I’ve been asked for toy recommendations a lot, and due to lack of time, I haven’t really kept up with writeups or reviews – and some have been bought before this blog started so by this point the toys are not new. But to save writing the recommendations again and again, I’ve collected some all time favourites here – we have lots, and then some more.
Some ideas elsewhere on this blog
Up the game of searching – not just one toy but several, and a treat in each one so that the first part is finding the toy and the second part is getting the treat out: https://busydoggie.com/2019/05/07/multilevel-find-it-game-indoors/
For a different kind of exercise, use different kinds of Kongs with wet food and freeze them:
BusterMat: a bit of a high cost at the beginning but it will work for years, not break and will keep your dog busy for a long time. Our review.
The Trixie Snack Snake is also a long-term favourite and because it’s cheap, it’s a win-win! I’ve recommended this before to several people and seems to be liked by a lot of dogs. Versatile – works with treats AND wet food. Review here.
Starmark products are pretty much all great but they can be difficult to find in Europe these days – one particular long-term favourite is the Tetraflex. If you can’t find it, the next best thing is Trixie snack ball – they’re strong rubber, can’t be crushed with jaws and don’t make a noise on wooden floors.
Planet Dog is one of my favourite brands – I have lots of their products, some I’ve even bought again when we lost them on trips.
Snoop – this is amazing because it doesn’t roll like a ball, it’s harder for the dog, and because it’s folded in it’s physically difficult for the treats to come out and therefore takes longer. It never gets any easier because the difficulty is technical, not just the mental work of figuring it out. Nell got this immediately, after 2 years Grace still uses her “unique” technique of trying to lick the treats out while her nose wrinkles on the edge like a little pig… To each their own!
I’ve also recently seen someone freeze it with wet food which I haven’t done but will try soon… Well worth the higher price point – it survives a lot of abuse and doesn’t make a noise because it’s rubber.
Mazee Ball – the internal maze is good but it’s not as difficult as the Snoop. Durable rubber outer, hard plastic inner – doesn’t make a noise on hard floors but does collect dust and fluff off the floor rather quickly.
Diamond Plate Double Tuff – these are excellent because the hole is very small so it’s harder work for the dog. Use first with kibble and then wet food, and finally up the game by freezing it. Durable and works for fetching too – it has an irregular, unpredicatable bounce. I take this on trips because it is so versatile – also works in cafes etc. if you need to keep your dog entertained, less likely to roll off like treat balls.
Their fruit & vegetable range is also fun:
- Strawberry has a small hole so works like the toy above, also rolls in a random way because of the shape. We’ve had this for 4-5 years and it’s still great – starting to show some wear after 2-3 years. The Chilli and Raspberry are the same as this but for smaller dogs – Strawberry is ok for medium dog upwards.
- Artichoke is easier, I think mostly for wet food
- Aubergine is big and works nicely with kibble – it rolls in a random way, but it’s overall quite easy
- Carrot is only for freezing wet food because the opening is really big. I’d also say only for dogs with long tongues because I tend to have food left in the bottom and then it’s a pain to clean…
These PetSafe products are all great – different dogs will like different toys, so if one doesn’t work don’t give up. Our favourite is the Barnacle in the top left corner and the Ribinator on the right, but there’s nothing wrong with the other ones, they just weren’t to Nell’s liking (but a friend’s dog LOVED them).
For a really hardwearing snufflemat, this random unbranded one from Amazon has been good – and it’s extra difficult because you can put the treats inside the pleats.
ZogoFlex Toppl and Qwizl are also really good (other products from this brand should be equally good quality, we just haven’t tried them). They’re pricey so I put off buying them for a long time, but the Toppl is great for dogs who find Kongs a bit difficult or if you want to freeze toys and find Kongs hard to clean – then this is the best, and it’s also really durable (a dog trainer with malinois dogs uses them and has had them for years so they should be good for most dogs). You can also attach two Toppls together.
The Qwizl is a different kind of puzzle – you can wedge treats in between and depending on how you do it, it’s quite difficult for a dog because they don’t have fingers!
More good Starmark products include:
The Bob-a-lot: makes a lot of noise on hard floors, but it’s weighted bottom means that it takes ages to get the treats out. Adjustable difficulty, because there are two stages for the treats: you put them in at the “neck” and they need to get through the adjustable hole into the main body of the toy – then, you can also adjust the exit hole, which means this toy grows with your dogs skills. For dogs medium size and up, will work for bigger dogs too. Hard, durable plastic – ours been bitten but few chew marks and also it’s difficult to carry because of its weight.
Treat Dispensing Puzzle Ball – this also makes a lot of noise, and adjustable like the Bob-a-lot. Very hardwearing and all but the largest of dogs will be unable to pick it up in their mouths so can’t be easily crunched or destroyed.
Everlasting balls – these are meant to be used with the hard discs from Starmark which your dog licks. While it may work for many dogs, with us Nell licked it first and then she worked out she can crunch the entire toy and eat the whole disk in one go… After that I only used them with treats which also works well. They’re super durable and offer that lovely crushing, chewing action that many dog like. There are a couple of variations of these and whichever you can get hold of is fine:
The other two great Starmark products include the Chewball and the Rugby Ball – the latter is more difficult to buy these days but it has a great extra crunchy sound because of the material inside. Nell eventually learned to pull it out but it took her months.
Sniff games help give them a brain workout https://busydoggie.com/2019/05/24/balance-training-in-nature-sniff-game-on-a-tree-trunk/
Active walks – these are in Dutch but get a Google Translate browser extension if you don’t already have it:
For more tips, this new account is brilliant – you’ll see more tips there than I will ever have time to write up! Some cool ones include…