These are a few of our favourite things – unassuming yet amazingly useful enrichment toys
Thanks to the pandemic, many people new to pet ownership are finding their feet with their new paws and wading through the thousands of available aids, toys, and enrichment games on the market.
We see a lot of different toys for pets and there are plenty of choices, but what if you want a “toy” that has more than one purpose? One that can become a hit with your pet and your go-to item for entertainment, comfort or learning. Have a quick browse through our well-tested, favourite things.
KONG – available in a range of sizes and varieties
Years ago, when we bought our pups their first KONGs, neither we nor the youngsters were impressed. We tried throwing them, but there wasn’t a lot of interest in them and they may have chewed on them for a while, but they just weren’t very stimulating. If only we had known!
What use is a KONG?
Fast forward a few years and we learned the secret of the KONG – the filling! Fill them with all sorts of goodies and the dogs were drooling the moment they saw them. That is the value of a KONG. Freeze them in the hot weather for a nice refreshing treat and prolong the entertainment.
Learn to stuff ’em
Cats too, can get to enjoy this far from boring gift that keeps on giving.
The Kitty KONG
The Puller Dog Exercise Toy
Another product that doesn’t initially excite you when you first set eyes on it. The Puller has become the number one favourite toy in our household. They all love it, even Jack, who doesn’t play with toys.
The Puller comes in a wide range of sizes to suit all breeds
It will fly like a frisbee, roll along the ground, float in water and not surprisingly, you can use it as a puller or tuggy. If you have more than one dog, they can play tug together. Our dogs adore it, especially our Daisy, who would swim to it in the pool and even chase it in her wheelchair.
But that’s not all it does, it is also a dog fitness aid, and with it, you get instructions on just how to use it to get your dog fit. But, if fun is all you’re after, you can’t beat it!
Train your dog to fitness with the Puller
Tug n Toss Jolly Ball
The Tug n Toss Jolly Ball
The Tug n Toss Jolly Ball is actually lovely to look at, but it is far more than just an ornament. This toy floats beautifully in water and, with the handle, is perfect for a dog to grab. Although our big boy Blitz never bothered with the handle, he enjoyed chomping into the body with his powerful jaws. And that’s the beauty of a Tug n Toss Jolly Ball, they may puncture, but they don’t deflate.
Available in a range of sizes and even scented varieties
Great for tossing, retrieving and for mouthing. They are also brilliant enrichment toys for horses and come in scented varieties to entice the equine nose!
An enrichment toy for your horse or pony
The HOL-EE Roller
This one took us by surprise. We have stocked the HOL-EE Roller for a while, but had no idea that there was a whole movement out there – #hackyourholee.
Such a simple, unassuming “toy”, and yet it has a cult following. Inventive owners have come up with all sorts of wonderful ideas to turn this into probably one of the best, most cost-effective enrichment toys around at the moment.
The HOL-EE Roller comes in a range of sizes
Use the HOL-EE Roller for a simple game of fetch if you wish, but you can go so much further. Attach a handle to it for an instant tuggy. Fill it with treats, or don’t just fill it with treats! Cut up some felt strips, roll the treats inside and then push them through the holes of the HOL-EE for longer-lasting fun and a handy brain game. Alternatively, put a ball or squeaker inside for some exciting entertainment. And horses can enjoy it too!
Fill the HOL-EE Roller with hay or treats to make snack time more fun
The theory is that your dog is motivated by an instinctual drive and the squeaky noise is not unlike the sound of prey that’s frightened or injured. When the squeak stops, your dog has successfully killed its prey.
Or maybe there’s another explanation; dogs get an immediate reward from the sound that’s emitted from the toy. The feedback tells them that their bite is effective, thus spurring them on to continue, unlike with a silent toy which doesn’t provide the same gratification.
We all know what it’s like when a dog is obsessed with a squeaky toy and it can drive us nuts, until, in the end, we take it away, much to the disappointment of the dog.
