Best Dog Toys – Interactive Food Toys

A busy dog is a good dog.

One of the best ways to keep a dog engaged and out of mischief, is by investing in some fun dog toys. Remember though, that expensive dog toys do not necessarily mean that they are good, safe, or fun.

Before getting a toy for my dog, I always do some research to make sure it is safe and durable.

Always supervise a dog when he gets a new toy.

Consult with a vet if there are any safety concerns.

The best dog toys are the ones that will capture our dog’s interest, and exercise his mind.

My dogs love playing most with their interactive food toys.

Food is a prime motivator for my dogs. It not only encourages them to play with the toy for a longer period of time, but also put in the extra effort to figure out how it works. They love trying different push, bite, and roll strategies, to find the fastest, most efficient way to get at the food. They return to the toy time and again, because there may be more rewards in there, waiting to be found.

Here are a list of interactive food toys that work well with my dogs (a Shiba Inu and a Siberian Husky). Note that the following descriptions are only based on my own experiences. Different dogs have different temperaments, and will respond differently to a dog toy.

1. Hol-ee Roller Ball

These balls are great and safe for the teeth. All we have to do is get some hard dog biscuits, and stuff them into the ball.

There are two versions of the Hol-ee Roller Ball – the regular ball which has thinner rubber joints, and the Extreme-Ball which has thick rubber joints (shown in the picture to the right). I much prefer the extreme version because it is more challenging, as well as more durable.

Originally, I filled this dog toy with Large Innova Health Bars, which worked very well. However, I stopped using them after getting my Siberian Husky, because she is allergic to oatmeal. Instead, I am currently using Baa-Baa-Q’s lamb lung.

Note – There was a voluntary recall of Innova products on March 2013.

2. Kong Rubber Toys

Kong rubber toys are tough and safe for most dogs.


I usually put canned dog food into a Kong Classic rubber toy, and then freeze it. This is a fun way to occupy my dog, especially when he is in his crate.

Sometimes, I further entice my dog by dropping in some cheese or sardines, before putting in the canned food. This provides the extra umph that gets him to work through the Kong.

Some other fun Kong toys are the Kong Dental Stick and the Kong Jump’n Jack. I stuff kibble or boiled chicken into the grooves of these two toys, and let my dogs chew on them.

We can also use Kong Stuff ‘N Paste, but I personally would not recommend it. The Kong paste frequently makes a mess all over the floor, and is not made from particularly good ingredients.

3. Premier Busy Buddy Collection

My dogs like many of the Premier Busy Buddy interactive food toys. However, note that in 2010, Premier was sold to Radio Systems Corporation (Petsafe), which is a leading manufacturer of electronic collars, invisible fences, and other pain based training equipment. As a result, some trainers and owners now choose to avoid Premier products.

 


The Twist and Treat is a good one to start with. Simply untwist the dog toy, put kibble inside, then twist the cover back on. At first, do not twist the cover on too tightly. In this way, our dog gets rewarded well for playing with the toy. Once he gains some experience, we can start tightening the lid more.

CAUTION: My Shiba Inu was able to tear off chunks from this toy when it was left with him unsupervised. Luckily, he just likes shredding and does not eat the shredded bits. It is best to take this toy away, once our dog is done with getting all the kibble out.

The Squirrel Dude is another fun dog toy that we can fill with kibble or other treats. If our dog has trouble getting the food out, we can cut off some of the rubber tabs at the bottom of the toy.

I have a full 4 tabbed Squirrel Dude, which I fill with little pieces of kibble. I also have a 3 tabbed Squirrel Dude that I fill with kibble and some larger, higher priority treats, e.g. freeze dried liver treats.

The most interesting one in the group is the Tug-a-Jug . I think it is hardest to get food out of this toy, so my Shiba Inu will only work on it when he is bored or really hungry, and does not have access to other food toys. My Siberian Husky, however, seems to really enjoy this one.

