Interactive dog toys are all the rage these days as pet parents are looking for ways to keep their pup mentally stimulated. As we all know, a bored dog is a naughty dog. So, in an effort to reduce chewing, barking, clawing and other undesirable behaviors, many animal experts recommend finding an interactive toy or two to keep your dog busy.
What are Interactive Dog Toys?
An interactive dog toy is a toy that provides mental stimulation for your pet. Many of these are like puzzles and require your dog to use their innate intelligence to solve them. Contrast this with a bone or a tennis ball, where your pet simply lays on the ground and chews. After a while, many dogs get bored of this activity and look for other ways to keep themselves entertained.
Below is a collection of several interactive toys created specifically to keep your dog mentally agile. We will start with some high-tech items and move into some more basic, yet still challenging toys.
The Cleverpet Hub bills itself as the world’s first game console for dogs. While not exactly an Xbox, the hub is a round plastic device that sits on the floor. Along one edge are three pads that can light up. If your dog touches the lit pads with its paw, the hub will release kibble as a reward. As you pup gets better at figuring out the correct way to obtain the treat, the hub presents increasingly more challenging combinations.
CleverPet got its start on Kickstarter in 2014, with over 1,140 backers pledging more than $180,000 to help get the toy financed. The two founders of CleverPet are neuroscientists, so it figures that this toy would be designed to stimulate the mind of our furry friends.
Puppod claims that it is a smart toy for smart dogs. When your dog interacts with the wobbly toy at the correct time, they are rewarded with a treat from a bluetooth-enabled treat dispenser. Over time, the game starts getting harder as you dog gets smarter. The idea is to keep increasing the difficulty level so that your dog is always challenged.
Some owners of Pupod look at it as not just a toy, but rather a tool to help keep their dog mentally active and physically fit. Others use the device to keep their older dogs engaged throughout the day.
Like the CleverPet Hub, Puppod began as a project on Kickstarter. More than 180 backers pledged over $25,000 to get the smart toy built.
Wickedbone is a bone-shaped interactive device that you can control from an iOS or Android app on a smartphone. There are nine pre-set motions: roll forward, turn around, shake body, back flip, quick spin, front flip, lift head, quick jump and nod head. You can use these to move the WickedBone around the room, while your dog chases the device.
The toy also has an interactive mode that will cause it to play with your dog without any human interaction. Sensors in the WickedBone allow the toy to respond to your dog’s action with an appropriate counteraction. A fully charged unit will run from one to four hours, depending on whether it is used in drive or interactive modes.
Varram calls itself a pet fitness robot. The Varram is shaped like a bone and somewhat resembles the WickedBone interactive toy. Also, like the WickedBone, the Varram is controlled from a smartphone app to move around a room and interact with your dog. However, this device can also dispense treats for your pooch by clicking the app. The Varram can be loaded up with smaller dog treats and kibble.
The toy uses AI (artificial intelligence) technology to detect walls, furniture and pets. It also keeps a database of your dog’s behavior and uses this data when determining how to play with your pet. A fully charged unit will run for 24 hours.
Varram was also funded on Kickstarter, with 1,588 backers pledging more than $163,000 to help bring the project to life.
The iFetch is an automatic ball launcher that takes the game of fetch to the next level. The device shoots a miniature tennis ball between 10 and 30 feet. Your dog can play fetch by themselves by dropping the balls into the top of the iFetch. With a bit of training, most dogs learn to interact with the iFetch in less than a week.
There are three versions of the iFetch: 1) the original, with miniature tennis balls, 2) the iFetch Too, a bigger device that uses standard sized tennis balls, and 3) the iFetch Frenzy, a smaller toy that does not require batteries or power. This last version is ideal for small dogs and small spaces.
In addition, the above high-tech toys, there are several low tech toys that still present a fun interactive experience for your dog.
FurryFido Treat Ball
The FurryFido ball is a toy ball where you place a treat inside the device and then your dog must work to maneuver the toy in order to release the treat. The device is actually comprised of two balls, each with holes around the perimeter. The inside ball contains the reward and your dog has to figure out how to line up its holes with the outside ball in order to access the treat.
This toy is not as complex as some of the electronic devices, but it does provide hours of low-tech fun for your dog.
Wooly Snuffle Mat
Another low-tech interactive toy is the snuffle mat. These mats are designed to hide treats so that dogs can explore and sniff out their reward. The mats resemble very dense and shaggy carpeting. Dogs use their sense of smell to forage through the mat in an attempt to locate the treats. They can keep a dog busy for hours.
DIY-minded pet parents can construct their own snuffle mat using basic household materials. Otherwise, several variations of the mats can be purchased online.
Benefits of Interactive Toys
Veterinary behaviorists find that many undesirable dog behaviors stem from a lonely or bored pup. Dogs are intelligent animals, some breeds more than others. By providing mental and physical stimulation, interactive toys go a long way to keeping your dog happy and healthy and your home intact!