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10 Best Dog Toys for Smart Dogs – 2024 Reviews & Top Picks

Kathryn Copeland

By Kathryn Copeland

belgian malinois lying down with a dog toy

Walking the dog is one of the main responsibilities for dog owners because we all understand how important exercise is. But giving your dog mental exercise can be just as essential. Some breeds need it more than others, but make no mistake, all dogs need mental stimulation.

Using puzzle games is one of the best ways to ensure that your dog will be kept occupied, and if you have a particularly smart dog, you’ll need to find the best toys to engage them.

We researched dog toys for intelligent canines and have developed reviews of the best ones. We hope that any of these will keep your smart pup happy and busy!

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A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2024

Rating Image Product Details
Best Overall
Winner
Nina Ottosson by Outward Puzzle Game Dog Toy Nina Ottosson by Outward Puzzle Game Dog Toy
  • Difficulty degree of 2 and 3
  • Uses sliders and lids to cover treats
  • You determine the difficulty level
  • Best Value
    Second place
    Frisco Chewy Box Hide & Seek Puzzle Dog Toy Frisco Chewy Box Hide & Seek Puzzle Dog Toy
  • Affordable
  • Great for dogs that love squeaker toys
  • Plush box with three soft toys
  • Premium Choice
    Third place
    TRIXIE Activity Poker Activity Strategy Game TRIXIE Activity Poker Activity Strategy Game
  • Effective puzzle toy with level 2 difficulty
  • Four boxes that can be removed from the base
  • Each box uses different methods to be opened
  • Petsa Squeaky Treat Dispensing Enrichment Toy Petsa Squeaky Treat Dispensing Enrichment Toy
  • One button squeaks to get your dog’s attention
  • Treats are hidden under buttons that slide and spin
  • 16 holes to keep your dog occupied
  • RETALPQ Dog Puzzle Toy RETALPQ Dog Puzzle Toy
  • Affordable
  • 23 holes for hiding treats
  • 15 circular and six square sliders
  • The 10 Best Dog Toys for Smart Dogs

    1. Nina Ottosson by Outward Puzzle Game Dog Toy — Best Overall

    Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game Dog Toy

    Material: Plastic, polypropylene
    Breed size: Small and medium dogs
    Size: 75 x 1.75 x 8.75 inches

    The best overall dog toy for smart dogs is the Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game Dog Toy. We like this puzzle game because it has a difficulty level of 2 and 3, so it might just be the right challenge for your intelligent dog.

    A combination of sliders and lids needs to be manipulated by your dog to uncover the treats. You can determine the level of difficulty should your dog need help while becoming familiar with it, and it’s the right size for small to medium-sized dogs.

    The issue with this puzzle game is that it isn’t a great option for dogs that tend to chew anything and everything. If your dog is rough with their toys, this game will likely not last long.

    Pros
    • Difficulty degree of 2 and 3
    • Uses sliders and lids to cover treats
    • You determine the difficulty level
    • Perfect for small to medium-sized dogs
    Cons
    • Won’t withstand chewers

    2. Frisco Chewy Box Hide & Seek Puzzle Dog Toy — Best Value

    Frisco Chewy Box Hide & Seek Puzzle Plush Squeaky Dog Toy

    Material: Polyester, cotton
    Breed size: Small and medium dogs
    Size: 5 x 8 x 4 inches

    The best dog toy for smart dogs for the money is the Frisco Chewy Box Hide & Seek Puzzle Plush Squeaky Dog Toy. This great option doesn’t use treats but will work well for dogs that like squeaker toys. It consists of a plush box with three soft toys, two of which have squeakers.

    The “box” has two holes so you can stuff the toys inside, and your dog has to figure out how to get them out. Beyond the two squeaky toys, there’s also a rope toy for tug-of-war. The biggest flaw is that it’s an easy puzzle for most dogs to figure out quickly.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • Great for dogs that love squeaker toys
    • Plush box with three soft toys
    • Box has two holes to stuff the toys into
    Cons
    • May be easy for smart dogs

    3. TRIXIE Activity Poker Strategy Game Dog Toy — Premium Choice

    TRIXIE Activity Poker Box Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy, Level 2

    Material: Plastic
    Breed size: Medium dogs
    Size: 12 x 12 x 3

    TRIXIE Activity Poker Box Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy, is our premium choice pick because it is an effective puzzle toy with level 2 difficulty. It features four boxes that hide treats; these can be removed from the base individually, so you can challenge your dog with just one or two boxes or all four.

    Each box must be opened using different techniques, such as drawers, ropes, lids, knobs, and flaps. It has rubber feet to keep it in place and is dishwasher safe. However, this puzzle toy is rather pricey, and it might be too easy for some dogs.

