More often than not, a bored dog is a destructive dog. And essentially, an unhappy one. Dogs, just like people, need mental and physical stimulation to keep them preoccupied and happy. Without an appropriate outlet, your dog will find ways to entertain themselves and you may not like the result. This is when you end up with chewed up furniture or unsightly holes dug into your flower bed. Walking and exercising your dog is an excellent way to keep them busy and too worn out for boredom – but there are times when that’s not feasible, or you need to keep your otherwise active dog occupied.
We all know that taking our dogs on walks or playing fetch every day is ideal. But what about when you’re travelling in the car on a road trip, or your dog is on strict bedrest from an injury? Maybe you live in an apartment and need something to keep your buddy happy inside while you’re at work, or maybe you live in a house and the weather is just really bad and now everybody’s stuck inside. Whatever your reason, there’s always going to be a need for boredom busting dog toys, so let us show you what’s good.
What Makes a Dog Toy Good For Boredom Busting?
First, let’s consider what goes into making a dog toy good for boredom! We know it’s not as simple as giving your dog some balls, or a cute little plush to cuddle (if you know, you know). A truly effective dog toy will keep your dog so occupied that there’s no room for boredom. It does so by engaging your dog’s other senses and getting them to think about the goal. But as we discussed here, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gotta pull out some wild genius contraption involving coded treat caches. It doesn’t even necessarily mean puzzle toy.
Puzzle toys are great, and such a valuable type of dog toy to keep away boredom. But not every dog likes or will engage with puzzles. Plus, sometimes you just need something a bit easier to set up. Consider a few elements when hunting for the right dog toy to combat boredom:
- Chewability: At the end of the day, a dog’s gotta chew. Instead of gnawing on chair legs or shoes; look for something with a good chew factor.
- Taste-Based: If your dog is food-motivated, look for something that utilises food as the reward.
- Hidden Scents: Dogs are born to sniff stuff! Consider something that gets their noses snuffling.
- Brain Burners: This is for your puzzle toys. Toys that require your dog to plan or think about the reward.
Ask yourself these questions when making your choice; Will this get my dog to think about how to get the prize inside? Do they have to tap something or roll it in a certain way? Does my dog need to sniff out the prize? Will this provide a paced source of food they can lick and savour for a long time? Will this toy satisfy my dog’s insatiable urge to chew? Considering all of these will ensure you choose a dog toy perfect for preventing boredom.
If you’ve ever come home to chewed-up furniture, shoes, books, or toys; then you may have a chewer on your hands. While some breeds might have a greater likelihood of chewing behaviour, any dog can have a predisposition for chewing, and will often find a way to do it when they shouldn’t (such as being in a separate room, or a crate).
When bored, or anxious, chewing is a natural response that soothes your dog by releasing endorphins. So, when presented with no other alternative, your dog might turn to chewing the door, or crate itself if they are bored, or anxious enough!
Say no to replacing your doors and floors, and say yes to these chewable choices:
Scream Xtreme Treat Tyre
The Treat Tyre is a chew toy that doubles as a food toy. It can be stuffed with treats, but the toy itself is designed for chewers, and is a great choice for the dog that isn’t exactly delicate with food enrichment toys.
West Paw Hurley Toy
The Hurley is a great choice for the stick and bone chewers. It has a comfortable shape and is not too tough on your dog’s teeth. A great choice for smaller dogs that need that chewing outlet, and also performs well as an outdoor fetch toy!
SodaPup Ultra Durable Nylon Bunny
The Ultra Durable Nylon range of chew toys is as close to indestructible as you can get. These toys are perfect for the bully breeds, or other heavy-duty, strong-jawed dogs. The Bunny shape is round and solid for a big dog to chew around.
SodaPup Ultra Durable Nylon Pipe Wrench
As before, the Ultra Durable Nylon material is firm and perfect for the true power chewer. The long, thinner shape of the Wrench provides a nice alternative to the chunky Bunny. Perfect for a dog that loves to chew through big sticks.
For the full SodaPup range (which includes amazing Halloween and Christmas themed chews), check out our friends at Rover Pet Products!
If you’ve got a smart dog that’s always figuring things out and problem solving, or seeming to understand every word you say; then you may have a thinker. Intelligent breeds and working dogs in particular need regular mental stimulation to prevent boredom. Now, assuming you have a working dog, they probably get a sufficient amount of satisfaction from their job, but in the downtimes between, whether it’s on break or due to injury, it can be beneficial to have a dog toy on hand that will keep your pup sharp between shifts, and to prevent extreme boredom.
This is when we look at the more puzzle-like options; toys that require a bit more planning and thought in order to reach the prize at the end. Try out something like:
Orbee Tuff Mazee Ball
The Mazee Ball is an excellent puzzle toy with a clear outer shell that lets your dog see the kibble inside before they can get it. It won’t take too long before they realise they need to work for it, and think about how to access the treats.
