These Challenging (But Fun!) Toys Can Actually Make Your Dog Smarter

Dogs get a bad rap when it comes to intelligence. Everyone seems to accept that cats are clever and quick-witted but when it comes to their canine counterparts, they're often written off as dopey and dumb. This categorization, however, is entirely unfair. Just because your furry friend likes to bark at the wall and drink toilet water doesn’t mean they're an idiot. (Well OK, sometimes they're an idiot). But there is help. You just need to find some challenging toys for dogs to stimulate their brain and get the "smart thoughts" rolling.

So what sort of options are out there for your soon-to-be-brilliant pooch? Fortunately, the internet is crawling with toys to make your dog sharper, including puzzles, IQ games, flip boards, sliders, hide-and-seek gadgets, hidden treat dispensers, and other toys aimed at building canine intelligence. You just need to know what to look for.

The answer to this depends largely on what kind of dog you have — how big they are, what their breed is like, and how smart or, ahem, “not so smart," they are already. If you’ve got a puppy who’s sharp as a tack, for example, you’ll need something more challenging — a three-dimensional object or one of the more intricate strategy games. If your pup missed the intelligence lottery, on the other hand, and is starting out from scratch, you probably want to start with something more simple like a slow feeder or rolling treat dispenser. Check out this list of ideas of some of the most challenging toys for dogs to make your precious pup wicked smart.

The Most Challenging Puzzle Toy For Dogs

This ultra-stimulating toy is part of a series of dog puzzles that includes poker boxes, flip boards, chess sets, and other strategy games. Beginning with a see-through tower, your pup can tug on Training Level 1 rope loops to release treats and send them tumbling to the ground. Once they master that, they can graduate to slider boards with drawers, rows of cones with flip lids, and tons of other brain-stimulating gadgets. The games come in different sizes and skill sets for different breeds and problem-solving abilities. "My dog loves this!" said one enthusiastic Amazon customer. "She gets super stoked when she sees me take it out for her to play with... I am a professional dog trainer and recommend interactive games to my clients, and Trixie makes by far the coolest & most durable."

The Most Challenging Hide-And-Seek Toy For Dogs

Dogs love a good round of Hide-And-Seek as much as kids do. This IQ-training plush toy, which comes with your choice of colorful bees, squirrels, birds, or hedgehogs, is a sensational way to keep their mind engaged while having fun, too. Just stuff the squeaky animals into their homes and let your dog try to dig them out. The noise will drive them crazy as they burrow and chew. The game is so popular it has almost 10,000 previews on Amazon. "My dog absolutely loved the toy," said one happy reviewer. "As soon as he saw it, he was obsessed — pulling the squirrels out, running around, chewing, and fetch."

  • Available sizes: S, M, L, XL
The Most Challenging Treat Dispenser For Dogs

Made of durable, chew-resistant plastic, this rolling dog feeder dispenses food as it flies across the floor, offering exercise for your pup on top of mental stumulation. The Bob-A-Lot container, which can hold up to three cups of food, features adjustable openings so you can customize the difficulty level specifically to your dog's needs. In addition to the food-based motivation, the toy has a weighted, anti-slip bottom that makes it wobble enticingly in erratic, unpredictable patterns. "If I could give this toy 10 stars I would," said one excited customer. "It fascinates our dog. She learnt to push it with her nose within minutes and we leave it full for her every night."

  • Available sizes: S, L
The Most Challenging Treat Ball For Dogs

If you want to play fetch with your pup while simultaneously engaging his brain, this IQ treat ball is a fantastic choice. The non-abrasive rubber ball features flexible compartments you can use to stash food and treats, adding motivation for your pooch to chase the ball while stimulating his mind. The flexible, versatile ball is bouncy and even floats, too, so if you have a water hound you can toss it in the river without fear of losing it. "This treat ball keeps my border terrier busy for half an hour at a time!" said one satisfied Amazon user. "He's too smart for his own good, easily bored, and easily distracted so anything that holds his attention is a real winner in my book ... The rubber teeth hold soft treats where the dog can see and smell them but must work to remove them. Super pleased with this purchase."

  • Available sizes: One Size
The Most Challenging 3D Toy For Dogs

This challenging IQ toy for dogs is a stimulating, 3-D apparatus that you fill with food or treats and let your dog paw at to try to get them out. The coolest part is that the toy can be customized to your dog's current skill set and then adapted into progressively more difficult challenges as they get better. When first starting out, simply place food in the little beakers and leave the lids off. Once they have mastered that setup, begin using the lids with patterned holes. As your pup gets better and better at the game, you can rotate through different combinations of the mix-and-match lids. "This is a perfect puzzle toy," said one happy Amazon customer. "I have bought a flip board for my dog and he figured it out too quickly. This one took him just long enough to figure it out to not get bored with it. I love that it comes with multiple caps to increase the difficulty."

  • Available sizes: One Size
The Most Challenging Slow Feeder For Dogs

Constructed with durable and safe ABS plastic, this slow dog feeder is the perfect combination of a feeding bowl and puzzle game. It's designed with an intricate maze pattern in the middle that keeps the pieces of food apart, forcing your puppy to slow down and take time with their meal. Not only does the process stimulate their brain and increase their IQ, it also helps with digestion and prevents overeating-related issues such as bloating, vomiting, and obesity. "This is the perfect bowl to use for dogs that tend to gobble their food fast," said one pleased customer. "It makes them slow down to eat and allows food to start to digest without the dog having to choke and constantly cough... I highly recommend this type of bowl to anyone with a dog that tends to eat too fast."

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