The Best Enrichment Toys For Dogs In Australia
Is your dog bored? Are they destructive chewing, seemingly lethargic, or sleeping excessively?
You may need to enrich their lives with some intentionally selected enrichment toys. But how do you find the right options for your fur baby? Never fret; we have all the information you need to make an informed decision with our best enrichment toys for dogs in Australia.
We joined forces with canine behaviourists, veterinarians and dog parents to form an independent team of experts. We then spent months researching the most popular options available before agreeing on the list below. So without further ado, let's learn more about the best enrichment toys for your dog!
Quick Picks - The Top 3
Our Number 1 Pick -
Fur King Dog Snuffle Mat
- Fairly durable with quality stitching
- Machine washable
- A variety of different hiding places
- Cute design
- Suitable for all types of dogs
Runner Up -
IFOYO Dog Snuffle Mat
- Machine washable
- Comes in a good range of designs
- Suitable for dogs of all ages and sizes
Third Choice -
Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado
- Nice design
- Easy to clean
- Well reviewed
Why Are Enrichment Toys For Dogs Important?
Play is important for all dogs. It maintains a healthy mental state as well as promotes focus. In certain cases, playing can improve your dog’s discipline.
Related: Best Dog Toys Australia.
If your dog becomes bored for long periods, it could lead to increased anxiety and/or depression.
You can tell if your dog is depressed as it has similar symptoms as human depression.
“John Ciribassi, DVM, past president of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour. “Dogs will become withdrawn. They become inactive. Their eating and sleeping habits often change. They don’t participate in the things they once enjoyed.” - PetMD (1)
High anxiety and depression can lead to destructive behaviour like peeing around the house or chewing household items.
Types of Enrichment Toys
Below is a list of the main types of dog enrichment toys available on the market. I briefly want to mention that there are DIY solutions for mentally stimulating your dog too with different games made from household items.
But who has time for that! In this article, our team of independent experts agreed to focus on off-the-shelf solutions to make it easier for the time-poor dog owner to still provide your dog with mental stimulation.
If you’ve followed the Gentle Dog Trainers YouTube channel, you’ll notice that I’ve mentioned snuffle mats a few times! A snuffle mat is essentially a nose game. They are typically made of bright-coloured felt with an array of hidden pockets in different configurations.
The idea is you hide some dog treats in your dog’s snuffle mat and allow your dog to sniff them out. This exercises your dog’s sniffing capabilities which is an essential skill. They are a great choice for dogs of all ages as snuffle mats are not too physically demanding. I use them with great success with my two elderly dogs.
Lick mats are similar to snuffle mats, but I’m sure you can guess the key difference! Instead of sniffing, your dog licks around the contours of the rubber mat to access their treat. These come in many different shapes and sizes.
There are dog-bowl/lick mat hybrids that encourage slow eating. The concept is that your dog has to “work” for their food. Getting a “wobble” bowl also adds another element of entertainment to the whole thing.
The cons is that lick mats can be messy. My dogs are messy eaters anyway so this isn’t a great fit for them. If you’re prepared for the clean-up, this is a fun way to turn mealtime into playtime.
Lick mats are known for reducing anxiety so this is a great solution for dogs suffering from separation anxiety or any other kind of anxiety. (2)
Puzzle toys are for the super clever dogs out there wanting to stretch their minds on a new challenge. They come in many different shapes and patterns so this category is quite broad. There are puzzle bricks, hide and seek plush toys, and even chew toys that can be classed as puzzles.
For today’s purposes, when I refer to puzzle toys, I mean the brick kind. These are flat-laid toys that challenge your dog to find the treat hiding within the puzzle’s multiple chambers.
Of course, not-so-smart dogs can also use puzzle toys, but they may give up sooner out of frustration if the toy is too complex for them.
