Many dog owners lead busy lives — in addition to feeding, walking, and brushing our pups, many of us have full work schedules that leave our dogs flying solo for a portion of the day. Luckily, there are ways to keep your pooch occupied while you earn a paycheck. According to Jesse Sternberg,
dog trainer and author of Enlightened Dog Training, “Dogs who spend a lot of time indoors can thrive mentally, physically, and spiritually with a few items from Amazon and some special attention from you.”
According to Julie Burgess, Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) at
SeniorTailWaggers.com, pups who spend a lot of time indoors benefit from regular mental stimulation: “Keeping dogs busy is crucial because most need a ‘job’ to stay out of mischief.” To keep them occupied and enriched, you can provide your dog with an interactive puzzle toy, or encourage them to play a game of chase with this USB-powered bone-shaped toy that rolls around on its own .
All of the items below are vetted by seasoned dog trainers who have your pup’s best interests at heart. Whether it’s a pack of
all-natural bully sticks or a treat-dispensing feeder toy, you’ll find all sorts of dog trainer-approved tricks to entertain your dog while indoors.
This Interactive Puzzle Toy That Encourages Positive Play Habits
Shannon Riley-Coyner, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) of
Truly Force Free Animal Training, recommends the Outward Hound interactive puzzle toy for bored pups in need of mental stimulation. The toy is equipped with 20 treat compartments that encourage your dog to search and sniff. “This fun and rewarding puzzle is great for reducing anxious dog behavior and redirecting destructive behavior,” says Riley-Coyner.
A Cube-Shaped Feeder Toy That Keeps Dogs Busy For Hours
For food-motivated dogs, Riley-Coyner recommends the
Kruuse Buster Food Cube as a way to stay busy for hours on end. The cube-shaped feeder can be filled with kibble or treats, providing mental challenges for dogs as they try to access the food within. Interactive and engaging, the cube provides long stretches of entertainment for your pup.
Available sizes: 2
Available colors: 4
The Classic Rubber Kong Toy With A Loyal Fanbase
For over 40 years, this oddly shaped rubber toy has made a name for itself among dog owners everywhere, and Riley-Coyner agrees that the
KONG Classic is a fantastic way to entertain your pooch. “A stuffed Kong can keep your dog occupied when crated or when you have visitors,” Riley-Coyner says. “It can provide mental stimulation and provide an outlet for your dog’s energy.” You can stuff the toy with peanut butter, plain yogurt, treats, wet dog food, and more.
A Wobbling Kong Toy That Slowly Dispenses Treats
Looking for an even more challenging toy than the KONG Classic? Riley-Coyner recommends the
KONG Wobbler, which requires your dog to use her nose and paws to knock over the toy and retrieve the treats inside. “The unpredictable movement keeps the toy challenging, even for seasoned Wobbler users,” Riley-Coyner explains. In addition, the KONG Wobbler can also be used as a food bowl alternative to “help slow and extend mealtime while providing exercise for your dog.”
This Heavy-Duty Ball That Turns Mealtime Into A Game
With space for up to 2 cups of kibble, the
Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble Ball is a food-dispensing toy that Riley-Coyner highly recommends. Great for fast eaters, the heavy-duty rubber ball requires your dog to work for his meal. “Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble is a great way to keep your dog busy and fed at the same time,” says Riley-Coyner. The patented treat meter randomly dispenses pieces of kibble, keeping your dog fully engaged.
Available sizes: 2
Available colors: Purple, Orange
The Egg-Shaped Toy That Provides Plenty Of Exercise
Shonyae Johnson, CPDT-KA and animal behavior manager at
Operation Kindness, a leading lifesaving shelter in Texas, recommends the JW Mega Egg for dogs who could benefit from indoor exercise. “They roll around and are hard to catch, which makes them puzzling and a challenge for any pup,” she says. Made from a durable plastic material, the egg-shaped toy rolls and slips from under your dog’s paws, encouraging her to chase it for hours.
A Bouncy Ball That Stands Up To Heavy Chewing
If your dog loves to chew, Johnson recommends
Jolly Pets’ Bounce-n-Play dog toy. Made from Jolly Pets’ signature JollyFlex material, the bouncy ball won’t deflate, even after being punctured. It even floats, making it perfect for water-based play. “Best ball for heavy chewers!” Johnson says. “They love to chase it and it’s stood up against our roughest players in the shelter, for hours of play throughout the week.”
