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
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