Finally, retrieving games are hugely mentally stimulating for dogs. They encourage focus and discipline while giving them a decent amount of exercise. You can have many different types of retrieval toys. I’m talking frisbees, tennis balls, rope toys and even automatic fetch machines. I’m partial to an automatic machine as it keeps your dog entertained with minimal effort on your part!
This isn’t a suitable toy for all dogs. Many breeds aren’t natural retrievers. It can also be a struggle for elderly or disabled dogs.
You could call a wobble toy a subcategory of puzzle toys, but I want to set it apart as it has slightly differing features. Wobble toys engage your dog’s instinct to forage. By nuzzling the toy, they can access the treats inside or be rewarded by loud squeaky noises.
What To Consider When Buying An Enrichment Toy For Your Dog
There are so many options on the market to enrich your dog’s life. But according to our panel of independent experts, these are the factors to think about to make the best choice for your pup.
Your dog’s age
As I’ve mentioned before, my dogs are in the senior category. In their twilight years, there are many ways we’ve had to adapt their lives, including how they play. Toys that are too physically exhausting don’t suit them at this stage of their lives.
Conversely, if you have a puppy at home, you can count on them being endlessly entertained by retrieval toys or wobble toys that feel a little more exciting than the traditional puzzle brick toy or snuffle mat.
Your dog’s instincts (breed dependant)
Some dogs are retrievers and some simply aren’t. In fact, fetch can be bad for some dogs.
“Say you throw a ball ten times during a walk, over seven days that is seventy throws, seventy times the dog has charged out, twisted or jumped to grab the ball and powered back. Over the course of a year that is 3,640 high impact runs your dog has done, and over a ten-year lifespan, that would be over 30,000 and each of those throws has placed a strain on the body,” - Sophie Jackson, PetHelpful. (3)
With that in mind, some breeds are more predisposed to retrieve objects than others. Similarly, hounds are excellent sniffers and will enjoy snuffle mats. Think about your dog’s natural skills and engage those senses.
Your dog’s health
Your dog’s health can impact how they play and how they can keep their brains active. For example, if your dog has lost their sense of smell, a snuffle mat is quite useless. Likewise, retrieval toys won’t work for disabled or arthritic dogs. Be mindful of your dog’s physical limits so that the toy you choose is enjoyable for them.
Related: Toys For Blind Dogs.
Your dog’s intelligence level
I don’t mean to insult them but… is your dog dumb? I mean this in the kindest way possible. Some dogs just aren’t that sharp. You need to factor in your dog’s intelligence level when choosing an enrichment toy as you don’t want to cause confusion and frustration.
Many puzzle toys in particular have a guide as to their difficulty. Choose one that lines up with how much complexity your dog can handle.
Your dog’s strength
This should be a factor in any toy purchase you make for your dog. If the toy is not well matched for your dog’s strength then they can end up destroying the toy pretty quickly. Not great as puzzle toys and interactive toys tend to be a little more expensive than your commonplace tennis balls and rope toys.
Usually, manufacturers will say how suitable they are for different-sized dog breeds.
The Best Dog Enrichment Toys In 2022 Reviewed: Australia Edition
Now you know the different types of dog enrichment toys available and which may be best for your doggo. Next, we share the absolute favourites as tried and tested by our team of independent experts.
A snuffle mat is the ultimate enrichment toy because it will work for almost every type of dog. Snuffle mats are easy to use and quite self-explanatory, so they don’t require special training for your dog (great for puppies).
Plus, they are entertaining without demanding too much physical activity (great for elderly dogs and those with mobility issues, like mine).
Related: The Best Dog Subscription Box Australia.
There are many snuffle mats you can choose from, but this one from Fur King is surely one of my favourites (and not only because it’s cute). Actually, the coolest thing about this snuffle mat is that it offers a variety of different hiding spots for kibble or treats, so it will keep your pooch entertained for longer.
When the mat gets dirty (and inevitably will), everyone on our team of experts appreciated that you can simply throw it in the washing machine. Easy peasy, especially when compared to options like our third choice that requires careful handwashing.