Not all Dogs love a Squeak
With our dogs, we have to be very careful. Tilly absolutely loves a squeaky toy. Archie and Jack aren’t bothered one way or the other, but Toby dislikes them intensely. More than that, they actually upset him.
He is not particularly sound sensitive. He loves the sound of a clicker! Thunder or fireworks don’t bother him in the slightest, but anything that squeaks or beeps will have him running for cover.
We once took him to agility classes and at first, he did well until another dog in his class came along with a squeaky toy. That was the end of it for Toby. He couldn’t concentrate and he spent the whole time cowering behind our legs.
When Tilly was confined to her crate after her surgeries, we gave her a fluffy lamb to keep her company, but first, it had to be operated on to remove the squeaker. We couldn’t risk traumatising Toby.
When new toys arrive in the warehouse, we are very wary about testing the squeak and usually wait until Toby is out of earshot otherwise he’ll be upset and fearful for hours.
It’s not that he doesn’t like toys, he loves the treat dispensers, especially Starmark and of course, KONG. Then there’s his all-time favourite, the Puller, but anything that makes a noise is a no-no for him.
It’s a good idea to take the time to find out what toys your dog likes and dislikes and what stimulates or comforts them. A squeaky toy can be a great motivator and grab your dog’s attention, thereby making an excellent training tool but beware it doesn’t have the opposite effect.
Regular Checking of Toys is a Must
Supervision with a squeaky toy is advised especially with dogs that get overstimulated easily. Squeaky play should be confined to short sessions and ask your dog to do something like sit or down before rewarding them with the toy.
Squeaky toys can be fun but inspect them regularly to make sure they are not damaged and that your dog doesn’t have access to the squeaking mechanism, which could become a choking hazard.
If you discover their favourite squeaky toy is damaged, then repair it or replace it with a new one.
The Ultimate Squeak
If you have a squeaky-obsessed dog, The Petsafe Ricochet is an excellent choice. These paired toys will have your dog going back and forth chasing the squeak. Tilly was enthralled with them but sadly cannot play with them in our home!
Petsafe Ricochet: The ultimate squeak
The Thrill of the Chase or Food Fun
For those, like us that have a dog who is upset by a squeak, here are Toby’s Top Tips for squeaky-free fun:
What do you do when you’ve got a sick or injured pet? What if they’re on cage rest? What if they are doomed to wear the cone of shame? We have been faced with this problem for weeks now.
But it’s not only that, what if they’re home alone or the weather is bad? How do you entertain a bored pet?
Exercise their brain!
For a dog on cage rest as our Tilly was after her elbow arthroscopy, wearing a cone to protect her stitches, life was very miserable and we feared for her mental wellbeing. Not only that but two weeks into her confinement, her spay scar became infected, so she was double coned and confined for a further two weeks.
Tricks and Tips
How did we cope? Well, we had two large dog crates which were situated in the main parts of the house so that wherever we were, she could be nearby. She had a soft toy with her at all times, but that had to be operated on to remove the squeakers. Toby hates squeakers and she was driving him crazy!
A well-stuffed KONG always proves popular!
Due to the amount of space available, we decided to use smaller treat toys to entertain her. She couldn’t have coped with the puzzle toys in such a restricted environment. Our go-to toy for most occasions is the KONG. Stuffed to the gills with tasty treats, what dog could resist? And you can always freeze it for longer-lasting play. You simply can’t go wrong with a KONG!
At first, Tilly found this difficult and it lay untouched in her crate, but by removing a treat and letting her get a taste of it, she was motivated to try for herself and eventually got the hang of it. Now it’s one of her favourite evening challenges.
Thirdly was an old favourite, the Lotus Ball. This is a very simple toy and probably better suited to retrieving, but for Tilly, it contained another little treat for her to extract and keep her mind active. To make it more appealing, we boosted it up with a jackpot treat, Davies Puffed Jerky. Our dogs go wild for it.
