Treat-dispensing toys are indispensable for people with active dogs. Dogs love them because they’re fun and full of food, and humans love them because they keep dogs busy and entertained. What’s more, trainers and dog behaviourists recommend treat-dispensing toys to provide mental stimulation and divert unwanted behaviour.
Read on to learn all about treat-dispensing toys, how to choose the right one for your dog, and our picks for the best options.
How Treat-Dispensing Toys Work
Treat-dispensing toys aren’t just for food. In addition to hiding treats, they’re designed to keep your dog busy. They’re perfect for dogs who make mischief when they’re bored, or become destructive when left alone. Treat-dispensing toys are also useful if your dog eats too quickly, as the toys often force them to eat one bite at a time.
If you’ve never used a treat-dispensing toy with your dog before, you may need to teach them how to use it. Here are a few training tips for using treat-dispensing toys:
- Use high-value treats at first, like strong-smelling soft treats that can be cut into tiny pieces. Once your dog gets the hang of things, you can mix it up with different types of treats, or even feed full meals with a treat-dispensing toy full of kibble.
- Start slow and gradually increase the difficulty. Let your dog sniff the toy, and place treats under or next to it before filling it. Then, start on the easiest “setting.” Many treat-dispensing toys have settings that make the puzzle easier or more difficult to solve, often by increasing or decreasing the size of the treat-dispensing hole. You can also simply leave the treat cover off until your dog gets the idea.
- Be patient. Some dogs get the hang of things more quickly, and others need you to show them how to access the food.
- Try different types of treat-dispensing toys until you find the one that best suits your dog.
The Top Treat-Dispensing Toys
Treat-dispensing toys come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and difficulty levels. Read on for our top picks!
1. Buster Cube
One of the original treat-dispensing toys, the Buster Cube can be filled with treats or plain old kibble. Your dog will have to nudge it over with their nose and toss it around the room to get treats to fall out. You can adjust the difficulty level by turning the cylinder in the centre of the cube. This causes the hole to become smaller, shaking out fewer pieces at a time.
- Active dogs who need to stay busy
- Dogs who need to eat more slowly (you can fit a full meal’s worth of food in the Buster Cube)
Not ideal for:
- Very small dogs
- Dogs who are sensitive to noise. The Buster Cube is made of hard plastic, so it can be LOUD. If you or your dog is noise-sensitive, keep it in carpeted rooms.
Tip: To clean the Buster Cube, remove the inner cylinder.
This bouncing, flexing, floating toy is a blast for dogs who like to chew. You can place smaller treats in the centre slot for your dog to extract through play, or you can push a chew stick all the way through vertically for a long-lasting chew challenge. The Qwizl even extends the life of chew sticks, keeping your active dog occupied so you can get stuff done.
- Active chewers. Push a chew stick through the long way, and let your dog go to town!
- Dogs who like to play. After the treat is gone, the Qwizl is a fun toy for playing fetch.
Not ideal for:
- Pooches with sensitive teeth (like puppies or older dogs)
- Super-strong chewers who may be able to bite off pieces of rubber
Tip: Toss the Qwizl in the dishwasher for easy cleaning!
This treat-dispensing toy is perfect for smart dogs who need to slow down at mealtimes. It’s equipped with flip cones and sliding covers to challenge your dog’s problem-solving skills. When your dog opens a compartment, she’s rewarded with a tasty treat. You can make it a new challenge every time by varying the number and placement of treats.
- Dogs who eat their meals too quickly
- Savvy pups who enjoy a challenge
Not ideal for:
- Dogs who may get frustrated and flip the whole thing over
- Flat-faced dogs who might have difficulty pushing the sliders with their noses
Tip: Try using a variety of treats and foods for a multi-sensory experience.
This classic treat-dispensing dog toy has a weighted, anti-slip bottom that makes it wobble uncontrollably. Its unpredictable movement makes it tons of fun for dogs, and its large capacity means you can use it to dispense treats or entire meals. Best of all, it has adjustable openings at the top and bottom to accommodate different sizes of foods and regulate the difficulty level.
- High-energy dogs who need exercise alongside their snacks
- Small spaces. This toy is designed to wobble in place, so it keeps your dog active without requiring a whole room!
Not ideal for:
- Super-strong chewers. This is for play, not chewing!
Tip: Reviewers recommend rinsing the toy in hot water and vinegar to clean it out without taking it apart.
This treat ball is from the same company that makes the Buster Cube, but unlike its blocky cousin, it ROLLS! The IQ Treat Ball rewards your dog for playing, dropping treats as the ball rolls. The ball’s interior disk adjusts to change the difficulty level, and you can fill the ball with treats or a full meal of kibble.
- Medium-sized dogs
- Dogs who love to chase
- Dogs who need a “slow feeder” that regulates their food intake
Not ideal for:
- Toy breeds whose small jaws may get stuck in the opening
- Older pets who may have difficulty chasing after the ball
Tip: If you have hardwood or tile floors and find the ball too loud, this helpful review suggests stretching an old sock over the toy and cut off the area covering the food hole. It will soften the sound and give your dog an extra something to hold on to!
This spongy rubber ball has soft “teeth” that do double-duty, holding treats and kibble in place while providing a pleasurable chew for your dog that helps clean their teeth and remove plaque. The all-natural rubber stands up to a good chewing, but is gentle on teeth and gums. Best of all, it’s a multitasker: when treat time is over, it’s a fun, bouncy fetch ball! These treat toys are sold in sets of two.
- Playful dogs who could benefit from a teeth-cleaning
- Puppies who love to play and chew
Not ideal for:
- Heavy-duty chewers
Tip: Smear chunky peanut butter in between the rubber teeth for a long-lasting treat.
If you’re in the market for a treat-dispensing dog toy, these are some of our favourites. But there are loads of treat-dispensing toys available, and different dogs like different types! Don’t be afraid to try a few different kinds of treat-dispensing dog toys.
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Treat-dispensing toys aren’t the only way to keep smart dogs busy. Check out these posts for more products and techniques to entertain and train your pooch.
- 21 Simple Tricks to Make Your Dog Happier, Smarter, and Less Bored Every Day
- 10 Best Puzzle Toys that Actually Help Bored Dogs
- Bored Dogs: How to Recognise Doggy Boredom (and Help!
- True Story: I’ve Tried Loads of Puzzle Toys for my Dogs and this Simple Mat Is Still my Favourite
Featured image: IQ Treat Ball