In the world of dog toys, there are literally thousands to choose from. Plush, rubber, rope, firehose, rawhide, hooves, (and other less classy animal body parts!) . . . and the list goes on. It can be a little overwhelming to think about narrowing it down to the type of toy that will provide the most benefit for your dog.
The toy with the most benefit is not always the same thing as the toy with the most fun. My dog has TONS of fun with plush toys . . . and by TONS, I mean about 30 seconds no matter what the starting size of the toy. But this brief and frenzied shredding of toy guts is not providing my crazy pup with any longer lasting benefits, such as the relaxation that comes after the stimulation of a mental challenge. Like my pup Roo, many dogs thrive most with play that gives them an outlet for both their mental and physical energy.
For that end goal, my favorite category of toys is food puzzles! These toys provide an outlet for both parts of your dog that need attention - for the physical side, chasing a food puzzle around the floor is a great indoor outlet; for the mental component, figuring out how to get the food reward hidden or stuck inside the puzzle is much more challenging than ripping up a flimsy plush toy!
Our go-to favorite is (and might always be) the Kong Classics. Coming in multiple sizes, rubber strengths, and shape variations, these toys are great for stuffing and very portable. Our favorite way to use them is mixing peanut butter and yogurt and placing the freezer for a few hours. This creates a cool treat that takes a while to work out! The Kong Wobbler is another favorite - Roo gets at least one of his meals each day in this toy, and has to push it around (I put it in his crate to keep the crumbs contained) to get the kibble to fall out. I highly recommend this version for dogs that are hyperactive around meal times!
One of the recent additions to our favorites list is the Orbee Snoop made by Planet Dog. This soft rubber toy is also great for feeding kibble or small treats. Roo knocks his around the house and enjoys this variation on his Kong Wobbler meal.
For supervised play (I recommend supervising your dog whenever you introduce a new toy, but the following toys should involve a little extra oversight), puzzle boxes are a great way to mix it up for your dog! These challenges involve pulling, pushing, knocking, and otherwise navigating a toy to get individual pieces (or jackpots here and there) out of the toy. There are a lot of different types of these games. A client recently gave me two Trixie Activity Boxes, so Roo got to give something new a try! Here is his first introduction on video. He loved the challenge!
Whatever type of food puzzle you choose, introduce it to your dog in a way that makes their first attempt at the toy very reinforcing so they are excited to keep playing with it! And if your dog doesn't like a particular type of puzzle, there are lots of different ones to try. The most important thing to consider is what gives your dog the most benefit on top of some fun!