Lotus Ball and Puffed Jerky
If your dog is not restricted space-wise, there are numerous puzzle toys to keep them entertained. If you haven’t tried one before it’s best to start with something straightforward as you will find they are easily discouraged if they can’t get the hang of it. A great starter toy is the Nina Ottosson Dog Smart.
Nina Ottosson Dog Smart
Another simple toy is the Lick n Snack Platter which gives them an instant win, plus licking can have a calming effect on your dog. Great as a feeding bowl, too.
There are games to suit all levels: from top left, K9 Pursuits Interactive IQ Game Watson, Trixie Lick n Snack Platter, middle, K9 Pursuits Multi Maze Slow Feeder, bottom left, Dogit Mind Games Interactive Dog Toy and the Nina Ottosson Dog Brick Interactive Toy
Or your dog may prefer soft toys, so why not make these interactive too? If they’re not treat motivated but love a squeak, what about the Puzzle Plush Hide A Squirrel. Three furry gremlins to remove from their tree trunk nest.
Alternatively, there is the Sniffing Blanket Strategy Game, which has multiple hiding places for treats and small toys. Excellent for the keen forager.
Some dogs prefer soft toys like the Puzzle Plush Hide a Squirrel or the Sniffing Blanket Strategy Game
You may find something above that you think is suitable for your dog but if not we have plenty more to choose from in our Interactive Play section or even our Treat-Dispensing Toys. And don’t forget the all-important Dog Treats to accompany your strategy games.
Keeping Cats Occupied
If your cat is confined to a crate for any reason here are some tips and tricks:
Keep the crate super clean, changing water and blankets regularly.
Ensure the crate is in an area in the house where the family spends most of their time to prevent loneliness and boredom.
Keep some toys in the crate, perhaps infused with catnip, or dangling through the bars for entertainment. Swap the toys from time to time to give your cat something new to play with.
Have a regular routine so your cat knows what to expect and when. At night half cover the outside of the crate with a blanket.
Talk to your cat or play music or the TV so there is some background noise.
A cat pheromone spray may also help to calm and de-stress anxious cats.
From left to right Snack Mouse Treat Dispensing Toy for Cats, FroliCat CHEESE Automatic Cat Teaser, Cat Activity Fun Board Interactive Toy
There are a wide variety of enrichment toys available to keep your feline active and prevent boredom. There are self-play toys such as the FroliCat CHEESE Automatic Cat Teaser. Useful when they are home alone.
Then there are interactive toys that are designed to strengthen the bond between you and your cat. The Cat Activity Fun Circle Interactive Toy is a game you can enjoy together, which is also suitable for older or sick pets and provides different activities on two different sides.
Take a look at our full range of Cat Strategy Games to find something to keep your kitty fully engaged.
So, do you know if your cat is bored? Take a look at this excellent article, Is Your Cat Bored? 10 Ways to Prevent Boredom, which explains how you can tell and provides some interesting ideas for enriching your cat’s environment.
Horses Need Enrichment Too!
The Likit Boredom Breaker for Horses with Likit Refills in 4 delicious flavours
In a 24-hour period, a lot of equines will only have a few hours of mental and physical human engagement so boredom vices can set in. Enrichment toys can provide welcome relief for them and hung in the stable, the Likit Boredom Buster will do just that. Developed to provide environmental enrichment, this challenging stable toy is designed to get horses to work for their reward and there are four scrumptious Likit Treat flavours to choose from (available separately).
Enrichment provides a way to stimulate a horse’s natural instincts and is crucial to their overall wellbeing. By engaging these instincts, they can become healthier, happier equines.
Stock up and be prepared
In summary, ensure that your pets have a well-stocked chest with a wide variety of toys and games for both physical and mental stimulation. You can’t make every minute of your pet’s life exciting, but you can go a long way to keep their boredom at bay!
When we first came across KONG Dog Toys, which must be twenty years ago now, they didn’t look like the most exciting dog toy we had ever seen. In fact, probably like a lot of people, we saw them as a tough chew toy with an erratic bounce. Our dogs just weren’t that interested.
