Mental Stimulating Toys

Most people seem to recommend treat stuffed toys for mental stimulation. Interactive toys are necessary though we aren't solely relying on toys as stimuli. 

Most people will go for mental stimulating toys such as Kong’s of all size and shape, but some dogs aren’t just into Kong’s, the question now is do we leave the dog bored? No.

That's why I have listed 20+ best mental stimulating toys for dogs that don't like Kong.

Before I get to list my favorite toys, it will be good to understand what mental stimulation is about and why it is important;

What is mental stimulation?

It's basically anything that gets your dog thinking. Going for a run stimulates your dog physically while finding a hidden toy stimulates him mentally.

Why is mental stimulation important?

A lot of unwanted behaviors can be eliminated by giving the dog a positive outlet. One part of this is physical exercise and one part is mental stimulation. 

Typical unwanted behaviors that can be solved with mental stimulation include:

  1.  Destroying furniture
  2.  Excessive barking or whining 
  3.  Hyperactivity 
  4.  Pulling on the leash 
  5.  Breaking out of the yard/house

It will, in addition to making dog ownership easier for you, also make your dog happier and more fulfilled. 

Most dogs were originally bred to work and if you give your dog a ''job'' it will improve your relationship to each other in addition to giving your dog a higher quality of life.

Here are the best mentally stimulating toys for dogs that doesn't like Kong:

1. Rockin Treat Ball

It’s super easy for her to get a hang of and they go bonkers when I fill it up! So I ordered it on a whim hoping they would play with it. 

Fortunately they do and I just fill it with kibble and sliced carrots and let them play until it's empty!

This looks promising, as it won't require her to gnaw on it to get the treats... just rolling and chasing, which is her favorite. 

2. Kyjen puzzle toys

Kyjen stuffed animal hiders (there's also a turtle, platypus, and a snake den, etc) are affordable, you can hide some small pieces of treats inside and your dog will take a while to root them out. 

You can make it more difficult by stuffing wads of newspaper in them. And afterwards, the toy will smell like food so they'll have a great time chewing it.

3. Babble ball

This is a great mental stimulating toy especially if your dog is stimulated by sound. 

A funny sound is triggered once the ball touch the ground and the sound offs automatically once your pet stops playing with it. 

4. Snuffle mat

This toy is a great mental stimulating toy for any dogs, as the dog is required to search, sniff and snuffle their way to find the treats you’ve hidden in the toy. 

It can be clean by just placing the snuffle mat inside a pillow before placing in a dish washer. 

5. IQ Balls

The Pet IQ ball is really loud while playing, but it’s one of the best mental stimulating toys I’ve used. 

You can adjust one of the opening sizes to make it easier or more difficult for the dog and usually keeps mine occupied for a long time.

6. buster cube 

This is a good option for a food dispensation toy but really works too as a mental stimulating toy. 

The food is dispensed by rolling the toy onto the side, the food falls out of the hole a few pieces at a time, and they're relatively easy for most dogs to figure out.

7. Omega treat ball

They're soft and bite-able and have no separate pieces to chew off. Omega is better for smallish bits of food.


On the downside, they really aren't designed for chewing, so if your dog is a chewer they might not hold up (they've been routinely thrown, bitten, squeezed, scratched, batted, and generally abused by my dogs with no ill effects, but not actually gnawed on).

8. Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble (egg-shaped)

Works really well and keeps they dog busy. It is very easy to use and clean. They can see into it so know if there is food in it. 

It's super easy to unscrew, and fill. It will take about 10 minutes for your dog to finish the treat. 

9. JW Treat Ball

This is a great puzzle toy that will mentally stimulate your dog. It is a soft rubber that rolls quietly and bounces when dropped. 

The opening is really big so it's perfect for larger chunks of biscuits and jerky. 


They are not designed for chewing.

10. Orbee Tuff Snoop

It's a goofy kind of treat ball. It is soft, but made out of something that is stronger than it looks. 

It bounces weirdly, your dog can grab it and toss it ... and you can put treats in it. Plus it opens up making it a breeze to clean.

11. Starmark everlasting treat ball

They come with hard, big dental treats in them but you can fill the other side with smaller treats and the dog needs to work a bit to get them out. Less of throwing the toy but it's way shallower than a Kong.

12. One World soccer ball 

They aren’t cheap, but if you’ve got a destructive dog or a dog that plays intensely, who loves soccer balls but tends to deflate them quickly, the One World ball will last you. 

They’re meant to withstand a heavy use on rugged surfaces, so they don’t deflate or get misshapen. One world soccer for me is a must have mental stimulating toy.

13. West Paw Toppl 

The West Paw Toppl comes in 2 different sizes that fit into each other for extra difficulty and they are really fun; I make pup-sickles with it. 

