The 6 Best Mental Stimulation Toys for Dogs

Best Mental Stimulation Toys for Dogs

Mental stimulation wards off stress, boredom, and anxiety, which is essential for a dog’s overall happiness. That’s definitely something you’d want for your dog. And that’s exactly what mental stimulation toys offer.

Best mental stimulation toys for dogs

With so many options out there, we’ve rounded up the six best mental stimulation toys available, so you can discover the joy and relief of having a mentally stimulated dog:

1. Kong Classic Toy

The Kong classic (view on Amazon) is a very popular mental stimulation toy and for all the right reasons. This snowman-shaped rubber toy serves double duty: it acts as an entertaining treat-dispensing toy and a highly durable chew toy for aggressive chewers or dogs struggling with anxiety.

The Kong classic puts your dog’s mind to work as they figure out how to obtain every piece of the stuffed goodie. 

This toy has a hollow cavity where you simply stuff the dog treat, hand the Kong to your dog, and watch them get busy for hours on end! 

From peanut butter to canned dog food, mashed bananas, and plain pumpkin, the list of things you can use to fill up the Kong is endless. 

By the time your dog is done getting all that yummy stuff hidden in the Kong, they’ll be too mentally exhausted to cause a fracas.

In addition to its highly durable material, the Kong classic is also easy to clean. You can toss it in the dishwasher or handwash it by soaking it in hot, soapy water.   

Handy Hint: No mental stimulation toy — even the toughest ones like the Kong — is completely indestructible. Always keep an eye on your dog as they use the Kong classic (or any other mentally stimulating toy for dogs). They can choke if they ingest a detached piece of the toy.

Also, remember to replace the Kong when you notice any wear and tear. 

2. Hide-A-Squirrel Dog Puzzle Toy

Dogs love to tap on their preying instincts. The hide-a-squirrel puzzle toy (view on Amazon) is designed to awaken your dog’s natural hunting instincts. This mental stimulation toy for dogs comes as a soft tree trunk (with holes) together with small, squeaky, plush squirrels. 

You simply hide the squirrels in the trunk’s holes and throw the trunk to your dog — they will burrow their paw and gnaw at the stuffed squirrels until they finally retrieve them one by one! 

This toy can keep your dog engaged for hours as they try to solve the “missing squirrels” mystery. Talk of hours of mental enrichment! 

For extra motivation, you can toss in a few kibble pieces in the trunk so they can fall out as your dog tries to pull his newly found plush friends. 

The hide-a-squirrel-toy is available in different sizes. You can get your dog one that’s big or small enough for them.

3. Hide N’ Slide Puzzle Toy

Want a toy that will grab your dog’s attention for long and activate their dormant problem-solving skills? A hide n’ slide puzzle toy (view on Amazon) will do. This mental stimulation toy presents dogs with a certain level of difficulty — a fun one, of course.  

It’s suitable for any dog and is designed to make your dog figure out the secret behind the puzzle. Fitted with circular compartments to hide kibble and other tasty treats, your dog will have a blast each time they play with it.  

They will need to slide the tightly fitted knobs and twist the small doors to unlock the compartments and find the treat. This toy has a non-slip base, so it will remain in its position as your dog gets busy with it. 

Your dog may not immediately understand how the puzzle work, that’s why it’s often recommended to guide your dog as they use this hide n’ slide puzzle toy for the first time. But once they understand what they need to slide and twist, they will be hooked!

This toy has a “pure wood” look. But it’s made of a uniquely durable wood-plastic composite material. The hide n’ slide puzzle toy is also easy to clean — you simply hand wash it in warm, soapy water.

4. Wobble Bowl Treat Puzzle Toy

Another fantastic mental stimulation toy for dogs is the wobble bowl treat puzzle toy (view on Amazon). This toy, suitable for all dogs, is fitted with a maze-like feature inside. The treat pieces you scatter in the bowl will move along the maze. 

Your dog must push the bowl back and forth (with their paw or nose) until the treat falls through the dispensing holes on the sides. This sturdy puzzle toy has a non-slip rubber bottom to ensure it doesn’t skid off as your dog paws at it.  

The wobble bowl puzzle toy will keep your dog guessing which side the treat will fall from, when it will fall out and how to make it fall out much quicker— mental exercise couldn’t get any better!  

The transparent lid will motivate your dog to stay engaged and get all the treat pieces they see in the bowl. 

This puzzle toy is also easy to clean. You only need to hand wash it with warm, soapy water, let it air dry, and Tada! It will be ready for your dog’s next puzzle adventure!

5. Snuffle Mat

Dogs are naturally food-driven and will do anything to find a treat — even if it means spending hours sniffing and searching for pieces of kibble trapped in a mat. And that’s where the snuffle mat (view on Amazon) shines. Think of it as your dog’s treasure hunt mat. 

A snuffle mat is an interactive toy designed to mimic lush grass, which often awakens a dog’s foraging instincts. Your dog will burrow their snout on the snuffle mat like there’s no tomorrow!

It’s made of densely packed thick strands of soft-yet-durable material, between which you can hide tiny treat pieces. The fabric isn’t abrasive to a dog’s nose.

By encouraging your dog to keenly use their powerful sense of smell to sniff out the treat crumbles, this easy-to-use mat will keep your dog’s brain active for a while. 

Remember, your dog’s nose and brain work hand in hand to analyze scents. As your dog put’s their sniffing powers to use, this will tire them out mentally.  

The mat is machine washable. But it helps to air dry it afterwards to keep funny odors away and prolong it’s lifespan. It’s also easy to store the snuffle mat since all that’s needed is to fold it. 

Dog Brick Interactive Treat Puzzle Toy

The dog brick puzzle toy (view on Amazon) will bring out the genius side of your dog you never knew existed. It has several compartments where you can hide your dog’s treats for them to find. Your dog has to flip, slide or lift the lid in a particular compartment to get their treat reward. 

From the sound of it, you can already tell it’s a toy your dog will be glued to for a while as they put their problem-solving skills to use. 

It only takes a little guidance from you to help your dog master the basic idea of how to kickstart their treat-hunting mission on the dog brick toy.  

This highly entertaining puzzle toy is great for dogs of all ages, sizes, and abilities. It’s made of durable, food-safe plastic, easy to wash up, allows you to adjust the level of challenge, and can accommodate both wet and try treats. 

Final thought…

Are you among the many dog owners who believe you must physically tire out your beloved dog to enjoy peace at home? And by peace, I mean a dog who’s not running around chewing stuff, barking endlessly, digging unsightly holes in the yard, and all that crazy stuff? 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but physical exercise alone doesn’t cut it.

If mental stimulation isn’t part of your dog’s daily routine just as physical activity is, chances are, you’ll witness their destructive side a little too often.

Mental stimulation helps a dog release pent-up energy. The icing on the cake? It sharpens their cognitive abilities and improves their mental health.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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