Available sizes: 3
Available colors: 3
This Flirt Pole For Dogs Who Love To Chase
For dogs who love to chase, Johnson suggests investing in the
Squishy Face Studio flirt pole. Available in multiple colors, the durable polyester lure is affixed to a long, stretchy bungee cord at the end of a sturdy, easy-grip rod. “The lure on the end and its movement makes for great fun to expel energy after a training session,” Johnson says.
Available sizes: Regular, Junior
Available colors: 6
A 4-Piece Variety Pack Of Engaging Puzzle Toys
Dogs often need various forms of stimulation, and
babaZone’s Enrichment & Fun puzzle pack comes with Johnson’s approval. “Variety packs such as this make a great opportunity to try new things for your pups,” she explains. You get a lick mat for a frozen treat, a chew bone that cleans your dog’s teeth, a snuffle mat that encourages natural foraging behaviors, and a wobbler toy that dispenses treats. Who could ask for anything more?
The Puzzle Toy That’s Designed For Puppies
Julie Burgess, CPDT-KA at
SeniorTailWaggers.com, highly recommends the Joansen Dog Puzzle Toy for puppy owners. Simply fill the 14 compartments with treats or kibble, and watch as your pint-sized pup figures out how to access them. “This dog puzzle toy is geared explicitly to puppies and is fantastic,” says Burgess. “Get this toy ready before a meeting, and you’ll have at least a few minutes where your puppy doesn’t require your full attention!”
This Set Of Textured Lick Mats That Help Your Dog Calm Down
Repetitive licking increases endorphins in dogs, helping them calm down from a stressed state. Burgess recommends this set of two
Hyper Pet IQ treat mats. “Use the Hyper Pet IQ treat mat and spread xylitol-free peanut butter, canned pumpkin, yogurt, applesauce, canned dog food, or mashed bananas on them,” she says. Or, for an added challenge, freeze the mat slightly so it’s harder to lick the spreadable goodies off.
An Indestructible Chew Toy That Also Cleans Your Dog’s Teeth
Owners of aggressive chewers need look no further than the
Doggiemon indestructible chew toy, which Burgess recommends for its great versatility. “Three toys are combined in one with this toy because it can: be used as a toy, clean your dog’s teeth, be used as a slow feeder for dogs that inhale their food,” she explains. Made of premium rubber, the multifunctional dog toy won’t come apart no matter how much Fido chews.
The USB-Rechargeable Bone Toy That Moves On Its Own
With a USB-rechargeable battery, the
PETGEEK Interactive Dog Bone Toy is one of Burgess’ top picks for dogs who love an active game of chase. “This toy moves in unexpected ways to keep your dog’s interest,” says Burgess. Just charge it up, fill it with some treats or kibble, and tap the toy to begin the play session. Your dog will have a blast trying to catch the toy, which can even flip over and move in the other direction.
This Rubber Ball That Stimulates All Your Dog’s Senses
According to CPDT-KA-certified dog trainer Hannah Richter of
Andrea Arden Dog Training and Dog Spotted — an online source for expert-guided dog advice — the Ethical Pets Sensory teething ball “is a great choice for dogs who love to play fetch and who like a variety of textures.” The ball has a tantalizing beef scent and flavor, as well as a squeaker, so all five senses are engaged. Richter also says that the soft rubber makes this a good choice for teething puppies.
An Adorable Dragon Plush Toy That’s A “Dog Parent Favorite”
When it comes to plush toys, Richter specifically recommends the
goDog dragon squeaker toy because it’s suitable for dogs of all sizes and ages. “The toy is very well made and is a dog parent favorite!” says Richter. Not to mention, the cartoon dragon design allows you to get some seriously adorable photos of your pup with their new plush buddy.
Available sizes: 2
Available colors: 11
This Durable Football Toy With A Built-In Squeaker
Richter also recommends the
EASTBLUE squeaky dog toy because it can withstand heavy, aggressive chewing. The aerodynamic shape makes the ball easy to throw long distances, and an added squeaker keeps your dog’s attention. Richter says this durable toy is “made for dogs who have a tendency to destroy their toys,” and that it’s “great for pups who love to play indoors and outdoors.”