Initially, I unscrew the cover from the bottom of the jug, and fill it up with a good amount of kibble (over half full). This ensures that my dog is amply rewarded for playing with the toy. After he gains some experience, I slowly reduce the amount of kibble in the jug. It is difficult to get the last bits of kibble out, so I add more before the jug becomes too empty.

4. Buster Cube

In the beginning, I put the Buster Cube setting to maximum, so that my dog will be motivated to play with it. As my dog learns how the toy works, I slowly decrease the cube setting to make it more challenging.

When filling the cube, make sure all the kibble goes into the holes around the central column. Otherwise, the kibble will just collect at the bottom of the column. Then, when the Cube gets rolled, all the collected kibble will come out at once.

The Buster Cube does not work well on slippery, hard, surfaces (e.g. tile floors, wooden floors), because it will only slide on the floor, rather than roll. As a result, no food will come out. I use the Cube on carpeted surfaces and the backyard.

5. Rhino Stuff & Chew

This nice rubber chew ball has chambers all around, that we may fill with food. It is most effective to use wet food, such as sardines, or boiled chicken. Sardines work really well with my Shiba, and he is extremely motivated to get it all out.

I normally give him one of these at night, for going into his crate. I also give him a Greenie to help clean his teeth.

6. Nylabone Crazy Ball

The Nylabone Crazy Ball has a ball within a ball. It is easy to fill with dry dog treats, and the design is such that the food does not come out too quickly.

The Crazy Ball comes with a small box of treats that are properly sized for the toy, but they are no longer sold separately. As an alternative, I fill the Crazy Ball with other brands of dog biscuits. I break the treats into two or three appropriately sized pieces, and they work pretty well with the toy.

One issue with this food ball, is that it is made of hard plastic and can be rather noisy, especially on hard wooden floors. You may want to stay away from this one if you live in an apartment, and have neighbors downstairs.

7. Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball

The Omega Treat Ball is a great kibble ball. It is easy to fill with kibble, and the ball only releases a few pieces of food at a time. As a result, this toy engages my Shiba for a good amount of time.

If you are looking for more ideas, here is a list of other fun dog toys including chew toys, tug toys, balls, frisbees, and homemade toys.

Cheap Dog Toys

I have found many good deals on Amazon by looking through their discount dog toys. Here are some 50%-70% discount dog toys at Amazon. If you want to do this yourself, here are the steps.

For this to work well, you may want to join Amazon Prime to save on shipping and handling costs.

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Comments

  1. Katie says

    Thanks so much for this! I have a Shiba and a Malamute and have been looking for some toys to keep them busy now that my husband and I both work outside the home. I’ve been feeling bad because they seem so bored when we’re gone, but hopefully some of these toys will help!

  2. Anonymous says

    How long can a toy poodle hold it’s pee or poop? My dad will not install a dog door and no one can stay at home to let it out so I’m very worried that it will urinate around the house or on our new couch.

    • shibashake says

      How long is your puppy going to be left alone every day? What will your dog’s daily routine be like?

      Small dogs have small bladders. People often don’t realize that their tiny pets may need to go out more frequently than their larger counterparts, especially as puppies. Take your small dog out often, and watch for circling or sniffing the floor. These signs often mean that it’s time for a trip outside. Interestingly, though small dogs are more often cold than hot, many of them will also start panting when they need to go out.
      ~~[ASPCA]

      Age *Maximum* time in crate
      8–10 weeks 30–60 minutes
      11–14 weeks 1–3 hours
      15–16 weeks 3–4 hours
      17+ weeks 4–5 hours
      ~~[ASPCA]

      A puppy does not know that he needs to go outside to potty, so it is up to us to teach him what our human rules are. Potty training requires time and supervision. Smaller dogs may need to potty more frequently, so greater supervision may be needed.

      In addition, a new puppy will require a lot of training, supervision, and socialization, so that he grows up to be confident and balanced. An adult dog still requires good daily exercise and the company of his people.

      I enjoy being with my dogs very much, but they are a big time commitment.

