Every loving pet parent worries their dog is not getting enough mental stimulation when they are away from the home. If you have to leave your dog because of work or other necessary reasons, then you know well the consequences of a bored and listless dog. From barking, that drives your neighbors to complain, to destructive behavior in the home, none of this is good for your dog or your relationship with him.
I get it, we can’t all have the luxury of spending all day, every day, at home with our pooches. That’s where interactive toys come in. You can’t be there, so let’s get the next best thing.
A soft fluffy toy, or an old tennis ball, will not cut it. Your pooch needs something he can interact with, puzzles, treat-dispensing, and toys that move around are what’s needed.
We took the time to review many interactive dog toys to help us choose the best ones. We rated our choices based on their capability, versatility, cost, and safety.
Let’s dive in and check out the best interactive toys available, to give your pooch the mental and physical stimulation he needs.
1. Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Smart – Composite
Our top choice for best interactive puzzle toys
We class this as a level 1, beginner puzzle toy. Brilliant for getting your young dog started on some mental stimulation. Build up your pup’s intelligence levels.
Place a treat under each of the compartments and show your dog how to get them out. They will have to learn how to lift the compartment cover with their nose high enough to snaffle a treat.
9 removal bones are covering the treat compartments. Use the raised end in the early stages, when your pooch is new to the game. Gradually turn them around when it gets too easy. Remember to use a nice smelling treat, so he knows there’s something to find when he removes the bone. Cheese or peanut butter works well, don’t worry about cleaning, wash the puzzle game with soap and water.
What we like / don’t like about the Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Smart – Composite:
- Great way to start your pup on mental puzzles.
- Useful for all dogs irrespective of age, but only as a starter puzzle.
- Quickly wash with soap and water, to keep hygienic.
- Will encourage your pup to look for treats, which will come in handy for positive reinforcement training.
- If your dog is a chewer, then this might not be the best puzzle to be alone with because the bones are easy to chew and might be a choking hazard.
- Too easy to keep dog puzzle experts occupied for a long enough time.
2. Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Hide n’ Slide
Runner up best interactive puzzle toys
This is a step up to a level 2 intermediate puzzle toy. If you want to offer mental stimulation while you train them with treat rewards, this is an ideal puzzle for your dogs.
A delightful way to bond with your puppy while helping grow their intelligence. Can help reduce destructive behavior by encouraging your pup to play mental stimulation games. There are 7 treat compartments and multiple moving pieces.
The puzzle comes BPA, PVC & Phthalate free, means your puppy is safe to play with the puzzle. There are no removable parts that can cause choking. But, as with all these puzzles and toys, if your pooch is an aggressive chewer, don’t leave them alone with it.
What we like / don’t like about the Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Hide n’ Slide:
- BPA, PVC & Phthalate Free.
- Multiple slides and compartments in this level 2 interactive toy.
- Easy to keep clean.
- Don’t leave aggressive chewers alone with the puzzle toy, easy for them to destroy and there will be a choking hazard.
3. Trixie Dog Activity Flip Board Strategy Game
2nd runner up best interactive puzzle toys
This puzzle will test your pooch’s intelligence. Not for beginners. There are a series of puzzles you can set your dog. From hinged lids, cones, to sliders. If your pooch loves mental stimulation puzzles, this one will keep him occupied.
It comes complete with a booklet with prepared tips and tricks, to help you set up some real challenges. Your pooch will get at the treats by figuring out how to open the indentations in the puzzle. It gets our runner-up spot because it’s only good for small dogs.
Cleaning is very easy, just a wipe down. There is a rubber base, so it won’t frustrate your dog by moving around.
What we like / don’t like about the Trixie Dog Activity Flip Board Strategy Game:
- Will test your pup’s intelligence and keep them occupied.
- Easy cleaning for hygiene.
- Keeps dogs interested without frustrating them.
- 3 challenges in one.
- Inexpensive puzzle toy.
- It’s only suitable for small dogs.
4. Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel
Out top choice for best hide’n seek interactive toys
An excellent interactive toy for your pooch. It’s available in 4 sizes, so will suit any breed of dog. What’s great is the squirrels are replaceable. So if your pup gets a bit too “interactive” with a squirrel or two, no worries order some replacements.
Hide 6 squirrels in the tree’s trunk, stand it upright and let your dog find the squeaky squirrels. When you first use it if your pup is having difficulty figuring it out, take one squirrel and place it half out of the tree trunk. Your pup will soon get the hang of what he’s meant to do.
If you want to change it up a bit, take the squirrels and play catch with them. The squirrels have very plush material, so they are soft on teeth and gums. And, once your pooch has taken to the squirrels, why not hide them around the house? See if he can find them.
Your dog might enjoy chewing the squirrels, so if there’s any damage you need to remove from the game and replace them as soon as you can.
What we like / don’t like about the Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel:
- 3 games in one, hide them in the tree trunk, play catch and play hide and seek around the house.
- 4 different sizes make the game suitable for all dog breeds.
