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The 11 best toys to keep dogs busy

Dogs are important members of the family, and the best toys to keep dogs busy can help strengthen the bond you have with your pet and engage them with new challenges. The right toy for keeping your dog entertained will depend on their personality. Excitable dogs might be looking for physical activity to burn off that energy, while extra smart dogs might gravitate towards a puzzle game. While most pet parents work hard to take their dogs on frequent walks, keeping them mentally challenged is just as important.

Before you buy, make sure that the toy you choose is suitable for your pet's size. Many of the pick below are offered in multiple sizes, so be sure to consult the brand's size chart (which is usually in terms of weight) before making your selection.

Whether you’re looking for a toy for your next trip to the park or something to keep your pup busy while you're working nearby, here are 11 great options for dogs of all sorts. No matter which you choose, offering your pet plenty of enrichment and exercise might even help with anxiety and destructive behaviors like chewing on the furniture.

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1. A treat-dispensing ball for delayed gratification

This interactive dog toy keeps your pet mentally challenged by encouraging them to figure how to roll it to get the treats out. And just when your pup thinks they've figured it all out, you can adjust the difficulty level for the next game. If you choose to fill it with your dog's usual dry food, this toy has the added benefit of forcing them to eat slowly, which helps with digestion and prevents bloating. Choose from two sizes for both small and larger dogs. With thousands of five-star reviews on Amazon, it looks like this one makes dogs and their parents pretty happy.

2. A ball launcher to let you throw farther (& keep your hands slobber-free)

This ball launcher can help you throw two to three times farther, which translates to a way better workout for your dog. Perfect for an afternoon in the park (or in a spacious backyard), this ball launcher has the added benefit of hands-free pickups, so you don't have to touch a slobbery ball. The ball it comes with is also brightly colored so you and your dog can always find it. Available in multiple sizes to accommodate almost any dog, this ball launcher is budget-friendly, coming in at less than $10.

3. A squirrelly toy for plush-loving dogs

This plush toy checks all the boxes for the things that dogs love. Hunting? Check. Digging? Check. Playing fetch with the squeaky squirrels? Check and check. This plush toy is available in four different sizes, and you can choose between squirrels, pandas, bees, birds, hedgehogs, and rainbows.

With over 10,000 positive ratings on Amazon, this toy has developed its own cult following on the site. One reviewer wrote of their dog: "This is her favorite toy. She carries the squirrels around like they're her babies. Her favorite pull toy is the squirrel house, and it [has] held up better than any toy actually made to be a pull toy."

4. A treat-filled puzzle for problem solving

This puzzle toy offers your dog a unique challenge every time they play, with compartments that can flip, hide, and slide. Conceal treats in the flip-top compartments or under the removable bone puzzle pieces to keep your dog focused for hours. With this pick, cleanup is as easy as washing it in warm, soapy water. This one is best suited for small and medium-size dogs, as larger dogs can easily flip it over, according to some reviewers.

However, with a 4.5-star rating on Amazon after more than 2,000 reviews, customers seem to approve. One fan wrote: "Kept the pup entertained for longer than other toys. Helped build up her confidence and coordination. We used training treats, dog biscuits, and frozen water & fruit."

5. A machine-washable treat mat for nosy dogs

This interactive mat comes with five puzzles and hidden treat pockets, and it doubles as a blanket for when your pup is tuckered out after a long afternoon of hunting, sniffing, and digging. This blanket encourages foraging behavior, and it has multiple difficulty levels so you can shake things up every once in a while. What makes this blanket even better is that it's machine washable.

"I love this mat," wrote one reviewer. "My coonhound is a recent rescue and she was obsessed with sniffing every corner of the apartment and 'hunting' throughout my closets [...] She loves this thing and although she’s an aggressive chewer, it’s still in great shape."

6. A peanut butter-flavored stick for aggressive chewers

It's no secret that dogs love a good stick, and this peanut butter-flavored bone-shaped one delivers. This non-edible toy satisfies your dog's instinct to chew while helping to massage their gums and remove plaque from their teeth for better dental health. And since it's made from durable nylon, it won't splinter. This chew toy is available in three sizes to accommodate dogs up to 90 pounds.

7. A treat-dispensing robot for smartphone-enabled play

This AI-powered robot keeps your pet entertained while you're home or away, providing plenty of exercise. It even rewards your dog's play by dispensing tiny treats (which are included). The interactive robot is equipped with a durable protective case that stands up to aggressive play (though it's probably not a good choice for large dogs or aggressive chewers). It also has a built-in activity tracker for your dog, and it can work continuously for four hours on a single charge. You can even schedule treats and start playtime with your smartphone when you're away through the available smartphone app.

8. A set of filling-free plush toys for no-mess play

Dogs love these woodland creature toys because they squeak, and pet parents love them because there's no stuffing to make a mess if they're ripped open. This three-pack comes with a fox, a raccoon, and a squirrel, and each one is equipped with three high-quality squeakers. The plush toys are 18 inches long, making them perfect for medium to large dogs.

"My doggy loves them," wrote one reviewer on Amazon. "Her mission in life is to destroy anything with a squeak and fill the house with toy stuffing, but that's not possible with these toys. No stuffing is brilliant."

9. A best-selling wobble toy for treat dispensing

This treat-dispensing toy has a weighted bottom that wobbles, and it's large enough to hold an entire meal for your dog at a time. Available in large and small sizes, this interactive toy drops treats as it bops and wobbles, and the adjustable openings make it customizable so you can keep the challenge going. It boasts over 6,000 reviews and a 4.3-star rating on Amazon, and many have commented that it's great for dogs that eat too fast. However, it's not a good choice for aggressive chewers.

One fan wrote: "Our corgi destroys almost every toy immediately and gets into trouble when he's bored. This has held up amazingly after an entire year of use. The sliding doors allow you to use treats or kibble of varying sizes and choose how difficult you'd like it to be."

10. A light-up electronic ball for endless entertainment

This interactive ball gets going with just a gentle push, and it has two play modes to keep your dog occupied for up to three hours of playtime on a single charge via USB. On top of that, it comes with a fluffy tail attachment to use for cats (Note that this attachment isn't recommended for use with your dog, though). Equipped with colorful LED lights, this ball comes in your choice of blue or orange.

11. A fuzzy lure toy for pet-human bonding

Perfect for both indoor and outdoor romps, this luring toy is an effective way to give your dog some exercise and have some fun yourself while doing it. The flexible and durable nylon cord stands up to tough pulls and tugs, and furry-tailed squeakers keep your pet coming back for more. There's also a second squeaker included. With hundreds of positive reviews on Amazon, this one has a lot of fans.

"Our trainer recommended a flirt pole to work on impulse control," one reviewer wrote. "Not only is it helping my dog learn that, but it is so fun! [...] Our dog is quite athletic and we have had lots of fun watching him leap and dash after the toy."