I have an IFOYO snuffle mat at home and it is fabulous! With an array of bold designs and intricate treat pockets, this can keep your dog entertained and stretch their sniffing skills. We love this snuffle mat because it’s great for dogs of all sizes and ages.
Made of felt, it is not the most durable toy that your dog will own. So it’s vitally important that your dog is not left unattended with a snuffle mat as they could destroy it once they’ve found all of the treats. The strongest dog to the cheekiest puppy could make light work of a snuffle mat if given the chance.
The IFOYO Dog Snuffle Mat being tested by our independent expert team.
Provided your dog doesn’t destroy it, this snuffle mat has good features that our panelists loved. There are two straps that you can tie to a chair or table leg to stabilise the mat as your dog plays. Best of all, when it’s ready to be cleaned, you can throw it in the washing machine and rinse it through with a cool wash, like our number one choice. Result!
So those are the different categories of toys and how to make the best choice for your dog. Let’s get into some more specific recommendations!
Nina Ottosson will be a common theme in our reviews as her puzzle toys are just fantastic. She tops our charts for today because this particular enrichment toy covers all of the bases. It is a puzzle toy. It wobbles. It conceals treats. It’s boredom busting.
The Tornado consists of 4 swivel levels that encourage your dog to sniff out where treats may be hiding. And our team of independent experts want to assure you that it’s not too complex for any dog of any age.
The Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado being tested by our independent expert team.
The caveat is the size issue (this will be a common theme). While the dog is well-sized for dogs of all breeds, there is a flaw in the system. If your dog is large enough, they can flip over the entire toys and all the treats will fall out, defeating the purpose of the game. If you don’t mind resetting the game, larger dogs can still enjoy the toy. But it’s worth mentioning this flaw in design for bigger breeds.
Despite that, we highly recommend the Tornado as a challenging enrichment toy for dogs of all kinds.
I warn you - this puzzle toy is for super-intelligent dogs only! Sudoku stumps the best of us. As a wordsmith myself, sudoku is not a favourite of mine, but if your dog is up to the challenge, this can be an incredibly stimulating game.
So there’s no actual mathematics involved as there is the human equivalent. Dog sudoku here consists of 15 wooden sliding pieces that your dog must strategically move to find the treats concealed inside. It’s more like a flat Rubik’s Cube than a sudoku game if you ask me!
The My Intelligent Pets Dog' SUDOKU being tested by our independent expert team.
Completely made of wood, this is a great choice for the more eco-friendly of you out there, especially when compared to our last choice by Nina Ottosson.
However wooden dog toys have their problems too. For one, they are far more perishable than a solid chew-fest. They can also breed bacteria and mould quickly if not taken care of. Even if it is well taken care of, there’s a pretty good chance that the wooden toy may look a bit grubby.
Another con of this toy is the size. Our team of independent experts could all agree that this is best suited for small-medium dogs only.
That said, this is a wonderful toy for dogs needing a highly engaging toy to challenge them.
Nina Ottoson has quite an impressive lineup of interactive toys for dogs that engage the mind of both pup and owner.
This particular model is made of BPA-free and phthalate-free plastic with 20 different treat compartments. It’s complex, engaging and fun for the right dog, like the sudoku choice above! Each block has a scent hole to allow your dog to use their sniffer to find goodies concealed inside.
To add to the complexity, the blocks have different mechanisms. Some slide open and some flip up. The game is suitable for dogs with a good amount of intelligence, learning capacity and memory.
The Outward Hound Nina Ottoson Dog Brick being tested by our independent expert team.
The manufacturer claims that this toy is suitable for dogs of all sizes and ages. I’m not so convinced personally. It is 31 x 21 cm which may be fine for most dogs, but the treat compartments are more suitable for smaller treats. This could pose a problem for larger dogs that need larger pieces. That said, there is probably a way around it.