- Soft plush materials making the toy safe for teeth and gums.
- New ones can replace the old or chewed squirrels.
- Not strong enough for dogs that are aggressive chewers.
- You can replace the squirrels, but if your pooch is a serious chewer, then it might get expensive.
- If your pup loves to shake toys, this will not work, because he will shake out the squirrels pretty easily.
5. ZippyPaws Valentine’s Burrow – Heart ‘n Bears
Runner up hide’n seek interactive toy
Some great fun ahead for your special pup, with these cute looking bears. Once you hide them in their heart-shaped home, watch your dog try to dig them out. His excitement will grow when he hears them squeaking inside.
The size of the toy is ideal for small to medium dogs, but if your pup is a serious chewer, better to leave this toy out of his collection.
Your pup will beg you to put them back in their holes every time he gets them out. Hours of fun for you and your pup or he can just play alone.
What we like / don’t like about the ZippyPaws Valentine’s Burrow – Heart ‘n Bears:
- Hide and seek style interactive toy.
- The bears squeak to interest your pup in the game.
- The bears are replaceable if they get tatty.
- This design is heart and bears, but the company designs a good deal of different fun, hide, and seek toys.
- Not an expensive toy, but will still keep your dog occupied for hours.
- Only for small to medium size dogs.
- Not for dogs that are heavy chewers.
- If you let dogs that love to chew play, the cost of replacing the bears adds up.
6. XiaZ Retractable Interactive Dog Toy
Our top choice for best rope tug of war interactive toy
Does your pooch love a game of tug of war? Most dogs go crazy for it. If you have a medium to large size dog, then this interactive toy will save you time and a lot of aching muscles. Very easy to set up. All you need to do is throw the bungee rope over a tree bough (make it a thick one), loop through it, and pull it tight. Then attach the rope with the ball toy and you’re ready to go, I mean your pooch is.
If your dog is a natural chewer, then set the height of the bungee, so it’s just out of his reach. You need to make sure you have a good sturdy tree branch at least 10-12 feet high. The interactive XiaZ Retractable toy will handle dogs weighing up to 240lbs. The bungee straps are 5mm wide, so they don’t cut into the tree and cause damage.
The XiaZ is two games in one. It’s a tug-of-war toy, but when the pooch lets go of the rope, it flings the ball in the air for him to go fetch it. For safety reasons, the manufacturer covers the bungee cord with a polyester weave. Your pup can tug for hours and it won’t snap.
What we like / don’t like about the XiaZ Retractable Interactive Dog Toy:
- Two toys in one – tug of war and fetch the ball.
- Easy to set up, but in case of any issue there is a manual that comes with the interactive dog toy.
- Environmentally friendly, 5mm wide straps prevent damage to any tree.
- The bungee cord will cope with dogs up to 240lbs.
- Will help young dogs build muscle.
- Owners need to ensure the bungee is out of reach or dogs can chew through it.
- Some dogs might need some encouragement to get started with this toy.
7. PetDroid Interactive Dog Ball Toy
Our top choice for best responsive interactive toy
Motion-activated interactive ball toy for dogs. Once your pooch touches it – off it goes. Have some fun watching your pooch chase it all over the floor. It bounces, spins, and switches direction to catch your pooch unawares, giving them more exercise. You can attach a choice of accessories to the ball to entice your pup even more.
If they tire of it after some time, it will switch itself off. Ready to go again when your pet touches it again. When fully charged it will run continuously for 5 hours. No need to buy batteries, it comes fitted with a rechargeable battery.
It’s wrapped in soft rubber material to reduce the noise level because it runs on hard or tiled floors only. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, this is not the toy for him. He will rip it apart and get at the plastic innards.
What we like / don’t like about the PetDroid Interactive Dog Ball Toy:
- Interactive only works if your pup touches or pushes it.
- Has a full 5 hours of playtime when fully charged.
- No batteries to buy.
- Can add an attachment to attract your pooch even more.
- Switch off to conserve the battery life when left alone for a few minutes.
- The PetDroid is not robust enough to stand up to aggressive chewers.
8. Pet Qwerks Toys Talking Babble Ball
Our runner up best responsive interactive toy
This is another motion-activated interactive toy. The manufacturer claims it’s, so sensitive that your pooch’s breath will set in motion. The idea being, I guess, that it surprises your pet into action (surprises in a good way). Your pup will think it’s someone calling him to chase the ball as it jumps and moves around your home. Your dog will think it’s alive.
The ball comes with 20 pre-recorded messages like “Rock ‘n Roll Big Doggy,” “Hey, What are you doing?,” “Sweet Puppy,” and loads more. Dogs love balls, don’t they? So why not introduce them to a ball that interacts, talks and moves around by itself?
The Babble Ball comes in 3 sizes. If your dog is a chewer, then choose a larger size ball, so harder for him to get his mouth around it. But if he’s a large dog already and an aggressive chewer, then it might be a risky toy for him.
What we like / don’t like about the Pet Qwerks Toys Talking Babble Ball:
- Interactive motion sensors set the ball moving and talking.
