Previously, here at dogtrotting.net, we lamented that the blistering winter weather was keeping us housebound – not only off the roads so no travel fun, but in the house bracing the elements. What’s a dog to do?
Check out what you need to know about canine enrichment here. Now we turn attention to interactive dog toys.
This week, we’re checking out pet products – specifically interactive dog toys designed for canine enrichment. Or as I call it: How to keep your dog occupied inside on a winter day … or days depending how long it takes you to shovel out. Yes, our winter was that bad.
Fortunately, we had on hand a kit of dog toys accumulated from visiting various pet events throughout the year, including SuperZoo 2022 in Las Vegas where we had a preview of new pet industry trends. What trend topped our list? Interactive dog toys. From puzzles to toys-within-toys and vamped-up snuffle mats to tuff stuffies, no dog should remain bored this winter.
NOTE: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Affiliate links are indicated in italics.
Five Top Interactive Dog Toys to Amuse Your Housebound Pup
Dog Puzzles: Outward Hound and Others
Once I discovered puzzles for my pup, I’ve gone a little crazy buying them for her. Really, you only need one or two from different levels (yes, there are difficulty levels) to keep you dog occupied.
The idea of a dog puzzle (affiliate link) is that treats or kibble are hiding in compartments and dogs must figure out what to move or open to get the treat. It might not take long, but the brain energy spent figuring it out helps to tire puppy or at least slow her down a bit. (Mine is the latter).
Puzzles works with treats, but sometimes too many treats as activities or training tools aren’t great calorie-wise. Another use for puzzles is as a slow feeder – filling them with kibble from the daily allocation of regular food.
Review: Outward Hound Puzzles
Outward Hound makes durable puzzles, with pieces easy to move but hard to break. My dog loves level two but hasn’t mastered her level three puzzle yet. (No judging). ZippyPaws also makes several puzzles called Smarty Paws that involve sliding flat knobs to reveal treats.
The Outward Hound version my dog loves has flaps and knobs easy to move aside without the need for opposable thumbs. Puzzles don’t necessarily exhaust my dog, but they do distract her from other undesirable behaviour when she’s getting bored.
Dog Blocks: Brightkins Surprise Party!
Surprise Party! Treat puzzle for dog looks like bright plastic blocks but are really plastic BPA-free presents you fill with kibble or treats. Dogs remove the top of the ‘block’ or pull open the small drawers underneath to reveal their surprise prize. This interactive toy is from Brightkins, a company specializing in dog enrichment toys including two other treat puzzles: Cupcake Party and Spinning Hydrants.
This product my dog did not review, but I’m sure it works for some dogs, especially smaller breeds. My concern was the removable parts: in my dog’s mouth they’d become chew toys very quickly. However, I have read recently about a dog trained to bring the removable blocks to her dog mom to receive additional treats for her efforts after she finished the puzzle. If you’re a great trainer, this could be an option.
Snuffle Mats: Injoya and Interactive Dog Toys
So many snuffle mats are available now, and to think ten years ago, I didn’t know what they were. Snuffle mats have come a long way since we made our own tying strips of fleece to rubber sink mats (though that still works, and it is a great way to use up fleece strips after making so many hand-tied no-sew fleece pet blankets).
DYI is a possibility, and snuffle mats of any colour offers dogs an opportunity to participate in ‘nose work,’ or their instinct to sniff out desirable scents including treats buried between flaps of fabric. Also, snuffle mats make good slow feeders too.
Now, snuffle mats come in shapes and colours like a green avocado or yellow sunflower. Injoya newest themes include under the sea, more of a multi-activity mat similar to something a newborn human might crawl over. Plus, the fabrics used now vary from fleece fabrics upcycled from plastic water bottles to durable nylon strips for stronger diggers. Previously, dogtrotting.net featured the Injoya pizza mat (still a favourite), but the one with carrots hiding individual treat treasures is fun too.(affiliate link)
Toys Inside Toys: ZippyPaws
A noticeable trend in dog toys at SuperZoo 2022 is surprisingly fun: toys inside of toys. Take one larger stuffie toy and ‘stuff’ it with three other smaller toys. then watch your dog figure it all out. We love opening wrapped gifts with surprises inside; why wouldn’t they?
Several companies are offering the ‘toy inside the toy’ idea, but ZippyPaws’ line of ‘Burrows’ is particularly cute.
For instance, inside the plush Donutz box are three smaller doughnuts. Inside the shell are three pears. Inside the churro cone are three churro sticks … you get the idea. There are 28 different themes to choose from including a ramen bowl, Yeti Mountain, camper van, tackle boxy, and pizza box (yes, containing slices).(affiliate link)
Review: ZippyPaws Burrows
We’ve been a ZippyPaws fan for a while and love the donuts. But because Burrows are plush, they do rip apart, though not as fast as some brands. My dog was less interesting in the small toys inside (those became cat toys) and more interested in ripping apart the outer bigger stuffie.
Tuff Stuffies: tender-tuffs by Smart Pet Love
Yes, a great interactive toy for most dogs – especially high-energy puppies like mine – is the stuffed toy. However, we all know stuffed dog toys – or stuffies – don’t last long. If there’s a squeaker inside, the goal of any canine worth their kibble is to rip it out as fast as possible. Then you’re left spending the evening picking up tuffs of stuffing from the living room floor.
Enter Smart Pet Love’s tender-tuffs: interactive stuffed dog toys featuring TearBlok technology. What does that mean? Tender-tuffs look like stuffed toys, they squeak like stuffed toys, but they don’t rip appear like stuffed toys. Designed for tough play with a puncture resistant squeaker, these toys last long, and in 2022 the company launched it’s ‘under the sea’ line – plenty of cute fish friends for Fido.
Review: tender tuffs
We tried the product on for size after receiving samples from the company, and I’d like to say I got a great photo of my spaniel playing with her ‘Purple Large’ grouper tender-tuff fetch toy (affiliate link), but I didn’t – she excitedly grabbed it and ran. Then she spent at least an hour trying – unsuccessfully – to shake, rattle, and rip it apart. She loved it. And I loved the time it occupied her indoors on a winter’s day (long enough to edit this post).
Writer bio: Sherri Telenko has been a professional writer for decades and travel writer for the last two. She’s a member of TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada) and Dog Writers Association of America, and travels almost weekly with her canine companion, Victoria.