West Paw Toppl
The West Paw range is great at delivering excellent quality puzzle dog toys. The Toppl can be stuffed with any number of treat options, and designed to work in a number of ways. Combine the small and large together for a more complicated puzzle, or keep it easier with just one.
West Paw Rumbl
The Rumbl is another clever puzzle toy that also doubles as a slow-feeder. Your dog will have to roll it and bounce it around to get to the kibble inside. As a result, the Rumbl provides a more active puzzle experience for your dog.
West Paw Qwizl
It’s not hard to see why we’ve got another West Paw on the list. The Qwizl is a brilliantly simple puzzle design that means your dog can easily smell the treat inside, but not so easily get to it. It creates a bit more of a challenge than a standard treat-stuffer toy.
We also highly recommend checking out the brain-busting K9 Connectables range over at Woof Pack Online. These moddable toys are fantastic for creating a new kind of puzzle each time and giving your dog countless new puzzles to solve for treats.
Hounds, retrievers, and shepherds are your big sniffers. These are the dogs bred to find stuff and follow their nose. If you have one of these, then you probably know that sniffing is like crack to these dogs. But it bears saying that sniffing is an incredibly valuable activity for all dogs, regardless of breed. Sniffing is how your dog interprets and explores the world, and a dog that gets to sniff cool stuff, is a dog that won’t get bored.
Sniffing, as an activity, can wear your dog out as much as a good long walk. To avoid boredom, give your dog a toy that gets them sniffing and hunting for their reward. You’ll find that even just twenty minutes of sniffing and snuffling will send your dog into a euphoric post-sniff daze.
Hide N Seek Ball
The Hide N Seek Ball is a great beginner’s choice. The Ball toy has four main gaps for stuffing treats that your dog will need to sniff out, and its shape means it can be rolled around for a quicker treat release.
Sniff and Snuffle Mats
Sniff mats are an easy and effective dog toy to prevent boredom. With hidden treats inside all the fleece tabs, your sniff-addict will need to run their nose through every nook and cranny to find every morsel, and by the time they’re done, they’ll be exhausted and satisfied.
Hide N Seek Disc
The Disc is good step up from the Hide N Seek Ball. More pockets for food to hide in, more textures to sniff around and the shape requires your dog to flip the toy over in order to access the other side. The added challenge makes this dog toy an ideal boredom buster.
Hide N Seek Cube
The final of our Hide N Seek trifecta, the Cube has more nooks and crannies than your dog can probably count, making it an excellent choice to keep your bored pup busy. Each nook is a different shape, so your pup will have to get clever to get to each morsel!
Honestly, for an even broader range of sniffy toys, have a look at the variety of excellent handmade fleece enrichment toys at Snoofle Paws!
Some dogs just wanna eat. These are your labradors... and... well, there’s probably other breeds that are food-obsessed too, but there’s something about labradors that just always want a little snacky-snack. This makes them fantastically easy to motivate and train, but it does mean you also have to be mindful of their eating habits. Given a chance, a food-obsessed dog will just inhale their meals far too quickly; and while we joke about the stereotype, it can lead to some real medical issues (abdominal bloating, choking, vomiting).
Utilising food enrichment toys for these dogs serves an important dual purpose. Meal-time becomes far more measured and paced for healthy digestion (slow feeding), and these toys also work as excellent boredom busters – working for a meal keeps their minds happy, as well as their tummies.
Scream Xtreme Treat Bone
The Scream Xtreme range is a great food enrichment toy option that’s also designed for dogs that love to chew. The Treat Bone is made for stuffing with treats, and hardy enough to withstand your dog’s eager chewing to get to the goods.
LickiMats are an invaluable tool for slow-feeding and food enrichment. The UFO will keep your dog busy and happy, as the textured base stimulates all those good feelings. With sticky grips on the base and raised sides, the UFO collects mess and won’t slide across the floor.
SodaPup Rubber Grenade
The SodaPup range is one of our favourites for its chewability and toughness! The Rubber Grenade is a durable food-stuffing toy that will keep your dog happy and boredom-free for hours as they work on getting every little tidbit out.
Orbee-Tuff Foodies Carrot
We can’t have a segment on foodie dogs, and not include a foodie toy. The Foodies Carrot is a great choice as a more puzzle-y treat dispenser. This toy is not rated for chewing, so we suggest using it under supervision, or for a dog that’s not too interested in chewing.
Dogs don’t want sit and stare at the wall any more than we do! Choosing the best dog toys for boredom becomes simple enough when you consider what your dog loves to do most. Lean into your dog's natural interests, and you’ll find that your dog is more than happy to channel their energy and interest into these kinds of toys. They won’t need to resort to chewing on the furniture, scratching up doors or tearing apart Barbie dolls.
Always look for toys that can satisfy your dog’s need for entertainment, that is, something that will engage their brains (problem solving) and also their senses (sensory stimulation). Combined, these two factors will work to ensure that boredom isn’t even on your dog’s radar; whether they’re stuck in the car or a crate, or just waiting for you to get home. With this knowledge in mind, you could even make your own free enrichment toy just using scraps from around the house!