16 Enrichment Toys for Dogs and Puppies

April Saylor

April Saylor

. Reviewed by Barri J. Morrison, DVM
Updated Mar. 21, 2024
corgi looking at puzzle dog toy

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Enrichment toys for dogs are more than just toys. They’re designed to stimulate your pup’s mind, challenge their instincts, and keep them engaged—both mentally and physically. Enrichment toys are like “brain games” meant to tire your dog out even more than physical activity, encouraging instinctual behavior that helps keep boredom at bay.

Physical exercise, training, and quality time together are great ways to increase your dog’s confidence and overall well-being.

But incorporating enrichment activities into the mix can also provide much-needed mental stimulation for dogs. Pups that have opportunities to engage their senses are happier, healthier, and less likely to become bored (which can lead to destructive behaviors).

Remember, a busy dog is a happy dog—and enrichment toys can engage your pup’s brain and body for hours at a time.

How Do Enrichment Toys Work for Dogs?

Enrichment toys are designed to engage your dog's senses. These can include puzzles that build problem-solving skills or devices that encourage natural instincts like foraging and scent work. 

Unlike traditional toys that may focus solely on physical activity (like a ball) or chewing behavior (like a bone), enrichment toys usually incorporate an element of surprise that keeps your pup guessing. Add a reward like treats or squeaky toys, and you’ve got an interactive, positive reinforcement activity designed to stimulate your dog's cognitive abilities and instincts. Win-win.

Benefits of Enrichment Toys for Dogs

Enrichment toys can benefit dogs of all ages and breeds. The biggest advantage is mental stimulation, which all dogs need to thrive—just like they need physical activity and a nutritious diet. It’s important for cognitive development and overall happiness.

Enrichment toys can also keep your dog calm and may even help reduce anxiety for dogs who may be nervous or working to build confidence.

Brain games can also give your pooch a sense of accomplishment. Unlike other types of play or activity, enrichment toys create a more focused form of engagement that lets dogs channel their natural energy and curiosity into rewarding tasks.

Best Enrichment Toys for Dogs

Treat-Dispensing Chew Toys

These versatile chew toys can hold treats, spreads, or a bully stick for your dog to chew. Try spooning a serving of dog-safe peanut butter or pumpkin inside and freeze for a longer-lasting treat they can lick for hours.

  • KONG® Classic Dog Toy: Made with chewers in mind, KONG® toys have been keeping hounds busy for decades. These toys are available in different shapes, sizes, and chew durability levels; simply fill with your dog’s favorite treats for a challenge that keeps them occupied.

Snuffle Mats or Balls

Snuffle mats are designed to mimic grass and leaf material and let dogs engage their natural foraging instincts to search for hidden treats within the soft fabric.

  • Forager Snuffle Mat: Camouflage food within the grass-like fabric for your pup to sniff out. You can even cinch the sides up to make it more challenging for pups that find their treats too quickly.
  • Hide and Seek Sniffing Ball: A slightly more advanced version, a snuffle ball lets your pooch sniff out treats hidden deep within the strips of fabric tucked into compartments.

Interactive Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys for dogs require problem-solving to access treats hidden within compartments. With toys ranging from beginner to difficult level, pups use their noses to lead the way as they sniff out snacks hidden within. There are hundreds of interactive dog puzzles to choose from. They’re an excellent way to keep your dog busy, but remember to always supervise your dog while they play.

Hide and Seek Toys

If your dog is more motivated by squeaky toys than food, a plushy hide-and-seek toy can be a great way to engage their burrowing and hunting senses.

  • Hide and Seek Plush Puzzle Toy: Dogs that love to burrow or have a high prey drive will appreciate a squeaker hide and seek game like this. Simply hide the little plushies into the larger container and watch them burrow, dig, and discover with glee.

Slow Feeders

A slow feeder or puzzle feeder can also keep your dog entertained and engaged while they eat. Designed to slow down fast eaters, puzzle feeders are typically less intense than interactive puzzles but make mealtime more exciting than a regular doggy dish.

Treat-Dispensing Toys

These treat dispensing toys require some strategy to get the treat from within, but they can be a good option for dogs that aren’t advanced enough for the interactive puzzles.

  • Tug-a-Jug Dog Toy: This interactive toy dispenses treats as your dog pulls, tugs, and shakes it, encouraging physical activity and mental engagement.
  • KONG® Gyro Dog Toy: The unique, Saturn-like ring around this food dispensing ball keeps active pups entertained as they flip and spin to release their kibble.

Textured Lick Mats

Not quite a toy, lick mats get an honorable mention as another simple way to enrich your dog’s day. Usually designed as a flat silicone or plastic tray, they keep your pooch busy, similar to a Kong toy.

  • Textured Lick Mat: Simply spread a spoonful of their favorite soft snack (such as wet dog food or peanut butter) and watch them concentrate as they try to get every last lick off the ridges and crevices. 

5 Best Enrichment Toys for Puppies

Like the adult versions, enrichment toys for puppies are designed to engage your pup’s senses and keep their brain and body busy.

Because puppies are prone to chewing while their adult teeth come in, enrichment toys for puppies are made with their sensitive teeth in mind. Puppy enrichment toys also have fewer small parts that could accidentally be chewed off and become a choking hazard.

Puppy Teething Rings or Sticks

These soft, durable toys provide relief for teething puppies while also engaging them in safe chewing behavior. Pop in the freezer for a few minutes to help soothe sore gums.

  • KONG® Puppy Teething Stick: Made from soft puppy rubber, a teething stick like this can help clean teeth and soothe sore gums while your pup chews.

Puppy Treat Dispenser Balls

Treat dispenser balls help puppies learn problem-solving skills and keep them entertained as they work to access the hidden treats inside.

  • Food Cube Dog Toy: This treat dispensing ball is adjustable, so you can change the difficulty level as they grow.

Puppy Kong Toys

The Puppy KONG® line has several options that are made from a gentle rubber material that’s safe for puppies.

  • KONG® Puppy Chew Toy: Similar to the classic Kong but designed for smaller jaws and growing puppy teeth.
  • KONG® Puppy Tire with Treats: This tire-shaped Kong toy was formulated for dogs under 1 year old and keeps them busy with treats tucked into the inner track of the tire.

Puppy Food Puzzles

Put your pup to work with a simple puzzle made with youngsters in mind. It won’t take long for your pup to sniff out their snacks, but learning how to uncover them will help build their problem-solving skills.

  • Level 1 Puppy Food Puzzle: Pups can sniff out the snacks and use their nose to nudge or paw aside the cover and reveal their reward.

Importance of Play and Mental Stimulation for Dogs

Providing play and mental stimulation for your dog is essential for their overall well-being and happiness. But you don’t have to use fancy toys to stimulate your dog’s brain—there are plenty of low-cost ways to incorporate enrichment into your dog's routine, too.

April Saylor


April Saylor

Freelance Writer

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