Plug the hole on the side and fill with a wet food, kibble, treat, broth, etc mixture and then freeze. It takes forever because they can't really chew it, they have to lick it. 

And because of its shape it doesn't roll away when they knock it aside (actually, it tends to just roll in a circle back to them.

14. Zogoflex Toppl

This is another one of my favorite mental stimulating toy, you small one fits into the big one to create a closed toy with holes for treats to fall out of. 

I use it that way but also use it with the open top to wedge treats and freeze wet food and pumpkin in it, just make sure you plug the hole on the side.

They're a little more on the expensive side (since you have to get two to get a closed toy) but super durable and easy to clean. 

The challenge that it's not necessarily a ball makes it a little more challenging, so make sure you know if you have a dog up for the challenge or not.

15. Pickle Pocket

Starmark does a great job at making high quality toys for a good price that works well with respect to mental stimulation. 

The Plastic is much easier to break while the squishy material of the pickle makes it much more difficult to take apart.

It does not serve a choking hazard unless your dog is the size of an alligator.

16. Outward hound hide a squirrel puzzle  

If you are looking for a mental stimulating toy that does need treats, then the outward hound hide a squirrel is that Interactive toys which does not exactly treat dispensing but is still very much engaging.

17. Muffin tin game

Put treats or pieces of kibble in muffin tin sections, cover with tennis balls and/or other toys, release dog to find the treats. 

Sometimes I will really drag it out and only put a few pieces of kibble per cup so that an entire meal takes 4-5 rounds of the game.

18. Snuffle mat 

Make it yourself, very cheap and fun, good for your dog mental stimulation!

19. Dog Twister  

Good for wet food too.

20. Dog Brick 

Easy to change difficulty levels and entertaining to watch as your dog will stay excited and stimulated for long.

21. Dog Tower 

Soo cute to watch when my dog plays with this one, easy introductory toy, good for kibble or dry/chewy treats

22. Cardboard boxes DIY

This is a mental stimulating toy that you can make yourself. Use the cardboard boxes to make DIY puzzle toys! 

Fill them with different kinds of treats and chews and tape them up with packing tape, and we'll usually put a box inside a box inside a box, etc.

Those cardboard rolls from toilet paper and paper towels also work for this too.

Not the strongest toys and they are not usable repeatedly, but it’s actually kinda helpful because all of our cardboard gets torn up by dog and fits into our bin much better!

23. Muffin tray

Take a muffin tray and cover each slot with a plastic ball. Under certain ones put a piece of cheese or treat. 

She needs to find the treat by pawing the ball but if she gets it wrong you restart and remix.

Other Easy ways to mentally stimulate your dogs mind without using toys, it'll only take you a few minutes!

Hiding treats

Just toss a handful of treats in your yard and let your dog find them. This can also be done indoors by hiding each individual treat behind/on furniture.

Candy tree

Bring some soft treats out on your normal walk. Find a tree with rough bark and stick the treats all over the trunk in all different heights.

Doggie parkour

Bring treats on your normal walk. Have your dog jump up on rocks, balance on fallen trees, stand with her front paws on a tree trunk, weave between trees or lamp-posts, sit on a smaller rock (good for balance), the possibilities are endless. HERE are some inspirational pictures.

Tracking light

Leave your dog at home/tied to a tree. Walk approximately 65 feet and drop little treats behind you. Put a bigger pile of treats or even a toy at the end. 

Now walk back to your dog but go in a big arc away from your track. It's important you don't step on your previous trail. 

If you are a bit forgetful it might be a good idea to tie a ribbon around a tree by the start of the track. Now let your dog follow the track. 

Be completely passive yourself and just follow along at the end of the leash.

Find it

Tie your dog to a tree. Go hide her favorite toy in some tall grass or behind a tree/rock/building. Pretend to hide a few more toys to confuse her and then let her loose to find the toy and ideally bring it back to you.

Hide and seek

For this you need a helper who holds the dog while you go and hide. Once you have hidden the helper releases the dog. Give lots of praise when she finds you. This can be done indoors or outdoors, ideally in a forest.

Trick training

Take a few minutes here and there to work on some fun tricks. Clicker training is a great tool for this! HERE are some tricks to get you started.

Switching it up on your walks

Try taking a detour from your normal walking path. Maybe follow that overgrown path your dog has been sniffing towards? Or take a walk in the city perhaps? If you really want to tire her out you can go to dog friendly stores and events. 

Just keep safety in mind, going to a large loud festival with a dog that isn't used to that kind of thing could be very scary for her and potentially cause accidents.

I hope you like all the mental stimulating toys listed!