Best dog toys for boredom and stress relief

July 5, 2024 - 4 min read
dog toys for boredom and stress pictured on pink gradient

Dogs, like us, can get bored and stressed, which can lead to unwanted behaviors and an unhappy pup.

Luckily, the right toys can work wonders at keeping your furry friend engaged, entertained, and stress-free. We have a few ideas! But first, a quick note:

No matter how well you know your dog, always keep an eye on them while they play with toys. Even well-behaved dogs can try to nosh on toys, which can lead to costly emergency surgeries.

Now, let's dive into why toys can help alleviate your dog's stress or boredom and some of the best toys for boredom and stress relief to keep your dog happy and healthy!

Why dog toys matter for boredom and stress relief

Mess dachshund puppy was left at home alone, started making a mess. Pet tore up furniture and chews home slipper of owner. Baby dog is sitting in the middle of chaos, gnawed clothes, looks piteously.

When dogs are bored or stressed, they can start barking excessively, chewing on your favorite shoes, or digging up the yard.

And while dogs of any age or breed can be prone to anxiety, certain breeds (especially high-energy working or herding breeds) need more than average mental and physical stimulation to stay happy. You might see your pup on the list:

Dog Toys

While regular exercise is key to keeping your dog healthy and happy, enrichment activities and toys can make a big difference too! And research backs it up:

A study at the University of Bristol showed that puzzle toys and interactive play may actually improve cognitive function and reduce destructive behaviors in dogs and other animals.

To sum it up, here are some key benefits of dog toys that engage your pup’s brain:

  • Boosting brainpower: Puzzle and interactive toys challenge your dog's brain, keeping them sharp and curious.

  • Keeping them moving: Fetch toys get your dog up and running, which is great for their overall health.

  • Calming them down: Some toys (particularly chewing toys) have a calming effect, perfect for reducing anxiety and stress.

  • Stopping bad habits: By keeping your dog busy, toys can prevent destructive behaviors like chewing on furniture or digging holes in the yard.

Ready to find the perfect toy for your furry friend? Let's explore some of the best options out there to keep your dog entertained, your shoes intact, and your sanity in check.

Best dog toys for anxiety and boredom

Different toys offer various types of mental stimulation. You might need to try a few types to see what your dog likes! Here are some categories to consider, along with the top recommended products for each.

Top puzzle and brain games for smart dogs

Puzzle toys are perfect for those clever canines who need a mental challenge. These toys require dogs to solve problems to get rewards, keeping their minds sharp and engaged. Ideal for breeds like Border Collies and German Shepherds, who thrive on mental stimulation.

Best interactive electronic toys

jack russell playing with automatic ball launcher toy outside in the grass

Interactive and electronic toys are fantastic for dogs who love movement and sound. These toys react to your dog's actions, providing endless entertainment—perfect for high-energy breeds like Belgian Malinois who need seemingly constant stimulation.

Best durable chew toys

puppy chewing on a red kong toy on top of a fluffy gray blanket

Chew toys are a lifesaver for dogs who love to, well, chew! They satisfy your dog's natural chewing instincts, and like we said, the act of chewing has actually been shown to help calm anxious dogs down.

Most of the ones below are ideal for heavy chewers like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers who need something tough to gnaw on, but you know your dog best. Try to match your dog's age and stage with the best chew for them (most toys have this listed on their packaging).

A note here for the chewers: Avoid rawhide, as it may cause intestinal blockages. And proceed with caution when selecting a chew. Even "safe" chew bones can injure your pup's teeth, and some toys that claim to be "indestructible" can be decimated in moments by tough chewers.

Best fetch toys for active play

black and white dog runs in the park with a frisbee in his mouth

Fetch toys, like balls and frisbees, are great for dogs that love to run and play outdoors. They encourage active play and exercise, perfect for breeds like Golden Retrievers and Australian Shepherds who have lots of energy to burn.

Best treat-dispensing toys for food-driven dogs

Corgi dog bent over interactive educational toy pokes his nose into holes for hidden treat

Food and treat-dispensing toys combine the fun of play with the reward of a tasty treat. They’re excellent for keeping your dog occupied for longer periods of time (and you'll notice they could easily fit into the puzzle category above). Perfect for dogs that love food and need a bit of mental stimulation, like Beagles and French Bulldogs.

DIY dog toys to keep your pup busy

Making your own dog toys can be a fun and cost-effective way to keep your dog entertained. Of course, always prioritize safety, monitor your dog while they play with these, and avoid materials that could cause intestinal blockages (like fabric or tennis balls—we've seen treatment claims for both here at ManyPets!).

Ice cube treats

  • Materials needed: Ice cube tray, water or broth, dog treats.

  • Instructions: Place a small treat in each compartment of the ice cube tray, fill with water or low-sodium broth, and freeze. Your dog will love the cold treat on a hot day, and they'll spend a LOT of time trying to get to the treats within the cubes.

Cardboard tube treat puzzle

  • Materials Needed: Empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls, treats, scissors.

  • Instructions: Cut a few cardboard tubes into different lengths to vary the difficulty. Fold one end of each tube to close it off. Fill the tubes with your dog's favorite treats. Fold the other end of each tube to seal it. Let your dog figure out how to get the treats out by pawing, chewing, and tossing the tubes around.

PVC pipe puzzle toy

  • Materials Needed: PVC pipe, end caps, drill, treats.

  • Instructions: Drill a few holes in the PVC pipe, place treats inside, and cap the ends. Your dog can roll and shake the pipe to get the treats.

Safety tips for dog toys

  • Always monitor your dog while they are playing with any toy. Even the sturdiest toys can break, and small pieces can become choking hazards.

  • Choose the right size: Make sure the toy is appropriate for your dog's size. A toy that's too small can be swallowed, while a toy that's too large might not be as fun for a smaller dog or puppy. If you have multiple dogs that are different sizes (or cats in the household), try to make sure the toys you pick will be safe for all.

  • Inspect toys regularly: Check toys for wear and tear and replace them if they start to break down.

And remember, dog insurance is crucial for those unexpected moments. It can help reimburse you for covered (not pre-existing) accidents and illnesses, so you can focus on keeping your pup happy and healthy instead of the cost of vet care.

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Dog toys are a key part of the puzzle (pun totally intended) to preventing boredom and reducing stress in your dog.

By understanding your dog's needs and choosing the right toys, you can keep them happy, healthy, and engaged. Explore different toy options and see what works best for your dog!


Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.