The best interactive dog toys in 2024

Keep your pooch physically and mentally active, even when you can't be around.

Best overall

Kong makes some of the best interactive dog toys.

Kong Classic

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Best for anxious dogs

SmartPetLove makes some of the best interactive dog toys for anxiety.

Original Snuggle Puppy Heartbeat Toy

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Best puzzle toys

Outward Hound makes some of the best interactive dog toys for mental stimulation.

Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Challenge Slider

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If you’re looking for new ways to engage and entertain your dog, interactive dog toys offer unique play experiences that provide more than just fun. Dogs live for two things: You coming home from work, and you playing with them after you come home from work. (OK, and maybe treats for good play behavior.) Aside from being our best friends, dogs are intelligent and social animals, and without appropriate outlets for their energy, they may become bored, anxious, or exhibit destructive behaviors (RIP your couch cushions). Since providing continuous attention throughout the day is impossible, the best interactive dog toys are an endlessly useful tool for dog owners, and these are our favorites.

How we chose the best interactive dog toys

As a lifelong pet owner, I can attest to dogs’ unique personalities, moods, and behaviors, plus the attention and stimulation from toys they require. I’m sure every pet owner has made the mistake of buying an expensive toy just to have their pet ignore it and return to that battle-worn loafer. While it’s impossible to predict precisely what your dog will love, this guide is here to help you make educated choices. We’ve jumped in, researching the best interactive dog toys by comparing 25 brands, reading reviews, and considering features, materials, and safety to offer you a highly-rated selection of the best interactive dog toys for your furry friend.

The best interactive dog toys: Reviews & Recommendations

Interactive dog toys incorporate elements from traditional dog toys with puzzles, treat-dispensing mechanisms, or interactive features that require dogs to use their problem-solving skills, agility, and senses. Not only do interactive dog toys help to alleviate the boredom that leads to behavioral issues—like excessive chewing, barking, and digging—they also provide a source of extra physical exercise. Puzzles for dogs and stimulating dog toys promote healthy behaviors, mental stimulation, and well-being, and we’re here to help you find the right one for your dog.

Best overall: Kong Classic

Best overall

Kong Classic

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Specs

  • Difficulty Level: Accessible for all dogs without training
  • Dimensions: X-small 2.5”, small 3”, medium 3.5”, large 4”, X-large 5”, XX-large 6”
  • Material: Rubber

Pros

  • Affordable prices ranging from $8 to $25, depending on size
  • Recommended by veterinarians and dog trainers 
  • Multiple size options available for your dog depending on their weight
  • Top-rack dishwasher-safe

Cons

  • Not recommended for power chewers

The Kong Classic is our choice for best overall interactive dog toy because it’s highly rated, constructed from durable all-natural rubber, and entertains all sizes (and ages) of dog. Popular amongst dog owners with thousands of positive reviews, this tried-and-true toy is also recommended by veterinarians and dog trainers. 

The simple rubber design helps satisfy a dog’s natural instinct to chew. The toy features a hollow center that can be stuffed with treats or peanut butter and keeps dogs engaged as they work to retrieve the goodies inside. In addition, the rubber’s unpredictable bounce adds to your dog’s overall entertainment experience. 

The Kong Classic toy comes in six sizes, and you select the size based on your dog’s weight. While the red Kong Classic style is designed for most typical adult dogs with average chewing behavior, you can also select Kong Puppy for the softest rubber, Kong Senior with soft rubber, or Kong Extreme with the most durable rubber for power chewers.

While supervision is recommended before you leave your dog alone with any interactive dog toy, the Kong Classic, with its simple battery-free design, is a safe choice. This versatile toy is helpful for crate training, separation anxiety, boredom, teething, weight management, chewing, digging, and barking. Another consideration for our recommendation is that the Kong Classic is affordable; the price ranges from under $10 to just over $20, depending on the size you select.

Best for chasing: iFetch Ball Launcher

Best for playing fetch

iFetch Ball Launcher

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Specs

  • Difficulty Level: Requires some basic training
  • Dimensions: 8” H x 9” diameter
  • Material: Plastic

Pros

  • Customize the ball launch distance to either 10 feet, 20 feet, or 30 feet
  • Flexible power by wall plug or six C batteries
  • Simple button controls

Cons

  • Expensive, ranging from $129.99 to $229.99 depending on size

The iFetch Ball Launcher is our choice for best for playing fetch because it enables fun even when you’re unavailable. This automatic ball launcher throws mini tennis balls (1.5” diameter) into the air at three set intervals, either 10, 20, or 30 feet. The launcher is also available in different sizes to accommodate various breeds. You can even train your dog to drop the iFetch mini ball into the top opening of the iFetch for longer independent play. Powered by either batteries or a wall plug, you can move this 2.5-pound toy around indoors or outdoors, depending on your preference. Switching the distance of the throw is extremely easy with a button on the toy. The iFetch comes with three mini-tennis balls, and additional balls may be purchased separately. The iFetch provides mental stimulation as your dog learns how to work the machine by returning the ball into the top opening, as well as hours of entertainment and plenty of exercise. 