  3. Tracey says

    I have a question regarding the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball. I’ve been feeding my dog out of one for years and it suddenly occurred to me that the plastic may not be a good choice for him to eat out of. Does anyone know if its BHPA free etc.?
    Thank you.
    Tracey

    • shibashake says

      That depends a lot on the day to day situation and on the dog. I use my dog’s daily food for training, during walks, for grooming, following house rules, teeth brushing, nail grinding, etc. Whatever is left over I put in interactive food toys.

      How much I put in the toys depends on whether I go on a longer walk, whether there is teeth brushing and other grooming tasks, and also on how much total I feed my dog.

  4. Jon says

    We have had success with some of the StarMark Everlastings toys, especially the pickle pocket, bento ball and groovy ball. Our 16 month old shiba is an aggressive chewer and has not managed to destroy these after several months. You can purchase the chews from Everlasting treats themselves or freeze peanut butter, wet food, etc in the toy. Size medium is great for our guy (25 lbs). Of note, they are much cheaper on Amazon compared to when we saw them in stores.

  5. Ash says

    When I first got my shiba-mix a tug-a-jug, it seemed like it took her forever playing with it before it was empty. One day I gave it to her, and after playing with it for just a little while, she picked it up by the rope, drug it up the stairs, set it up at the top of the stairs, and with the slightest nudge of her nose, pushed it so it fell end over end down the stairs shaking food out the whole way. Clever girl, always keeping me on my toes.

    • shibashake says

      Hahaha, that is precious! You should definitely do a video of that. I would love to see it! :D

  6. Melo says

    Thanks for your reply!
    I have another question for dog’s chew toys.
    I want to buy something for dog to chew with, such as those plactic chew toys.
    And there are many of them sold on Amazon.
    However, few dog owners say those can be very harmful to dog since they will eat the plastic toy.
    Thus, do you seggest us to buy thise plastic chew toys?
    What do you recommand, please teach us?
    Thanks and Merry Christmas!

    • shibashake says

      Good chew toys are not easy to find and experiences will also be different based on the dog. Some dog are really strong chewers, others are less so. My Shiba, Sephy, is a very strong chewer and often he will exert a lot of force on a chew toy. There are several things I look out for while getting chew toys –
      1. I don’t want the chew toy to be too hard. Sephy cracked one of his teeth chewing on a piece of processed deer antler that was too hard. Now, I am very careful about the chew toys I pick for him, so that I do not get anything that is too hard and that has no-give.

      2. I don’t want the chew toy to be too soft either. If the toy is too soft, Sephy may tear off chunks of it, swallow it, then it may become a choking hazard, or cause digestive issues. Rawhide, for example, can be *risky* because of this, so I *do not* give my dogs any rawhide chews.

      3. I don’t want the chew toy to contain anything toxic or any extra parts that my dog may pull off and swallow. I make sure to remove all tags and loose parts before giving a toy to my dog. Soft toys or squeaker toys, for example, are a no-no for chewing. I only use those under close supervision during structured play.

      With my adult dogs, I use strong Extreme Kongs (the ones made of hard rubber) and bully sticks for chews. They work well for my dogs, but as I said before, things may be different for different dogs. I try to evaluate each toy for safety, for each of my dogs. Whenever I give my dog anything new, I make sure that I am there to supervise him, to make sure that the toy is safe for chewing.

      For my Husky puppies, Frozen Kongs have worked well. The cold helps with teething, and the frozen food keeps them engaged for at least a little while.

      Good luck with your upcoming puppy! Let us know how it goes. :D

  7. Melo says

    This is such a great site for shiba. I just bought one recently, and I am waiting for the breeder to send me the puppy when he is 8-weeks old.
    Just wondering do you keep a list of all things you bought for shiba?
    If you do, would you please send it to me?
    I am very excited about this puppy, but I am also worried; thus, I want to be well prepared for this little friend to join our lives.
    Thanks!

  8. Vishakha says

    I often buy a cheap new toy for my dog from the dollar/99 cent store every time I am near one .. I use it as a surprise .. or in moments to lure/reward them with new toys .

    Also a great interactive toy is the puzzle toy . I use the wooden karlie board , my dogs love it . Only problem they become pros at one level and I keep having to buy newer harder toys .

