5 Toys to Aid Cognitive Development in Dogs

Toys are not only an entertainment source for your dog but also help with his/her mental stimulation. They are fun, interactive, tire your dog out and work with both – toy and treat driven dogs. Here are 5 toys that are easily available and make for a great brain exercise for the dog.

  1. Kong Toy
    It’s a bouncy rubber toy with a peculiar shape and a cavity. It can be stuffed with treats or the cavity can be lined with dog-safe peanut butter, cheese or any other spread that your dog enjoys. The peculiar shape and its curves give the toy an irregular bounce that’s unpredictable. This adds the surprise element to the game and is great for dogs that are born to chase and hunt. It comes in various sizes with special varieties for pups, seniors and extreme chewers. 
  1. Puzzles
    Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes and often require the dog to sniff out the treats and ultimately retrieve them. These have levers, sliders, covers and rotating parts that compel a dog to use different motions and different parts to get to the treat. For example, the sliders may be tackled with the snout or the paw while the covers may be lifted using the teeth. Maneuvering their way through the puzzle, the dog learns to negotiate hurdles on his own. 
    If you think the puzzle is getting too easy for your dog, time him/her. Set a timer of say a minute and when the timer goes off, pick the puzzle up irrespective of whether it is completed or not. This way, your dog learns that the activity is time bound and you can gradually reduce the time later on. Another way to step up the diff would be to hide treats only in select slots and not all slots so that your dog uses his time efficiently and gets the treats with reduced efforts. 
  1. Treat dispensing toys
    These can be balls, rolling toys or bobbing toys. When the ball/toy is moved a certain way, the toy dispenses treats. These also often have alterable difficulty levels. Having two levels of opening (more often than not), the first level opening releases treats into the toy/ ball itself and the second one drops them out. The opening inside the toy can be adjusted while the treats are being put into it. The bigger the opening, more frequently are the treats given out.
    Dogs learn to steer and direct the motion of the toys in a way that treats fall out easily and quickly. The motion of the toys also keeps them engaged. This again, is good for dogs with a chasing instinct. They learn a lot about control and get a sense of direction. 
  1. Tug toys
    A game of tug, when played the right way, helps foster the human-canine bond and can also help build muscle. Tug toys are a great option when the dog has to expend their energy without running around. Tug toys can come in a variety of shapes. They can be braided ropes, twisted ropes or ropes with a ball in the middle. They also make for a good tease when you want the dog to walk/run in a certain direction without having to give them treats. Dangle the tug toy in front of the dog and have them chase it. If your tug toy has an option of a treat dispensing toy, attach the toy to a wall or a tree and have the dog pull and tug at the rope to get the treats. 
  1. Sniff mats/Snuffle Mats/Snuffle Balls
    Sniff mats make for a great exercise to hone your dog’s olfactory skills. Based purely on nose work, these mats have varying densities of fabric to make the job more difficult for the dog. You can buy them or even make a DIY version for yourself. For fussy eaters, this works as a fun way to have kibble or for dogs that gulp down their food, it also works as a slow feeder.

Use these toys for fun, play, exercise, meals and most importantly – stimulation. We hope these enrich your bond with your dog and also help him/her hone his/her skills. If you know any more of such toys, let us know in the comments section.