Best for anxious dogs: SmartPetLove Original Snuggle Puppy Heartbeat Toy

Best for anxious dogs

Original Snuggle Puppy Heartbeat Toy

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Specs

  • Difficulty Level: Accessible to all dogs without training
  • Dimensions: 8” H x 9” diameter
  • Material: Plastic

Pros

  • Machine washable after removing heartbeat and heating pad
  • Odorless heating pad that uses no electricity
  • Heartbeat has two modes: 24/7 continuous or 8 hours on with automatic off

Cons

  • Velcro opening (used for access to heartbeat and heating pad) is difficult to open
  • Disposable heat pads last only 24 hours

The Original Snuggle Puppy Heartbeat is our choice for best for anxious pets because it’s a simple design incorporating heat and a heartbeat-type vibration that helps soothe dogs. This plush puppy toy is available in six colorways and features a Velcro pocket where you place a battery-powered “heartbeat” and a disposable heating pad. Dogs and puppies can get stressed for many reasons, including separation anxiety, storms, moving, or crate training. Providing a toy with vibrating warmth can help naturally soothe by mimicking physical affection. This toy may also help curb whining and barking; thousands of customers recommend it.

Best for mental stimulation: Cheerble Wicked Ball SE

Best self-moving ball

Cheerble Wicked Ball SE

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Specs

  • Difficulty Level: Accessible to all dogs without training
  • Dimensions: 2.2” diameter
  • Material: Rubber, TPU and PC

Pros

  • Allow you to customize your interaction mode (passive, normal, or gentle)
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Available in different sizes to accommodate different breed dogs
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • Does not work on high-pile carpet

The Cheerble Wicked Ball SE is our choice for best self-moving ball because it offers several customizable play settings and uses rechargeable batteries. Cheerble Wicked Ball SE was designed with feedback from users of the original Wicked Ball. The SE is designed for small- to medium-sized dogs (Wicked Ball PE is made for larger breeds); utilizes rubber, which is gentler on your dog’s teeth; and offers vibrant lighting effects. You can toggle between three interaction modes, each providing different color lights and performance. Gentle mode generates pink light and allows for slow rolling or shaking on contact; normal mode generates blue light and allows for active rolling and bouncing; and passive mode generates green light and the ball only bounces on contact. Want to use it in an open and/or public space where your dog can enjoy a little extra freedom but can’t roam free? Consider picking up one of the best retractable dog leashes.

Best puzzle: Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Challenge Slider

Best for mental challenge

Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Challenge Slider

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Specs

  • Difficulty Level: Level 3 for advanced dogs that have experience with puzzle toys
  • Dimensions: 1.9” H x 14.7” L x 14.7” L
  • Material: Plastic

Pros

  • BPA-, PVC-, and phthalate-free plastic for safety
  • Easy clean with soap and warm water
  • 24 treat compartments, holds up to 1 cup of food total

Cons

  • Requires supervision

The Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Challenge Slider is a puzzle designed specifically to challenge dogs, who must complete sequential steps to get their reward. Outward Hound manufactures a wide range of pet products, including a comprehensive line of dog puzzles designed by Nina Ottosson. Her puzzles engage dogs and require them to work for their treats. They’re available in four different difficulty levels—from level 1, which is easy, to level 4, which is advanced. Designed with safety in mind, these brain games for dogs don’t have any removable parts. (The toy can be washed with warm water and soap.) Start your dog on easy puzzles and then work them up to advanced, like this dog treat puzzle, or to the expert level, when your dog has mastered the basics. Follow up the training with some extra training treats.