    The kong genius is not bad either , but my lil dog dosnt have strong enough jaws for it .

    • shibashake says

      Great suggestions. Those Karlie boards look really interesting. Do they keep your dog interested for long? Do they work well with medium sized dogs (45 pounds or so)?

      I have not tried the Kong Genius. Does it hold up well to strong chewers? One time I got a rubber tube toy for my dog, and instead of figuring out how to get the food out through the little toy opening, he decided to make some larger holes that proved to be a lot more effective. :D

      Only problem they become pros at one level and I keep having to buy newer harder toys .

      Yeah, I always have that problem too. Gotta love dogs – they keep us sharp and well exercised!

  9. Kat Smith says

    The hol-ee roller extreme states it’s a 5 inch ball that is appropriate for small to even extra large breeds. 5 inches doesn’t sound very big but it looks to be a decent size in the pic you have of it with your furbaby. My mastiff puppy loves balls & food toys, kong wobbler is her current favorite. I’m thinking she will love that ball! At a whopping 72 lbs @ 5 months old and the potential to be around 170 lbs like her Mom, I’m just hoping it’s big enough not to be swallowed! The regular hol-ee roller has a 9 inch size but I believe you said it has thinner rubber joints. Gonna try the extreme, thanks for the reviews, they have been a great help!

    • shibashake says

      I have never tried it with a large breed dog, so I am not sure how well it will work. Better to be safe though, so if it looks to be too small relative to jaw size, I would just return it.

      Please let us know how it works out so that I can update the article. Big hugs to your not so little puppy boy! :D

  10. George says

    My parents adopted a 9 month old Siberian Husky. The dog was obviously abused because she really avoided people in the house and refused to come inside the house. How can my parents gain the dogs trust? Also they plan on introducing a male chow chow puppy into the mix, Will the Husky be inclined to hurt the puppy. I’ve read that Huskies have a strong prey drive. We don’t want the Husky to eat the Chow. Any suggestions?

  11. john says

    my dog loves playing with larger round balls like bascket or foot balls but his teath alway end up puncturing them …. is there any way of filling these or similler balls so they dont go down

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, my dogs puncture those as well.

      Premier has some soft balls that are already stuffed and cannot be punctured. However, I only use these balls during play-time and under supervision. Otherwise my dogs will start chewing on them, and they won’t hold up to chewing.

      Kong also has some medium sized balls that have similar consistency to tennis balls. They hold up pretty well with my dogs during play-time. However, again, these balls are not meant for chewing so I only use them under supervision.

      Make sure to check the actual dimensions of the balls to make sure they are big enough.

  12. Paul says

    I am having trouble with my 7 week old pup, ive been trying to feed her all her food through interactive toys but she cant do it, she gives up right away and then just cries. What should I do?

    • shibashake says

      Hello Paul,

      With Lara, I started by making it very-very simple to get the food out. For example, with the Twist-and-Turn toy, I would not fully close it. In fact, I left a rather big hole so kibble comes out easily. In this way, she is motivated to play with the toy, and gains confidence with it. Once she is good at it, I slowly increase the challenge.

      Another simple toy that I used, is the Tire Biter. I just put some kibble into the tire, so stuff drops out as soon as she pushes it around.

      Sometimes, I would also help Lara get stuff out. For example, with frozen Kongs, I would initially scrape stuff off with a chopstick and let her lick the food off the chopstick. Then, once she gets better, I let her work on the top stuff, but help her with the deeper parts.

      I also give her part of her food for doing commands, touch exercises, bite inhibition exercises, etc. In this way, I set her up for success, and give her many opportunities to work for her food.

      What food toys are you using?

  13. Judy says

    Our Shiba Inu, Sheba, does this “butt-move” also & it always make us laugh! Yes I have always wondered if it was just our Sheba being silly or if other Shiba Inus do this too! She is such a wonderful dog & has us trained very well! lol I could never have imagined how therapeutic Sheba has been for us since we got her. There is never a day that we don’t smile or laugh or just say how adorable she is & how much we love her!