A potential con would be the challenge of cleaning, like our other Nina Ottosson puzzle toy. Those compartments are fiddly. While the plastic makes it easier to wipe down and more durable than wood may be, it still may take some patience to take the toy apart to clean it when it needs cleaning.
If you’re looking for an engaging puzzle brick for your pup with more longevity than a wooden toy, this is a fabulous option!
Wobble toys can provide endless entertainment for your pup and this model is a firm favourite. The Smelly UFO is the foraging game your dog needs. It is highly versatile with two difficulty settings. Keep it simple as a slow feeder or ramp up the difficulty for a fast-paced treat game. All you need to do is flip the side you want to use for the complex maze or the easy maze.
It is made of non-toxic rubber and hardy plastic. Indestructible is definitely a word you can use here. We tested it out with 20 different dog breeds, so you can bet that your dog won’t be able to break this easily.
The Sniffiz SmellyUFO being tested by our independent expert team.
Unlike lick mats, wobble toys tend to be easier to clean. This is no exception. It’s dishwasher safe and you can open the compartments to give it a thorough scrub now and again.
The downside? It’s a little small. Only 17cm in diameter which won’t work for all dog breeds, unfortunately. Like our last choice, this is better suited for the small-medium dog breed category. Perhaps some large breeds too. I definitely would avoid it for extra-large dogs.
Funky design, durable and fun! What more could you want for your dog’s next toy?
Finally, let’s talk about retrieval toys. But not just any retrieval toy - an automatic one! Those with weak wrists rejoice as this is a game of fetch you don’t have to partake in. If your dog is physically up to it, the iFetch is a fantastic automatic ball launcher that will keep your dog happy.
It has adjustable launching strength to enable you to control the distance that the balls are thrown.
The iFetch Original being tested by our independent expert team.
The electronic aspect is also adaptable as it can run off batteries or be plugged into a socket for endless fun.
The caveat here is that some dogs are fetch purists. By that I mean some dogs will turn their nose up at an automatic ball launcher but squeal with glee when their owner takes fetch into their own hands. This was precisely the case with several members of our expert panel.
For those dogs, it’s more about the interaction that they like as opposed to the act of retrieving. There’s only one way to find out which side your dog may be on the automatic vs human fetch debate!
Final Thoughts: What Is The Best Enrichment Toy For Your Dog?
The best toy for your dog depends on their size, age and intelligence level. For the super smarties out there, our team of independent experts agree that the My Intelligent Pets Sudoku game is a thrilling challenge that your dog will love.
However, we also think that older dogs with a keen sense of smell will enjoy the slow pace of the IFOYO Snuffle Mat. The LickiMat will do great for puppies with separation anxiety. Or as a catch-all for most dogs, the Nina Ottosson Tornado is a clear winner with all of its fantastic features.
But remember that the best enrichment toy for your dog is the one they actually use. Experiment with the ways your dog likes to play and consider their natural strengths to find the right one!
Enrichment toys are toys that stimulate your dog’s mind leading to a happier and healthier dog. You could argue that most toys are enrichment toys to a degree, but there are some categories of toys that are particularly good at keeping your dog’s brain engaged.
If you have a hyperactive or highly intelligent dog, they may have more need for enrichment toys than others. For example, my dog Pip is incredibly intelligent and energetic. He is much more interested in puzzle toys and similar items than my more relaxed, docile, sweet dog Blue.
- Eckstein, S. March 8, 2022. “Depression in Dogs”. PetMD. Retrieved June 29, 2022. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/depression-in-dogs
- Horwitz, D & Landsberg, G. “Separation Anxiety in Dogs”. VCA Hospitals.Retrieved June 29, 2022. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/separation-anxiety-in-dogs
- Jackson, S. April 11, 2022. “Is Playing Fetch Bad for My Dog?”. Retrieved June 29, 2022. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Is-Playing-Fetch-Bad-For-My-Dog