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16 Enrichment Toys to Keep Your Dog Fulfilled and Occupied

Updated: Jul 15

Dogs need to use their brains just as much as they need to move their bodies. Giving them outlets for natural dog behaviors like sniffing, licking, chewing, and foraging is an excellent way to meet your dog's cognitive needs, and can help discourage your dog from meeting their needs in a more annoying way, like by chewing on your couch legs.

While there are plenty of DIY options for enrichment toys made out of stuff from your recycling bin, there are plenty of dog toys made specifically for keeping your pup busy, and most of them won't break the bank. Below are a few of our favorites.

Some of them are better for calming your dog down after something exciting or scary—licking or snuffling toys—while others, like treat puzzles and balls, are better for when you can't get your dog as much physical exercise as you'd like, such as during rain, extreme heat, or just days when you're stuck in meetings for hours on end. Here's your guide to the ones we love.

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The classic Kong has been trainers' go-to dog toy for decades, for good reason. It's durable, easy to clean, and has an erratic bounce that dogs love. Fill it with yogurt, peanut butter, canned dog food, or another spreadable paste and freeze it for long-lasting fun. If your dog is a determined puzzle-solver, stick a treat like lamb lung (or the pre-made Kong Jerky) inside and watch them work to get it out. For extra-strength chewers, try the Kong Extreme. Great for crate training (use a string with a knot in it through the top hole to secure it to the crate)!

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The Toppl works just like a Kong, but its wider mouth makes it a little easier for your dog (and for you—it can go right in the dishwasher to clean). You can fill it a mixture of anything smearable your dog loves, whether it's soaked kibble, wet food, pumpkin, yogurt, or more. Mix in training treats, sardines, chicken feet, or other toppings and freeze. You can really go wild with Toppl recipes. It's durable and comes in three sizes—fit the small/large or the large/extra-large together to make a treat ball. Also easy to zip tie to a crate!

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Repetitive licking can be soothing for dogs, so the Pupsicle makes a great pacifier for your dog when they need to chill out. You can buy pre-made frozen treat balls to go into this refillable toy, or make your own treats out of broth, wet food, etc.

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Lick mats are incredibly effective at helping your dog decompress. Basically any brand will do, but this three pack is a great bargain. Prep ahead and freeze for a long-lasting option that will keep your dog happily working away while you're on Zoom or practicing crate training. As with any of these toys, you can get as complicated or as simple as you'd like with the recipe—we just do a simple smear of canned dog food pate, cover in plastic wrap, and stack in the freezer for an always-on-hand doggy pacifier.

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For a more active play session, a treat ball is an excellent choice for getting your dog moving, especially if they have a herding instinct or just love all things ball. Smaller dogs can eat their whole meal out of this easy-to-fill treat ball, but bigger dogs will enjoy it, too. Your dog just has to roll it across the floor to release the treats/kibble inside. (We recommend a mixture of both so your dog never knows what's going to come out!) It's 5 inches in diameter, so it's big enough that it won't easily roll under your couch.

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This semi-spherical ball is easy to fill, holds a decent amount of kibble or treats, and is made of soft rubber that won't break your eardrums (or your floor) as your dog bounces it around. It comes in two sizes, one for little dogs and one for medium/large dogs. Its affordability, durability, and popularity with dogs makes it one of our favorite enrichment toys.

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Shaped like a giant version of the classic rubber toy, the Wobbler is weighted on the bottom so that your dog has to knock it around to release the treats/kibble inside. Note that there's a version for small dogs and a version for big dogs.

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Outward Hound's Nina Ottosson food puzzles are excellent for a dog that likes more of a cognitive challenge. Hide treats in the compartments and then cover them by sliding the tabs, then give it to your dog to work out how to release the treats. This one also works well for cats!

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This is our favorite of the many Nina Ottosson toys we've tried. The rotating set of trays can fit almost a whole meal—even for our 85-pound Great Pyrenees—so it is perfect to use with dogs that wolf down their kibble at an alarming rate. The bone-shaped covers are optional, so you can adjust the difficulty level as your dog figures out the puzzle. You can also put wet food or broth in the trays and freeze them for a long-lasting pupsicle.

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Dogs that sail through the previous two Nina Ottosson toys may prefer the Casino design, which is one of Outward Hound's more difficult puzzles. Twisting the bones locks the trays, encouraging your dog to use their nose, paws, and mouth to release the treats.

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This one requires a bit of DIY, but for dogs who love to eviscerate their toys, it's amazing. You can use fabric strips tied in each of the ball's holes to make it into a treat ball that requires your dog to de-stuff it to get at the food. See our tutorial on TikTok!

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The Qwizl can either be filled with smearable treats and frozen, or you can use it as a bully stick holder. Put your dog's bully stick through the center to lengthen chew time and ensure the small leftover pieces don't become a choking hazard. (Note that you're more likely to be able to fit a bully stick in the large than the small.) It's a little more of an investment than something like the Kong, but West Paw's toys are known for their durability—if you feel your dog has torn through it unreasonably quickly, you can write to them for a refund.

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Dogs need to chew, and you'd rather they not do it on your furniture. Give them something fun to gnaw on, and you may find they're less likely to chomp on your shoes or household items. Benebone's synthetic sticks are a great substitute for whatever your dog might try to drag home from the park. They can stand up to aggressive chewing without splintering. There's also a bacon flavor, if your dog needs a little extra incentive.

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Sniffing is a great enrichment outlet for dogs. It can lower their heart rate, helping them relax and chill out. Snuffle mats are one of the easiest ways to activate your dog's nose: just scatter treats throughout the fabric strips and let your dog nose around to find them. As with lick mats, there are a ton of brands out there, but we like this felt design. (You could also try this extra-large one, which features a slightly different feel that looks more like a bath mat.) The drawstring can be used to add a bit more challenge for your dog. Try using it when your dog is going monster mode on your living room in the evenings, or when coming back from an over-exciting walk.

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This one combines elements of the snuffle mat with a treat ball. Hide treats in the folds of the fleece. Your dog will have to sniff them out and manipulate the ball in order to release them.

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This puzzle doesn't involve food at all. Toy-crazy dogs might prefer pulling these small stuffed squirrels out of their hiding spot to sniffing around for treats. If you don't like the squirrel design, there are tons of other options on Chewy.

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