Did you know that play is one of the easiest (and fastest) ways to strengthen your bond with your dog? While training and daily exercise are cornerstones of a healthy relationship with your furry best friend, there’s nothing quite like team play to fast-track your bond. Whether you’ve got a new puppy and you’re just beginning to build your bond, or you and your senior BFF are looking for mentally stimulating dog toys to keep that playful spirit alive, the following list has you covered! Read on for the best interactive dog toys to help make it happen.
How Interactive Toys Promote Bonding
Of course, solo play holds an important role in your dog’s life since it’s crucial for them to be able to entertain themselves when you’re unavailable or not home. However, team play also is an important part of your life together and should be something that you both look forward to.
There’s no shortage of toy choices out there, and interactive dog toys are hard to beat when it comes to improving your relationship with your pup. Dog enrichment toys encourage your furry friend to get creative and make it easy for the two of you to play together.
Nearly any toy can be considered interactive if you engage with your dog while they play, but the toys on our list take co-play to the next level.
Types of Interactive Toys for Dogs to Consider
We’ve broken interactive toys for dogs into the following categories:
Puzzle toys. These toys are typically made of hard plastic with a variety of levels and pegs on them. They require dogs to move pieces around to dislodge or uncover treats.
Rubber/plastic toys. These durable hard toys are built to last for plenty of parent-pup playtime.
Movement toys. The fun starts when these toys get rolling, either for chase games or to dislodge goodies.
Treat dispensing toys. While treat-stuffable toys are usually designed for solo play, there are a few that work better with pet parent supervision.
Plush toys. This type of less sturdy toy is a great choice for joint play, especially because you can keep an eye on your dog to make sure they don’t destroy it.
How We Selected Our Best Interactive Dog Toys
With over 20 years as a dog trainer and as the former owner of a pet products shop, I know what dogs love and what pet parents want. I’ve honed my selections thanks to years of feedback from clients on both ends of the leash, as well as my experiences with my own dogs and the foster pups who pass through our home.
With that in mind, we based our picks on the following:
Durability. We looked at how each option on our list would hold up to both regular play and heavy chewing, noting which were not designed to be gnawed on repeatedly.
Level of interactivity. While all of the toys on our list are interactive in some way, we tried to call out how much pet parent involvement may be needed during playtime.
Ratings/reviews. We love to hear what other pet parents have to say when shopping for pet gear, so we checked out reviews to provide a well-rounded view of each toy.
Interactive Dog Toys: Top Picks for Strong Bonds
The 7 Best Interactive Dog Toys for Bonding with Your Pup
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These stimulating dog toys are bound to bring out your dog’s playful side while helping to build the bond between the two of you.
Overall Best Interactive Dog Toy for Bonding
Our pick: Squishy Face Studios Flirt Pole
There’s no better way to strengthen the bond with your dog than with a toy that taps into a favorite canine drive: stalk/chase/capture! This dog chase toy is the perfect example of a bonding toy because it’s 100 percent people-powered, meaning your dog can’t enjoy it without you. Most dogs can’t resist the chance to track and chase a rapidly retreating object, and this fast moving toy helps to channel that urge. It’s a great option for pet parents with limited mobility since the human end of the pole can remain still while the dog end runs around like crazy!
- Lightweight yet sturdy construction
- For added fun, swap out the “prey” object for a favorite toy
- Great for dogs who enjoy games involving chase
- Made in the USA
- Not a tug toy, so dogs need to understand the “drop” command
- The toy is large, ranging between 53 and 63 inches long
Best Interactive Outdoor Dog Toy
Our pick: West Paw Zisc Frisbee
Want to turn your dog into a fetching fanatic with something other than a ball? Try this durable yet lightweight flying disc instead! It comes in two sizes and multiple colors, including a glow-in-the-dark option for nighttime fun. While most discs are made of hard plastic that can be tough on teeth, the Zisc is crafted with pliable, easy-to-grip latex. Even better, this heavy-duty toy doubles as a tug toy once your dog gets tired of running…or just flip it over to make a water bowl for on-the-go hydration.
- Floats in water
- Non-toxic and dishwasher safe
- Made with zero-waste and recyclable material
- West Paw offers a replacement/refund if you’re dissatisfied with this toy
- Made in the USA
- Some dogs may destroy this if left unsupervised
- Might be too big for petite pups
- Colors can vary
Best Interactive Dog Puzzle Toy
When we think of bonding toys, we often think of puzzles like this one from Nina Ottosson (one of the originators in the canine enrichment movement). While some puzzle toys are for solo play, because of the complexity of the Ottosson line, most of this brand’s toys (including this one) require a pet parent on standby for assistance, especially as your dog gets familiar with it. Pups have to use their noses or paws to move the lock pegs in order to reveal the treats hidden inside this challenging toy.