    • shibashake says

      She is such a wonderful dog & has us trained very well!

      LOL! Yeah, Sephy can be very charming when he wants something from me. Otherwise, he is Shiba, and Shiba is too good to be with humans. :D

      There is never a day that we don’t smile or laugh or just say how adorable she is & how much we love her!

      That is so true. Sephy reminds me of a stand-up comedian. He can make everyone laugh, but at the same time he has a very sensitive soul.

  14. Rhonda Frank says

    Hello, last year I was needed away from home and my husband gave our Shiba Lucky a large dog Kong. He stuffed it with peanut butter, froze it, gave it to the dog while they painted the front of our home. Later when they went to check on the dog, the Kong was gone and there were red pieces of rubber all over the place. (Thank God he only shreds thing and does not eat what he destroys.)
    He had apparently destroyed the whole Kong in about an hour and a half.
    Have your dogs ever done this? These Kongs are supposed to be nearly indestructable, but I have noticed that if a toy states that on the package, Lucky can usually take it apart.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Rhonda,

      Later when they went to check on the dog, the Kong was gone and there were red pieces of rubber all over the place. (Thank God he only shreds thing and does not eat what he destroys.)

      Sephy has torn apart the Premier Twist-and-Turn which looked really durable to me. Like Lucky though, he just likes shredding and doesn’t eat the stuff – which is a really good thing! :D

      As for the Kongs, I now prefer getting the black Kongs, which are supposedly for strong chewers. They also last for much longer compared to the red Kongs, which don’t seem to stand up as well when exposed to the sun. Still though, I think that if Shiba really wanted to, he could still tear it apart. It would just take more effort and time.

      Shibas have really big teeth! :D

  15. John says

    I know this isn’t one of your recomended but I thought i’d try the busy body tug a treat. I gave it to my shiba tonight and he didn’t seem too interested. I made sure there were plenty of treats in there and everything. Will he just get interested eventually?

    • shibashake says

      The Tug-a-jug toy is one of the more difficult interactive toys, I think. When Sephy is really hungry and all of his other toys are empty, he will work on that. If there are easier pickings available, he will go for the lower hanging fruit. :D

  16. Brett B says

    My adopted 3 year old Shiba girl Ziva’s first playful moment with me involved an extensive demonstration of the air-butt move, with accompanying Shiba grins. She’s hilarious and obviously really enjoys it. I try to explain the grin to startled guests, but they don’t seem totally convinced that its all fun for her.

    • shibashake says

      Hahaha – love the name Ziva! Is she named after Ziva David? That would be very apropos.

      Yeah most people don’t believe me either. I think it is because Shibas have really large teeth relative to their total size.

    • Brett B says

      Yes! She is in fact named after Ziva David. She’s a shelter dog that I rescued last spring. Knowing how difficult the breed can be, I had planned to get her to the regional Shiba Rescue, but she fit in so well here that I kept her. She gets along very well with my cat–they play constantly and keep each other busy. Still smiling at all her favorite guests, who are getting used to this unusal practice. She neck-pins and air butts me first thing in the morning. She’s a perfect companion.

    • shibashake says

      She neck-pins and air butts me first thing in the morning.

      Hahaha – definitely a Ziva David!

  17. Colleen says

    So I have to ask, is Sephy a bit dramatic when he gets a new toy or is being lazy with a puzzle toy or kong?

    I ask because Reptar has developed this super annoying habit of taking laziness to the next level. I recently bought him a new Kong and put a treat in it for him. The past hour he’s been carrying the Kong around the house in his mouth while whimpering and crying for help. He’ll eventually bring me the Kong for me to do the work. Is this a Shiba thing? I know they’re lazy but the whimpering, really? I wonder if it’s because the actual Kong is new. hmmm, oh Shiba you always keep me guessing.

    He does this with other very high priority items too, such as a pigs ear or something he doesn’t frequently. He’ll carry that around crying and making Shiba noise for a little bit until he feels the need to hide it around the house, “save it for later” kind of thing. When he has two, he will start to chew them. I get that, it’s a hording thing I guess.