- Dogs will love a ball that moves around, talking at the same time.
- 3 Different sizes to accommodate most dogs unless they are aggressive chewers and can get their mouth around the ball.
- 20 pre-recorded messages to entice your pup into interacting.
- Ideal for pets with poor eyesight, they can play by following the sounds.
- It’s not designed to dispense treats, just good fun.
- Get a size larger if you think your dog might want to chew it to aggressively, so he cannot get his mouth around it.
- Not for large dogs that are aggressive chewers.
9. iFetch Interactive Ball Launchers for Dogs
Our top choice for best high tech interactive toys
The manufacturers have now introduced the iFetch ball launcher for smaller dogs, which will have many small dog owners jumping for joy. These high-tech interactive toys are performing dual duties for both physical and mental stimulation. Blast the ball out and your pooch will run and fetch. Teach him how to do it himself, for excellent mental agility.
You can use the machine inside or out. There are 3 settings: 10, 20, or 30 feet. 10 feet inside still requires a reasonable amount of space, if you don’t want your valuables trashed. Buying replacement balls in case of damage is a snap, or you can use any similar-sized balls you can find. Just don’t put them in the machine if they are wet or muddy.
If you use the machine outside you will need to clean inside regularly to remove dirt and grass which will accumulate. Don’t forget to take the iFetch with you on your travels, it’s easy to transport and use wherever you go. When your pooch comes to use it the first time, you will need to train him to be patient and wait for the machine to load up ready to launch, and don’t let him be in front of the machine as it launches the ball.
What we like / don’t like about the iFetch Interactive Ball Launchers for Dogs:
- A perfect game for those doggies that are run and fetch addicts.
- The iFetch will Help your dog with physical and mental stimulation.
- It has 3 distance settings for use inside the home and out.
- You can clean quickly and easily.
- There is no need to buy extra iFetch balls if you don’t want to. The machine will accept cheaper balls.
- Excellent customer service, the manufacturers are quick to replace any faulty machine.
- The iFetch now has a version for smaller dogs.
- You will need to be mindful of the floor material inside your home, with constant use on rough flooring your dog may suffer from painful paw pads.
- The iFetch is not cheap. But it will last a good amount of time and the manufacturers will replace faulty machines.
- Clean the iFetch often. Even if you only use inside, because your dog’s slobber will transfer from the ball to the inside of the machine.
- You must train your pooch to be behind the machine before it launches. It can cause injury if he’s in the line of fire.
10. Skymee Fury Bone Interactive Smart Pet Toys
Our runner up best high tech interactive toys
The Skymee Fury Bone has 9 distinct motions, and 3 emotional responses, from turning around, swinging, rotating, flipping, backward flipping through to nodding at your pooch. You can operate the Fury Bone manually or set up to behave automatically. In automatic mode, the Smart Bone will act responsively to your pooch’s touch. For example, chasing and teasing.
If you want to use it in manual mode, you need to download the app and connect via Bluetooth, then control the bone by moving the joystick on your smartphone. The Skymee works just as well outside the home. To entertain your pooch, there are 3-speed settings. Turn it up to max setting and it achieves speeds of 11.5 feet per second. At that speed, it will interest the hunting instincts of a dog.
The wheels will probably become dirty over time and you will want to clean them. You will need to have the patience to remove the wheels because they have reinforced them for durability. Yet, the manufacturer will replace them if they get broken. A 1 1/2 hour charge will give your pup up to 2 hours of constant interactive play.
What we like / don’t like about the Skymee Fury Bone Interactive Smart Pet Toys:
- The Skymee requires no batteries, charges via USB, and will last for 2 hours of interactive play.
- Set up is very easy. Download the app from Skymee website and connect via Bluetooth.
- There are two modes: manual and automatic.
- The Fury Bone has 3-speed settings, 9 activity modes, and 3 emotional moods.
- You can remove the wheels for thorough cleaning.
- The Skymee Fury Bone is well-built and sturdy and performs as it’s described on the box.
- If your dog is an aggressive chewer, supervise him at all times when he’s playing with the Fury Bone.
- The noises from the Fury come through the smartphone and not the actual toy which can distract and confuse a dog.
- When charging the light remains red throughout. Would it be much better if the light went out when fully charged?
Most humans love puzzle toys, games, and high-tech gadgets, so why can’t your dog get in on the fun? Well, now your pooch can because there is an amazing array of toys, puzzles, and high-tech gadgets for them just the same.
Many dog behaviorists recommend these for all dogs to stave off boredom, destructive behavior, and to help stimulate mental agility in your pooch. And let’s not forget that many of these toys introduce a physical aspect to the play as well, all essential things for the well-being of any dog.
All of the interactive toys we have chosen have many benefits for your pooch. Read through our reviews and decide which of the interactive dog toys will suit your pooch the best.
But a few words of caution. Don’t allow these interactive toys to replace your time, love, and affection with your beloved pooch. He needs that more than any interactive dog toy.