No matter how smart your dog already is, canine intelligence can be honed and developed with a little work. By using things like IQ balls, puzzles, hide-and-seek toys, snuffle mats, and other
mentally-stimulating dog toys, you can continuously increase your dog’s mental capacity, and keep them entertained all day long. The best toys for smart dogs are made from tough materials and are designed to stimulate your dog (without frustrating them).
When beginning your search, keep in mind your dog’s size and breed. Obviously, some
toys are better for smaller dogs and puppies, while other toys are built with thicker, stronger material, and designed for big dogs.
One little-known fact: Most interactive dogs toys have adjustable components or ways to modify them to make them easier or harder. That means, you don't need to look for one that specifically works for your dog's level of intelligence, so long as you pick a toy that can be adjusted to suit your pup.
And, because your pup will continue to get smarter as they age, investing in mentally-stimulating toys you can customize will allow them to stay your pup's favorite toys for years to come. With all of that in mind, here is a list of the best toys for smart dogs to help morph your simple pooch into a furry Einstein.
1 A Tricky Puzzle Toy With 3 Types Of Treat Compartments The details: Designed to increase mental stimulation and boost your pup's IQ, this challenging puzzle toy features an assortment of 20 treat compartments with removable lids that you can customize to different levels of difficulty. There are three options for your dog — they can either flip the lids, pull them, or slide them open. The toy comes with soft bone inserts you can use to make it tougher as your dog gets better at the game. It’s also lightweight enough that pups of all sizes can play, and it's easy to clean with simple soap and water. One reviewer wrote: "Finally...a challenge for my dog! We have a ton of dog puzzles and my dog has figured out how to solve most of them in less time than it takes me to fill them up! This one actually takes him some time because the red boxes not only open, but slide once he gets the white bones out of the way. He popped a few of the tops off of the red boxes, but they popped right back on. SO happy with this puzzle!" 2 This Treat-Dispensing Ball That Can Help Dogs Eat More Slowly The details: This treat-dispensing IQ ball is constructed with durable, nontoxic plastic and features an easy-twist opening mechanism so you can fill it with your dog's favorite snack. Just fill it with kibble or treats — the small hole will slowly dispense food as it rolls, challenging your pup to continue playing with it until it dispenses all the treats. You can even adjust the difficulty level by making the opening bigger or smaller. This toy also comes in two different sizes, so no matter how big or little your pup is, you can find one that works for them. Nearly 7,000 Amazon reviewers raved over this toy for smart dogs. One reviewer wrote: "I have a border collie-corgi so she's super smart and inquisitive and she loves this ball. It's really sturdy and makes her work to get a treat out- great for me because it keeps her distracted while I do something else. [The ball] is hard plastic so I wouldn't leave her at home alone with it just incase she somehow is able to break it." 3 A Clever Option That’s A Puzzle Toy And Slow Feeder In One The details: This engaging, 3-D apparatus — dubbed the "Mad Scientist" — provides multi-dimensional entertainment for your clever pup. Mimicking a set of science beakers, the toy showcases containers with small holes in the lids that dispense treats when tipped over. However, your dog will have to paw them at the right angle to get the treats to come out. You can start with the lids off for a lighter challenge, and then, once your pooch gets the hang of the game, add the lids to up the difficulty. As your furry friend improves even more, you have the option of rotating through other mix-and-match combinations. One reviewer wrote: "Cats AND dogs love playing games with it. Good investment into the mental health of an animal." 4 This Hide-And-Seek Plush Toy That Contains Three Cute Squirrels The details: With over 34,000 positive reviews on Amazon, this wildly popular hide-and-seek toy is full of various squeaky animals that you can stuff into the tiny house. From there, your pup will love burrowing in and attempting to retrieve them. Because each toy squeaks, the sound further keep dogs engaged while they dig, burrow, chew, and nuzzle to try to extract the tiny creatures. You can also hide treats inside to add extra motivation and interest. This toy comes in four sizes and several animal choices including bees, squirrels, birds, and hedgehogs. One reviewer wrote: "This is an awesome educational toy for your dog. My puppy was obsessed with this toy and repeatedly pulled out (or shook out) the squirrels over and over. She loved the challenge, as well as the squeaky squirrels." 