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.
Another fun Kong toy is the Kong Jump’n Jack. I stuff kibble or boiled chicken into the grooves of this two toy, 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. 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.
7. 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.
How much of their daily food is given through interactive toys?
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.
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.
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.
Hahaha, that is precious! You should definitely do a video of that. I would love to see it! 😀
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!
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. 😀
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.
Congratulations on your upcoming bundle of fur! 😀
Some stuff I get for a new puppy.
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 .
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. 😀
Yeah, I always have that problem too. Gotta love dogs – they keep us sharp and well exercised!
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!
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! 😀
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?
In terms of trust with people, here are some things that helped with my dogs-
People desensitization exercises can also be helpful-
As for a second dog, it worked out best for me to have a bonding period with just one dog. After Sephy got to know me and trust me, then I started looking for a second dog to join the family. By then, I also knew what type of dogs Sephy gets along with, how he likes to play, etc. This made is easier to get a second dog that would get along well with Sephy. Here is more on what I did in terms of getting a second dog.
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
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.
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?
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?