Dog Enrichment Toys & How Your Pup Can Benefit From Them

October 21, 2022 5 min read

While we love our dogs, all dog owners can agree that their pups can annoy them from time to time. Whether it be barking at passersby outside the window or gnawing on your favorite pair of slippers, our dogs can’t help but bring us chaos when they’re bored.

Training is a great way to combat these tiresome behaviors, but by itself it won’t stop a bored puppy from finding something to do.

Many dogs need enrichment toys, which are fruitful in giving our pups something to do for extended periods. If you’ve heard of Kong, lick mats, or slow feeders, you’ve likely come across enrichment toys before.

Let’s break down why dogs need them and the best ways to provide mental enrichment to your pup!

bored dog at desk


The Importance of Mental Stimulation in Dogs

Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise in our pups! We all know what happens when an energetic dog skips on their walk for the day- utter chaos is unraveled! Like a lack of physical exercise, any of the ‘undesirable’ behaviors our dogs exhibit daily may be due to a lack of mental stimulation.

Dogs that don’t receive proper mental stimulation may display any of these behaviors:

  • Your dog can’t settle: They whine, pace, pant, and refuse to stay still for more than a few minutes at a time.
  • Digging: Your dog may go outside and dig holes, destroying the yard and the plants out.
  • Your dog destroys everything: Your dog may have ripped up a cushion or destroyed your favorite shoes- often after they have received plenty of exercise outside. 
  • Barking: When someone with their pup passes by your front yard, your dog goes rampant with barking and howling.
  • Your dog is whining or barking at you: A telltale sign of boredom is a dog’s constant whining for attention. 
  • Oversleeping: A healthy adult dog should be sleeping anywhere from 12-14 hours a day, with 8-10 of those hours at night. During the day, your dog should nap for 4-6 hours. If your dog is seemingly sleeping away the entire day, it may be a sign they aren’t stimulated enough.

Each of these signs is known for prevalent and unwanted behaviors in our pets. While many owners think that hardcore training is the only solution, providing a healthy amount of mental stimulation will help immensely.

An easy and fun way to provide this need for your pup is through enrichment toys. Enrichment toys are usually paired with treats, making for a fun time for your dog and a relaxing time for you.

What Enrichment Toys Should I Provide My Dog?

Enrichment toys are interactive dog toys designed to stimulate your dog mentally and strengthen their cognitive abilities. Using enrichment toys is easy for you to set up and may challenge your dog’s brain! Below are our top recommendations for enrichment toys and the best treats to pair with them!

Kong Toys: Kong is a brand that makes stuffable dog toys for providing mental enrichment. Kong’s signature toy is a bouncy treat stuffer, designed to be durable, stimulating, and bouncy! To use a Kong toy, stuff the toy with your pup’s favorite treats and let them attempt to lick it all out.

Crafted Dog Treats offers natural, safe, and delicious peanut butter designed for your pup’s pleasure. Our Peanut Butter is safe for dogs with no added salt, sugar, or xylitol! We recommend using soft treats like dog-designed peanut butter with a Kong. Crafted peanut butter comes in various beneficial flavors, ranging from pumpkin to superberry to berry and flax. 

Interactive Dog Puzzles: There are many kinds of interactive dog puzzles, most commonly involving treats! We recommend sliding puzzles like this one from Outward Hound, which are challenging and fun puzzles for your pup.

The best treats to use with sliding puzzles are small, bite-sized trainer treats. Here at Cali Raw, our treat line Crafted Dog Treats’ dehydrated organ meats can be broken up into small pieces and placed in the puzzles, giving your dog some healthy treats to find!


dog getting mental stimulation


Treat Clinchers: Treat clinchers are designed to hold your dog’s chew in place, giving them a designated area to enjoy their favorite bone. You'll want to look for treat clinchers with durable material, designed for any kind of chew to be enjoyed in any type of way!

We recommend using durable, dehydrated chews, like beef bully sticks or beef tendons, combined with a treat clincher. These chews will last your dog a while and give them an extended period of mental stimulation. 

Lick mats: Lick mats do wonders in easing boredom and anxiety in dogs, designed to be coated in a creamy treat while your dog licks it off. Lick mats can be stuck to walls during bath time or placed in your dog’s crate to provide mental stimulation when your dog most needs it.

We highly recommend freezing raw dog food onto your pup’s lick mat during mealtime or as a snack! Raw dog food is full of nutritional benefits for your pup while being the most delicious food they will ever eat. Cali Raw offers premium raw dog food, which can easily be applied to a lick mat and frozen. Getting your dog started on a raw diet will also do wonders for their overall health, being full of life-changing benefits.

Read more on the benefits of a raw diet for your pup here.


kong for dog mental enrichment


Other Fun Ways to Mentally Stimulate Your Pup

If enrichment toys are not your style, there are many other ways to provide mental stimulation to your furry friend. Here are some of our favorite ways to mentally stimulate our dogs without the use of enrichment toys:

  1. Have your dog forage for treats: Go outside with your pup and a bag of treats. Scatter the treats across the grass, and let your dog find them! This is a great way to get your dog to use their powerful nose and searching skills.
  2. Take your dog on “sniff walks:” Most owners only let their dogs sniff for a few seconds on walks to get their pup’s exercise in. However, these sights and smells are very mentally stimulating! Taking your dog on the occasional “sniff walk,” where they’re allowed to smell everything they want, will be influential in tiring out your dog’s brain.
  3. Teach your dog some new tricks: Training is a fun and exciting way for your dog to use their brain! Do some research on the silliest tricks you can teach your dog and have short sessions every day. Not only will this mentally stimulate your pup, but it will also give them a valuable skill set that can be used in critical situations.
  4. Play with your dog: Simple games of tug-of-war or fetch can help remarkably with mentally stimulating your dog. It’s a win-win! Not only do these games mentally and physically work your dog, but they also strengthen the bond between you and your pup.
  5. Play the muffin tin game: Take a muffin tin and put your pup’s favorite treats in random holes. Cover all the holes with tennis balls and watch your dog figure out where the treats are!

By mentally simulating your pup, you're not only giving them some extra love- you're nurturing a healthy brain and a happy dog.