Dogs need mental stimulation in order to thrive. Without it, they’re likely to become stressed, anxious and bored. Eventually, these emotional imbalances cause dogs to seek other ways to occupy their time, and that often translates to destructive behaviors such as inappropriate urination, chewing and digging. If any of this sounds familiar, don’t fret. Interactive toys offer a simple, effective and fun solution.
Top 7 benefits of interactive toys
Interactive toys are designed to stimulate a dog’s brain and satisfy natural canine behaviors. Our dogs’ ancestors weren’t fed out of bowls. They foraged and hunted for their food – an innate drive that hasn’t disappeared with domestication. Our canine companions still enjoy working, and it’s up to us to ensure they have ways to do so. Toys designed to arouse your dog’s senses and engage his problem-solving skills are a great way to fulfil this need. Here are seven benefits of interactive toys:
1. Mental stimulation
Interactive toys encourage your dog to solve problems, which can strengthen his mental faculties and prevent dementia later in life.
Alleviate boredom by encouraging your dog to play by himself! Interactive toys are especially beneficial when you’re out or when the weather is too poor to be outside much.
3. Weight management
While they’re no substitute for walks and romps in the park, interactive toys give canine couch potatoes a reason to move.
4. Stress and anxiety relief
When occupied, dogs are less likely to engage in potentially destructive behaviors caused by stressed or anxious emotions.
5. Satisfy natural hunting instincts
The type of play promoted by interactive toys enriches your dog’s life by stimulating the part of his brain his ancestors used when hunting and foraging.
6. Help slow down eating
If your dog inhales his food, he could be at risk for choking, vomiting and even canine bloat. Slow-feed bowls are one solution to this common problem, but interactive toys that dispense food or treats offer the same benefit in a much more entertaining manner.
7. Give him a job to do
Most dogs like to be busy, so it’s important to give him a job before he finds one of his own. In other words, interactive toys might help extend the life of your shoes and couch cushions.
Types of interactive toys
When seeking an appropriate interactive toy for your dog, it’s important to consider his age, breed, personality, play style and skill level. If he’s a chewer, look for a durable toy made of non-toxic rubber. If you’re hoping to slow down his eating, choose a treat-dispending toy that’ll make him work for his food. To alleviate boredom, reach for a puzzle toy. Here’s a quick look at the types of toys available:
Vessel toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and require the dog to extract food from inside using his mouth – and his brain!
Sensory toys are designed to occupy your dog and stimulate his senses by emitting a series of sounds, words and/or movements. They range from classic squeak toys to robotic toys that can be controlled from your Smartphone.
Treat dispensers encourage your companion to tilt, roll and maneuver the toy using his nose and paws until a goody is released through a small hole.
Ball launchers are electronic mechanisms that play fetch with your dog. These high-tech gadgets encourage dogs to play by shooting balls for them to chase. Train your dog to return the ball to the machine for ongoing fun!
Puzzle toys have knobs, levers, buttons and other elements. Nooks and crannies covered by flaps can only be opened when the right actions are taken by your dog, thereby engaging his problem-solving skills.
Video games for dogs involve electronic devices or apps with built-in sensors that feature one or more of the above elements – sounds, colors, buttons, etc. They lure your dog in by moving, making noise or dispensing treats, and respond when he interacts with the device.
A few words of caution
- Many interactive toys aren’t meant to be chewed, so it’s important to keep an eye on your dog to ensure his engagement with the toy doesn’t involve excessive biting or gnawing.
- Don’t let toys replace exercise and quality time with your pup. While they’re a great way to occupy him for short periods, they’re no substitute for love and quality care.
- Look for safe, durable, high quality, non-toxic products. Even if your dog is never left alone with the toy, it’s still likely to undergo a few hard chomps now and then. Quality toys will hold up under pressure, keep your dog’s teeth safe from chips and cracks, and prevent t him from ingesting something he shouldn’t.
- If you’re planning to use toys that dispense food and treats, be sure you’re not overfeeding your dog. Use interactive feeders as a way to make mealtime more engaging, rather than giving him extra calories he doesn’t need between meals.
Keep in mind that no matter what type of interactive toy you choose, most dogs are quick to solve the problem. To keep him motivated, advance your pup to more difficult toys once he’s mastered the simpler ones.