your dog out and as I’ve I said before, a tired dog is a happy dog.
Daily enrichment can be provided for example by taking your dog for a walk in a new area or teaching your dog a new trick. A simple way to provide enrichment is to make easy-to-do enrichment toys yourself or purchasing an enrichment toy from a pet shop or online.
Below I’ve listed my favorite ideas for enrichment toys.
DIY toilet roll bonbon
If you want to save some money, the DIY toilet roll bonbon is a great enrichment toy that you can easily make yourself. The steps are simple:
Step 1: Get yourself a toilet roll (the empty cardboard filling that is)
Step 2. Fill the toilet roll with your dog’s dry food or other yummy treats
Step 3. Wrap the toilet roll with paper and close the ends by twisting the paper (pictured). You can use cheap paper such as newspaper, it doesn’t have to be the fancy white paper as in the picture.
Step 4: Give the bonbon to your dog and let them figure out how to get the treats out!
This is a great cheap way to keep your dog busy for a little while, but be prepared to clean up some shredded paper after your dog is done with the toy.
Also note: this toy might not be suitable for dogs that tend to eat paper and cardboard. While it is fine to eat some paper or cardboard, eating a whole sheet of paper or a whole cardboard toilet roll might not be good for your dog’s tummy.
For all other dogs, enjoy the unwrapping!
The classic KONG
The KONG company makes excellent enrichment toys for dog. I’ve previously written a review of the KONG Wobbler, which you can access here.
There are a wide variety of KONG toys available and many of them have the same idea: fill them with treats and let your dog figure out how to get the treats out. As there are too many KONG toys to list in this article, I’ll just introduce the classic KONG.
The classic KONG is a hollow cone shaped toy made from rubber and similar to the KONG Wobbler, you fill it with your dog’s treats or with your dog’s normal daily food to deliver your dog its meal.The classic KONG is an excellent way to keep your dog busy for a good half an hour depending on what you use to fill the KONG with.
I feed my puppy his breakfast using the classic KONG. What I do is I soak my puppy’s dry kibble in water so that the kibble absorbs the water. You can also use chicken broth for this purpose, but make sure it contains no salt. I then fill the KONG with the wet kibble and freeze the KONG overnight. The next morning I give my puppy the frozen KONG and he’ll lick it and bite to get the food out. This usually keeps him busy for at least half an hour.
To make the KONG extra tasty, you can mix in a bit of wet food if it is part of your dog’s diet. I sometimes add in a bit of peanut butter for extra yummy flavor.
Note: if you are planning to give your dog peanut butter, make sure it’s dog friendly and doesn’t contain any added sugar or unnecessary preservatives. Also as peanut butter is quite fatty, it shouldn’t be given every day, but rather as a special treat.
Dog puzzles are essentially problem solving toys for dogs. The idea behind these toys is the same: you hide treats inside the puzzle and your dog has to figure out how to get the treats out by moving, tilting or shifting different parts of the puzzle.
These toys are a fantastic way to make your dog “puzzled” as they try to figure out how to get the treats out and this can keep your dog stimulated for a long time. There are countless of puzzle options available ranging from very basic ones to high tech automated ones.
If you’re considering getting a dog puzzle, you might want to consider starting off with a relatively cheap and simple one to find out if your dog likes to play with puzzles in general. You can later on upgrade to more advanced ones.
As a slight negative side, most dogs eventually learn how the puzzle works, meaning it won’t be much of a puzzle anymore and you’ll have to invest in a new puzzle to provide enrichment for your dog. Thus, it is a good idea to invest in a puzzle toy that has multiple puzzle variations in it.
This toy pictured below from amazon.com is a good example of a puzzle toy that provides multiple ways of using the toy. The bricks contained in it can be lifted, slid or opened, thus you can hide treats in it in different ways for continued stimulation.
I recently heard about the snuffle mat through a friend who bought a snuffle mat for her dog that suffers from separation anxiety. I had never heard about the snuffle mat before and when I saw my friend’s one, I thought it was a fantastic idea.
You can make a snuffle mat yourself, for which you only need a rubber mat with holes and a ton of fleece or other thick and soft fabric cut into strips. But if you want to save yourself some time, you can purchase a pre-made one online.
The basic idea behind a snuffle mat is that it exploits the fact that dogs love to sniff and snuffle. A snuffle mat consists of a base to which strips of fleece (or other fabric) are attached by knotting them on the board. To use the snuffle mat you simply scatter your dog’s food all around the snuffle mat and your dog’s job is to find all the food. Because of the fleece strips, the food will fall in between the strips and trying to find all the missing food will keep your dog busy for a good time.
Note: as with the toilet roll bonbon, if your dog is into eating fabric, the snuffle mat is not ideal (speaking from experience as a beagle cross owner).
DIY milk bottle treat
The milk bottle treat is another great and cost-effective way to make an enrichment toy yourself. You only need a plastic milk bottle and some dry treats. Simply fill the milk bottle with a some treats (pictured) and give it to your dog. Your dog will then push around the milk bottle trying to get the treats out.
One way of making the milk bottle treat even more exciting is to smear some peanut butter on the mouth of the milk bottle for some extra taste.
Note: as with the toilet roll bonbon, the milk bottle treat is not suitable for dogs that tend to break and eat the plastic. I’ve seen Staffies and other strong jawed dogs tear plastic milk bottles into pieces. As long as the dog doesn’t eat the plastic, it is fine, but if you suspect your dog might eat it, it is better not to give your dog a milk bottle treat.
Do you know of any other great enrichment toys?
I hope this article gave you some ideas on how to enrich your pup’s life. I’d love to hear if you know of any other great enrichment toys, especially DIY ones.
For any feedback or comments, you can leave a message below 🙂
To many happy barks & walks,