The Monthly Subscription Box For Tough Chewers
Super Chewer by Bark Box is a monthly subscription box that Richter recommends specifically for heavy-chewing dogs. You get two meaty chews, two tough toys, and two bags of treats, all ov which give your dog something to get excited about every single month. “Novelty is always exciting for pups and a subscription is a great way to ensure new toys each month,” says Richter.
A Dual-Sided Tug Toy For Wrestling & Chasing
Dog trainer Jesse Sternberg of
Peaceful Alpha recommends the Chuckit! Ultra Duo dog tug toy because it’s “great for the two kinds of games your dog wants to play: wrestling and chasing.” With two durable rubber balls linked by a heavy-duty nylon cord, the tug toy can be used for a rousing game of fetch or tug-of-war. The dual-sided design even allows two dogs to play with each other.
This Delicious Freeze-Dried Meal Topper Made With Natural Ingredients
Sternberg suggests using
Instinct Raw Boost Mixers as a way to enhance your dog’s training sessions. “Instinct Raw is a great multipurpose item,” he says. “It can be used as a high-value reward or an extremely healthy kibble topper (if your dog is a picky eater).” Made with all-natural beef, vegetables, and fruit, the grain-free, freeze-dried pieces make excellent treats that also support proper digestion.
These Grass-Fed Beef Chew Sticks That Are Fully Digestible
A safer alternative to rawhide, Sternberg recommends
Jack&Pup’s bully sticks “for when you want to Netflix and chill, and your dog doesn’t.” The chew sticks are made from a single ingredient: grass-fed beef. Plus, they’re fully digestible —so your dog is free to devour the whole thing. They also work to clean your pup’s teeth, reduce tartar buildup, and strengthen gums.
A Teething Toy That’s Gentle Enough For Puppies
When puppies’ teeth are still growing, they need gentle toys to chew on. Sternberg recommends the
KONG Puppy teething toy, which is made with soft rubber. Like the KONG Classic, this toy can be stuffed with delicious fillings like peanut butter, mashed banana, and puppy kibble. It’s great for curbing excess energy, as well as easing boredom during crate-training.
The Training Guide For “Conscious Dog Lovers”
Self-described as a book for “conscious dog lovers,” Sternberg’s
Enlightened Dog Training is a comprehensive guide to reading dogs’ signals and communicating with them more effectively. “It helps us find our inner peace while healing our dog’s neuroses and anxiety,” says Sternberg. The book contains training exercises and meditative practices that help ease tension and strengthen your bond with your pet.
A Multi-Layered Snuffle Mat For Hiding Food & Treats
Snuffle mats allow your dog to indulge in their natural sniffing and foraging behaviors. Dog trainer and owner of
K9 of Mine Meg Marrs recommends the AWOOF snuffle mat, which has multiple layers of polar fleece folds for concealing kibble and treats. “Sniffing is a great enrichment activity for dogs and burns tons of energy, so it’s a great activity for when it’s chilly outside!” says Marrs.
This Bobbing, Treat-Dispensing Toy With Adjustable Difficulty Levels
If you’re looking to entertain your dog for long periods of time, Marrs recommends the
StarMark Bob-A-Lot interactive dog toy. Your pooch has to knock and roll the toy around to dislodge the kibble inside. The rocking puzzle feeder fits up to 3 cups of food, so it can even replace your pet’s food bowl at mealtime. “Not only is it incredibly fun and challenging for your dog, the difficulty can be adjusted so that you can make it harder as your dog masters the puzzle!”
A Set Of Adorable Hide & Seek Plush Toys
If you’re looking for a puzzle toy that doesn’t require food or treats, Marrs recommends
Pet Craft Supply Hide and Seek toys. The gym bag-shaped toy is filled with two squeaky plush socks and a plush squeaky underwear toy, so your dog can have fun sniffing and pulling the various objects out. “My dog goes nuts for puzzle toys like this that feature toys within another toy — and many other dogs seem to adore them too!” says Marrs.
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This article was originally published on
Dec. 25, 2021