Best budget: Starmark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy

Best budget

Starmark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy

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Specs

  • Difficulty Level: Level 1, accessible for all dogs without training
  • Dimensions: Small: 4.5” x 4.5” x 6.5”; large – 6” x 6” x 9.5”
  • Material: Hard plastic

Pros

  • Affordable prices ranging from $12 to $17, depending on size
  • Can customize difficulty levels by adjusting the opening 
  • Can be filled with kibble or treats

Cons

  • Challenging to clean, not dishwasher-safe

The Starmark Bob-A-Lot features a colorful, hard plastic design that should stand up to average chewer dogs. The challenge of retrieving treats encourages mental stimulation while still being simple enough for all dogs. Beyond entertaining and challenging, the Bob-A-Lot makes a great choice for slowing down fast eaters. The weighted non-slip bottom keeps the toy upright while your dog has fun knocking it around to get his kibble. Bob-A-Lot’s unique feature is the ability to adjust the size of the kibble hole opening. The larger the opening, the easier it is for the dog to retrieve kibble, so starting large and reducing to smaller as your dog learns how to use this toy is recommended. And it’s super affordable: both size options for this toy are under $20.

Things to consider before buying an interactive dog toy

Interactive dog games are popular, and hundreds of dog products are available. With so many choices, it’s important to consider the following features:

Size

Consider choosing an interactive dog toy that suits the size and strength of your dog. Avoid toys that are too small, as they may pose a choking hazard or get stuck in their mouth. Also, consider the size of your home if you are concerned about storage when the toys are not in use.

Durability

Opt for toys made from durable materials that can withstand your dog’s chewing and playing habits, reducing the risk of them ingesting or breaking off small pieces. If you notice an interactive toy becomes damaged during play, remove it to prevent your dog from ingesting any small parts.

Supervision

Always supervise your dog while they play with interactive toys. Supervision lets you intervene if any issues arise and ensures your dog uses the toy safely. After you understand how your dog uses the toy, you can decide if it’s appropriate for your pup to use it without your supervision.

Material safety

Avoid toys made from toxic or harmful substances such as lead, phthalates, or BPA. Look for toys that are non-toxic and made from pet-safe materials. You can consult with your veterinarian for recommendations. If you notice an interactive toy becomes damaged during play, remove it to prevent your dog from ingesting any small parts.

Treat selection

When using treat-dispensing toys, consider the number of treats to prevent overfeeding and the size of treats to prevent any possible choking hazards. Choose toys that will hold your dog’s favorite treats, which should be appropriate for their size and dietary needs.

Age-appropriateness

When considering toys for puppies, you should select toys designed to be gentle on their developing teeth and easier to manipulate. Ensure the toy you choose is appropriate for your dog’s age, size, and abilities.

FAQs

Q: How much do interactive dog toys cost?

Interactive dog toys can range from just over $12 for simple models like the Kong Classic to more than $75 for the iFetch Ball Launcher, designed to toss out tennis balls for your dog to chase and return.

Q: What interactive toys can you give dogs while you’re gone?

You can give your pooch interactive dog toys while you’re gone, as long as they’re not a choking or splintering hazard and are appropriate for your dog’s breed, age, and size. It’s important to supervise your dog with its interactive toy before deciding whether your dog will be able to play with it while you’re gone. Inspect your interactive dog toys to ensure they are in good working condition, and replace them if they get damaged or broken.

Q: Is there a dog toy that moves on its own?

Yes, many different types of interactive dog toys move on their own, typically powered by batteries. For example, there are battery-powered self-moving balls, motion-activated prey toys that move on their own (and also make noise), toys that shake or flop on their own, robotic toys that move on their own, automated ball launchers, and even battery-free toys that provide bite-activated movement.

Q: How do I keep my dog entertained while I’m working?

You have many options to help keep your dog entertained while you are working. If possible, get your dog outside for some vigorous activity before you leave and when you come home. While working, you can play music, open window shades, and provide safe interactive toys to help encourage mental and physical stimulation. It’s important to test out interactive toys under supervision to determine whether your dog will safely use them unattended.

Q: Are interactive toys good for dogs?

Interactive toys are a good choice for dogs because they offer many benefits, including mental and physical stimulation. Designed to engage your dog’s senses and challenge their problem-solving abilities, interactive toys can help dogs relieve boredom and anxiety by providing fun, challenging entertainment. Playing with interactive toys helps your dog redirect their energy away from problematic behaviors.

According to the Humane Society, “By focusing on a specific task—such as repeatedly returning a ball, Kong, or Frisbee or playing “hide-and-seek” with treats or toys—your dog can expend pent-up mental and physical energy from boredom in a limited amount of time and space. For young, high-energy, and untrained dogs, interactive play also offers an opportunity for socialization and helps them learn about appropriate and inappropriate behavior, such as jumping up or being mouthy.”

Final thoughts on the best interactive dog toys

The best interactive dog toys provide mental stimulation, entertainment, comfort, and exercise when you can’t give your dog your full attention. From an automated fetch machine to dog puzzle toys, these picks will help you keep your dog healthy and happy, even when you’re not around.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.