    Pros
    • Effective puzzle toy with level 2 difficulty
    • Four boxes that can be removed from the base
    • Each box uses different methods to be opened
    • Dishwasher safe
    • Rubber non-slip feet
    Cons
    • Expensive
    • Might be too easy for some dogs

    4. Petsa Squeaky Treat Dispensing Dog

    Petsa Squeaky Treat Dispensing Dog Enrichment Toy for IQ Training and Brain Stimulation

    Material: Plastic
    Breed size: Small dogs
    Size: 10 x 10 x 1 inches

    The Squeaky Treat Dispensing Dog Enrichment Toy has a button in the middle that squeaks when pressed. This should bring your dog running!

    It works by hiding treats in areas that require a bit of thinking for your dog to find, such as under buttons that slide and spin. There’s a total of 16 holes to hide the treats, which can keep your dog occupied for a while.

    It has anti-skid pads and is dishwasher safe. The issue here is that the holes where you place the treats are a bit shallow, so it won’t work well as a slow feeder.

    Pros
    • One button squeaks to get your dog’s attention
    • Treats are hidden under buttons that slide and spin
    • 16 holes to keep your dog occupied
    • Anti-skid pads
    • Dishwasher safe
    Cons
    • Shallow holes for treats

    5. RETALPQ Dog Puzzle Toy

    RETALPQ Dog Puzzle Toy

    Material: 85 x 9.85 x 1.18 inches
    Breed size: Small and medium dogs
    Size: Plastic

    RETALPQ’s Dog Puzzle Toy is a puzzle game that uses sliding buttons to challenge your dog. It’s quite affordable and has 23 holes for hiding treats, with 15 circular and six square sliders.

    Your dog will need to figure out where to push the sliders to uncover the treats, so it should keep them occupied for a while, and it’s level 3 difficulty. But it can prove somewhat of a challenge to clean, and owners of super-smart canines might notice that it isn’t that challenging for their dogs.

    Pros
    • Affordable
    • 23 holes for hiding treats
    • 15 circular and six square sliders
    • Level 3 difficulty
    Cons
    • Can be challenging to clean
    • More like a level 1 for super-smart dogs

    6. TOMAHAUK Snuffle Mat for Dogs

    TOMAHAUK Snuffle Mat for Dogs

    Material: Felt-like
    Breed size: Any size
    Size: 8 x 16.8 inches

    The TOMAHAUK Snuffle Mat for Dogs is great for dogs of any size. It has a drawstring that enables you to shrink it down to roughly 8 inches in diameter and widen it to its fullest at almost 17 inches in diameter. This makes it quite suitable for small to large dogs, and it also makes it easier to bring it along when traveling.

    It can be used as a slow feeder: Dump in the food and your dog spends time searching for it. The bottom is anti-skid and it’s machine washable.

    However, some dogs will figure out that they just need to turn it upside down to get to the food, and the material is quite stiff, which some dogs might not like.

    Pros
    • Drawstring enables the mat to shrink small and widen
    • Great as a slow feeder
    • Anti-skid bottom
    • Machine washable
    Cons
    • Some dogs learn to turn it upside down
    • Stiff material

    7. ZippyPaws Burrow Squeaky Hide & Seek Plush Dog Toy

    ZippyPaws Burrow Squeaky Hide & Seek Plush Dog Toy

    Material: Fleece, synthetic material
    Breed size: Small and medium dogs
    Size: 6 x 6 x 4 inches

    The ZippyPaws Burrow Squeaky Hide & Seek Plush Dog Toy has three squeaky, plush hedgehogs that can be stuffed into a plush den. The den has two holes where you can push the toys completely inside, and your dog has to work to get them out.

    The den and hedgehogs are machine washable, so clean-up is easy. This product is reasonably priced, but it is best for dogs that don’t chew up things quickly because the items will not withstand rough chewing and play.

    Pros
    • Three squeaky, plush hedgehogs
    • Toys can be put into a “den,” which has two holes
    • Dogs must work to “dig out” the hedgehogs
    • Machine washable
    • Affordable
    Cons
    • Not for serious chewers

    8. Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Puzzle and Slow Feeder

    Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Lickin’ Layers Interactive Dog Puzzle Game and Slow Feeder

    Material: Plastic
    Breed size: All sizes
    Size: 35 x 10.35 x 2.5 inches

    Outward Hound’s Lickin’ Layers Interactive Dog Puzzle Game and Slow Feeder is perfect as a slow feeder and a challenging game for dogs. It has three layers stacked on top of each other that contain over 100 treat/food compartments in which your dog must spin the layers to access the treats.

    The puzzle game holds up to 1 ½ cups of wet or dry food, and the layers can be detached for cleaning. The issues are that some dogs can figure it out quickly and that it might be better for medium to large dogs. Small dogs will have an easier time accessing the treats or food.