How wrong can you be?
The secret to the Classic, Puppy, Senior, Extreme, and indeed the Kitty KONG, is that it’s a hollow rubber receptacle for all sorts of doggy, or feline delights. It has holes at both ends, one large and one small. The key KONG ingredient is the stuffing. That’s what makes it so special and so very useful.
The inside of a KONG
Let your dog, or cat, in on the secret
Firstly, you need to get your dog or cat interested in it. Once they understand what it’s all about they will not only want it but love it. To begin with, you just need to fill it with a couple of their favourite treats. Something they really enjoy, that they can smell, and that will easily slip out of the large opening. Try this for a few days. Don’t hand them their favourite treat, put it in a KONG and let them get it out themselves.
As soon as they understand that this ‘toy’ is the bearer of delicious snacks, they will start to get excited as soon as they see it.
You can work on this, gradually stuffing the KONG with other delights and making it a tad more difficult for the dog to get out. Make them work for it. Plug the small hole at the bottom with peanut butter (check it’s Xylitol free) or cream cheese and then fill with a variety of treats. Leave a longish chew sticking out to get them started.
A fully loaded KONG
Eventually, you could dispense with your food bowl and feed them their meals in the KONG. You can also freeze the filled KONG which is great for hot sunny days; a KONG Popsicle, or to make them longer lasting.
It can take your dog a couple of hours to fully empty the KONG and lick the peanut butter or maybe liver pâté from the bottom so they are perfect to extend play-time and can help distract them if they suffer from separation anxiety.
Problem behaviours can be helped with a KONG
Feed their minds
An excellent enrichment toy. They are perfect boredom busters if they are confined to a crate, hopefully, cut down on chewing and stimulate them mentally at the same time. We had one dog, Sophie, who was KONG mad. She had developed a foolproof method of getting every last grain from her KONG toy. She would take it to the top of the stairs and drop it. As it bounced down the steps the treats would come tumbling out and she would snaffle them up!
It’s important to get the correct size for your dog so do check out the detailed KONG size chart before purchasing. And take another look at this seemingly simple KONG toy, now that you know how to unlock its secrets.
It’s important to get the right size for your dog. If in doubt, size up.
You may also like our short video on how to stuff a KONG, and you can find plenty of inventive KONG stuffing recipes at BARKTHINK, or maybe your cat may be partial to a Kitty KONG stuffed with bacon and eggs?
Sit back and be amazed at how your much your dog loves its KONG. And the good news for us humans is that when they’ve emptied it, we can stick it in the dishwasher.
But of course, your cat can benefit from a KONG in the same way your dog does. Cats go absolutely crazy over the Kitty KONG once they learn to use it; it’s an excellent way to keep your cat occupied and challenged.
The original and the best KONG
The KONG range
Since their original and we think best ever invention, the KONG Company have branched out and now do a wide range of enrichment toys for dogs and cats. See our full range of exciting and innovative KONG products here.
We have a wide range of KONG products, both new and old favourites
Archie, Daisy, and Jack road test our new Pet Munchies range
With three dogs in our household we can get through quite a few dog treats, so it’s great that we can choose something healthy to give them.
Thankfully Pet Munchies premium gourmet treats are 100% natural and use good quality human grade meat and fish, so we don’t need to worry about what our dogs are eating.
We tested some, and they certainly went down a storm. You can see the results in the video below! Daisy, Archie, and Jack love the taste, and the choice of flavours too!
Chicken, liver, venison, lamb, fish, duck, all slow roasted in their own juices to make them extra tasty. Surely even the most fussy dog would find something there to enjoy!
We find these particularly effective in training. The Chicken, Chicken and Liver, and Sushi Dog Training Treats are already an ideal size, but to add in some variety, we chop some of the meaty strips into pieces and mix them all in. What an effect that variety of reward has!
Cats needn’t miss out either, with three tasty varieties of Pet Munchies Gourmet Cat Treats!