5 This Elaborate Snuffle Mat For Dogs Who Like To Follow Their Nose The details: This clever foraging mat provides an olfactory play space to stimulate your dog’s tracking instincts. To use it, just scatter bits of food or treats throughout the mat and watch as your pup eagerly sniff them out. The mat is made from soft fleece and has special compartments to hide toys or treats if you want to increase the challenge. It has an anti-slip bottom and modular design that allows dogs of all sizes to play. One reviewer wrote: "I love everything about this mat. The mat is extremely well made with heavy, high quality materials. Serves a wide variety of skill levels and can be used in many different ways. I love that the mat starts out at a novice level and can gradually grow to an expert level. Wonderful for all pups but extremly helpful for our senior dog! The mat keeps his mind sharp and also is great exercise for a dog that cannot be out in the summer heat.” 6 An Expert-Level Treat Puzzle For Super Smart Dogs The details: This treat-hiding puzzle toy is designed to keep even the smartest dogs challenged, and it’s earned nearly 20,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, so clearly it works. Made out of food-safe materials that are BPA-, PVC-, and phthalate-free, this toy can be adjusted for different difficulty levels, and it involves four different tasks that must be completed in a certain order for your dog to unlock the treats inside. If this “level 4” toy is a bit too tough for your pup, there are also levels one, two, and three available from the brand. One reviewer wrote: “This is awesome! My border collie’s level of intelligence is a part time job for me. He requires engagement and he figures out everything fast. This puzzle took him a good hour and a half to figure out the first time and every time after that, he sits with this for about an hour. He’s really calm (which he’s normally not) and concentrated with it, methodically moving pieces. I ordered a second, different puzzle a day after we received this first one. It’s easy to clean because the sliding tiles just pop right off but I’ve just been using his regular kibble in it so it hasn’t hardly gotten dirty at all.” 7 This Adorable Hedgehog Ball That Dispenses Treats & Helps Clean Teeth The details: Made out of sturdy rubber, this interactive dog toy is built to stand up to some serious chewing. The hedgehog toys’ bristles help clean your pup’s teeth, according to the brand, and you can hide kibble or small treats inside the stomach to keep your dog busy and challenged. This bulky toy only comes in one size, so it’s best suited for medium and large dogs. One reviewer wrote: “My dog absolutely loves this toy. He has a tendency to completely shred toys but this one holds up. The kibble option keeps him engaged but that is just an added bonus. He’s been carrying it around since we gave it to him.” 8 A Four-Tier Puzzle Toy With Thousands Of Fans On Amazon The details: This multi-tier puzzle toy can be adjusted to make it increasingly difficult as your pup gets the hang of it. It’s made of high-quality plastic that’s BPA-, PVC- phthalate-free, and it features 12 hidden compartments in total for kibble or tiny treats. On top of that, it’s a popular choice on Amazon, with a 4.4-star overall rating and nearly 3,000 reviews. One reviewer wrote: “Our Tennessee Treeing Brindle loves this puzzle toy! Not only can you increase difficulty by adding or taking away the white bone covers, but you can also use any treat/reward you want. We use a mix of meat, peanut butter, and cheese. The peanut butter seems to [lengthen] the time our Luna plays with it, since it takes a little longer to lick it out [...] Very sturdy, but easy to disassemble and clean.” 9 This Interlocking Toy That Can Fit Even Big Treats Inside The details: Made of tough rubber, this unique dog toy consists of four pieces that connect, requiring your pup to disassemble them to get to the treats. Perfect for medium and large breeds, this toy’s pieces can be configured in several ways for a variety of difficulty levels. Best of all, this toy is dishwasher safe for quick cleanup. One reviewer wrote: “As a professional dog trainer, I love finding new puzzle toys for my dogs to give them new enrichment activities. This toy is unique among others I've found, and I love that it provides an extra challenge for the dogs. Instead of just rolling the toy, as is the solution to most puzzle toys on the market, my dogs have to pull the toy apart (or throw the toy until it comes apart). It was frustrating for one of my dogs at first, but after he figured out how to work the toy, it's a favorite in our household. My dogs even love to carry the pieces and play fetch with them, because they love the texture!”
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This article was originally published on
Aug. 18, 2018