    Pros
    • Works as a slow feeder and puzzle game
    • Contains over 100 treat/food compartments
    • Three layers stacked on top of each other
    • Must spin/turn each layer to access food
    • Holds up to 1.5 cups of wet or dry food
    Cons
    • Some dogs figure it out quickly
    • Small dogs will be able to get the treats too easily

    9. Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set Dog Toy

    Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set Dog Toy

    Material: Plastic
    Breed size: Any size
    Size: 5 x 3.5 inches

    The Hunger for Words Talking Pet Starter Set Dog Toy is a great invention that can help teach your dog to talk—through the buttons, of course. You get four large buttons, each of which enables you to record one word. This can be anything from “walk” to “play.” It includes a step-by-step guide to help you teach your dog how to use the buttons to express what they want. Be sure to purchase the batteries (AAA) in advance because they don’t come with the product.

    There are a few problems, however. One is that the quality of the speakers in a few of these buttons isn’t that great. Additionally, the red button that you press to record is on the side of the buttons, and it can easily get pushed into a surface (like a wall) and delete the recording.

    Pros
    • Helps teach your dog to talk
    • Includes four large buttons that can have one recorded word each
    • Includes a step-by-step guide for training your dog
    Cons
    • Recording button position makes it easy to delete the recording
    • Speakers aren’t great

    10. Smartmark Treat Dispensing Bob-a-Lot Dog Toy

    Smartmark Treat Dispensing Bob-a-Lot Dog Toy

    Material: Plastic
    Breed size: All sizes
    Size: Small, 6.5 x 4.5 inches; large, 9 x 6 inches

    Smartmark’s Treat Dispensing Bob-a-Lot Dog Toy comes in two sizes: small for small to medium dogs and large for large dogs. The small toy holds 1 1/2 cups, and the large holds up to 3 cups of food so it can entertain your dog and act as a slow feeder.

    It enables you to choose the difficulty level by making the opening for the treats small or large. It features a weighted bottom, which is also anti-slip and wobbles around erratically, which can prove entertaining for your dog.

    However, there are several issues. It’s a bit pricey for what it is and can prove quite challenging to clean. You must use small kibble for the food to drop out of the hole, and it might be too heavy for small breeds.

    Pros
    • Available in small (1.5 cups) and large (3 cups)
    • Can act as a slow feeder
    • Choose the difficulty level
    • Anti-slip, weighted bottom
    Cons
    • Pricey
    • Difficult to clean
    • Needs small kibble for it to work
    • Might be too heavy for small breeds

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    Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Best Toys For Your Smart Dog

    Now that you’ve checked out various dog toys for smart dogs, let’s go over product features to consider, so you have a better idea of what you should look for.

    Dog’s Size

    Remember to always double-check the measurements before you buy anything. The photos included with most products don’t always give you a good representation of the size and tend to make things much bigger than they are.

    You don’t want to purchase a toy that’s too small or too big for your dog, so always look for the dimensions while shopping.

    boxer mastiff mixed breed dog lying down with toy on the grass
    Image Credit: Virginia Blount, Shutterstock

    Chewers

    If your dog tends to rip apart just about every toy that you give them, many of the toys on this list won’t necessarily work for them. They were not designed for physical durability, but rather as mental stimulation.

    This also means even if your dog isn’t much of a chewer, you must always supervise them while they’re playing with any of these games. Many of them have small pieces that if your dog chews them off, can become choking hazards.

    Easy to Clean

    Nearly every product claims that it is easy to clean. However, many of the hard plastic puzzle games have multiple small holes, making them anything but easy to clean!

    The plush toys should be machine washable, so take a close look at the toys that you’re most interested in to ensure that they won’t be a nightmare to clean, particularly if you don’t have a dishwasher!

    Levels of Difficulty

    Not every toy includes a level of difficulty, but this is something to look for if you have a dog that’s a beginner or more advanced. Of course, some dogs will figure out the most advanced puzzles even if they haven’t done one before.

    It’s difficult to know how good your dog will be at these games. Some dogs will figure them out in 5 minutes, while others might need 20 minutes or more. This isn’t necessarily a flaw of the product—it all depends on your dog.

    black and white panda pug fetching a dog toy
    Image Credit: Chelle129, Shutterstock

    Knowing Your Dog

    What you ultimately settle on should correspond to how well you know your dog. You know best what your dog responds to. Of course, nearly all dogs respond well to treats and food, which is why so many of these puzzles and toys are food related.

    But if your dog loves plush toys and doesn’t chew them up in 5 minutes, you know that’s the kind of game that you should try. You can also get a slow feeder if your dog gulps down their food too fast. No matter how quickly they figure out how to get at the food, it is still slower than if it was in a food bowl.

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    Conclusion

    We like the Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game overall because you can choose between difficulty levels 2 and 3, and it can prove challenging for smart dogs. Frisco’s Chewy Box Hide and Seek Puzzle Dog Toy has three soft toys that you can stuff into a plush box, and it’s super affordable! Finally, TRIXIE’s Level 2 Activity Poker Box is our premium choice pick because it offers a variety of different techniques that must be applied to open each box. It’s also dishwasher safe!

    We hope that these reviews have steered you in the right direction to a game or toy that your dog will love and that will enhance their daily mental stimulation!


    Featured Image Credit: Julia Malsagova, Shutterstock

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