    He also does this crying Shiba noise when we give him a nutrident treat (similar to greenie but it doesn’t make him sick). He gets one every day or every other day and without fail he’ll run around the house whimpering, showing if off and giving it to us to admire then he expects it back so he can enjoy it.

    In general, Reptar has become very vocal, not necessarily in the give me what I want way, but with Shiba noise and whimpering mainly.

    Wow, I didn’t expect that post to be so long. So is this ultra laziness and helpless whimpering act a Shiba trait or just something Reptar is doing extra special for us? LOL.

    • Colleen says

      OH! and I see in the picture with Shania and all her toys that they have a tug-a-jug. Do they know how to work this on their own? Reptar understands how to get food out, but I have to push the rope back in for him to pull it out. Just curious.

      PS – I feel like I know your dogs really well :) I love your site and posts! very helpful and entertaining (esp Shiba’s diary posts)!

    • shibashake says

      OMG – that sounds very like Sephy.

      The past hour he’s been carrying the Kong around the house in his mouth while whimpering and crying for help. He’ll eventually bring me the Kong for me to do the work. Is this a Shiba thing?

      Sephy just waits for Shania to get the food out and then he mooches off her – lol. If she eats everything, he will come over to me and whimper. He will only work on his kibble toys as a last resort.

      He’ll carry that around crying and making Shiba noise for a little bit until he feels the need to hide it around the house, “save it for later” kind of thing.

      Haha – yeah Sephy also did this with his Greenie. He used to do this with rawhide but I don’t give those to him anymore. Nowadays I give him his Greenie at night in his crate, and that seems to work for him. He will settle down and work on it. Shibas have such interesting personalities :D

    • shibashake says

      Yeah they both used to work on the Tug-a-Jug. Sephy got all of the kibble out one time when he was really bored (during Shania’s surgery). I was really impressed. But nowadays he has figured out other better strategies for getting food.

      I think he can get food more easily from me than from the Tug-a-Jug! He just pokes me and food comes out. LOL

  18. Janet Trotter says

    I like the “Buster Cube” toy. I believe my dog will like it as well. It’s a different type of dog toy that can stimulate my dog’s attention longer.

    • shibashake says

      Hi Janet,

      I looked at the Crazy Critters toy on your site and it definitely looks interesting. I definitely have to check it out. Maybe attach one to the flirt pole :)

      Also, if you like the Buster Cube, you may also like the Omega Ball. My Shiba actually likes that more than the Cube. It works in a similar way, but the ball can work on all types of surfaces, and he pushes it around everywhere during meal times.

  19. Leigh says

    My Shiba does this too!!! I laugh all the time – I call it her Army-Man crawl! Shiba’s are quite possibly the best – best companion Ive ever had!

    • shibashake says

      lol – Army Man Crawl – I like that! I should post something on this soon – with some pictures. Would be a fun topic :)

  20. Cynthia Yarnton says

    I can identify with all you say re Shibas. Your dogs are lucky to have such a involved “parent”. My 8 year old shiba is an absolute sweetie. She has a maneuver where she puts her head and front paws down like she is standing on her neck and sticks her rear in the air. Very cute. I wonder is this is unique to shebas. thanks Cynthia

    • shibashake says

      She has a maneuver where she puts her head and front paws down like she is standing on her neck and sticks her rear in the air.

      LOL – My Sephy does exactly the same thing! I call it his butt-move. Sometimes he will do this and then flip over – it is too funny. Shibas are really very goofy dogs.

      I wonder is this is unique to shebas.

      I wonder about that too. When I talk to dog-people about this they all think I am talking about the play-bow but this Shiba-butt-move is different. It is not a bow but really the whole butt sticking up -lol.

      I will have to do some research into this and see if other breed owners talk about this as well :D

      Shibas really are Characters with a capital C!

  21. Stacie Morri says

    Your dogs are so cute!!! The Hol-ee roller ball looks like a great toy for bigger dogs, My black lab would love it.

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