- Constructed of tough, food-safe plastic free from BPA, PVC, and phthalates
- No removable pieces
- Doesn’t require much space
- Perfect mental stimulation during injury recovery or inclement weather
- Might be frustrating for some dogs
- Bigger dogs may use brute force to try to get goodies
- Can be chewed up if dog is left unsupervised
Best Interactive Dog Toy for Puppies
One of the most important tasks for new pet parents is making sure their puppy stays constructively occupied, channeling that boundless energy toward chomping on a toy, not your remote control. This treat-dispensing toy is the perfect option because it’s challenging enough to keep puppies occupied, but not so tough that an uncoordinated canine will give up on it. Stuff the ball with peanut butter and treats for solo play, or use it as a fetch toy for more rigorous fun with you.
- Free from BPA, lead, and phthalates
- Level of difficulty varies based on how it’s packed
- Pairs well with other Planet Dog interactive toys
- Made in the USA
- Not indestructible
- Only one size and color option
Best Interactive Dog Treat Toy
Our pick: KONG Wobbler Treat-Dispensing Dog Toy
Most pet parents use treat-dispensing toys for solo play, which puts bonding on the back burner, but this particular option usually requires some human support during the learning stages. Made of hard plastic with a small hole for treat delivery, this dome-shaped toy can be nosed and kicked around in order to dislodge the goodies. Because there’s a canine learning curve, it helps to coach your dog on the mechanics of the toy when introducing it. Plus, active pups often kick the toy into inaccessible spots, like under tables or couches, so having you near can help prevent frustration.
- Two sizes
- Great for slowing rapid eaters
- Requires lots of movement to get goodies out
- Made in the USA
- Can be noisy
- Some users complained that their dog’s nail got caught in treat hole
- Might be too heavy for smaller dogs
Best Interactive Dog Toy for Large Dogs
Our pick: Goughnuts Original Tug Toy
Big dogs need a toy that can withstand intense play, and this tug toy is up for the job. The durable double-ring design gives both you and your pup a place to safely latch on, and the natural rubber is easy to clean after a slobbery round of tug. Unlike other hard plastic tugs, this one has a little give to make it gentler on teeth. Tug is a fantastic bonding game because it’s an easy way to burn energy, and you can incorporate training while you play, like teaching your dog commands like “wait,” “take it” and “drop.”
- 100% natural rubber
- Available in multiple colors
- Product safety guarantee: brand will replace any chewed-through toy
- Made in the USA
- Not a chew toy
- Might be too heavy for some dogs
- Only one size
Best Interactive Toy for Small Dogs
Sure, this toy is adorable, but it’s also a great way to tap into your pup’s natural hunting and scenting abilities. Hide the three squeaky squirrels inside the tree stump base, then let your pup to “hunt” them out and pull them free. Just keep in mind that plush toys are a canine favorite, but they’re also the least durable option available. This is why they’re a great fit for bonding play, where you’re around to keep them from getting chewed up. Once your dog gets the squirrels out of the stump, play fetch with them, then hide them back inside for another round.
- Multiple sizes available
- Mentally stimulating play
- Great for “find it” or fetch
- Ideal for dogs of all ages
- Not chew-proof
- Might not be stimulating enough for some dogs
Interactive Dog Toys Buyer’s Guide
Here are a few things to consider when shopping for maximum bonding toys:
Ways to play. Always consider your dog’s preferred play style first. You might think that a few rounds of tug is a great way to strengthen your relationship, but your dog might beg to differ. It’s only fun and relationship-building if your dog truly wants in on the game!
Size. Look for sturdy toys that are the right size for your dog. For example, it might be safe to size up the Hide a Squirrel for tenacious little pups, but it’s usually unsafe to size down on most toys if you have a bigger dog.
Material. The material of the toy you choose typically goes hand-in-hand with the type of dog you have. Heavy chewers need toys that are more durable, while less destructive dogs may be able to handle a plush toy without totally ripping it apart.
Age/ability. Select a toy that matches up with your dog’s abilities during their current phase of life. Complicated puzzle toys are probably not the best choice for puppies, and a simpler design could cause boredom for a more inquisitive adult dog.
How to Bond With Your Dog: Tips for Using Interactive Dog Toys
Want to make the most of your bonding time? Consider the following tips:
- Keep the experience of playing with these interactive toys special by putting them away when you’re done
- Incorporate brief training timeouts during play, where you work on simple exercises like “sit” and “wait”
- Vary the treat types when using treat-dispensing toys
- Use the toys in new environments. For example, bring the Wobbler outside to the porch or use the Tug Toy as a reward during a walk