5 Science Toys For Dogs (And Their Nerdy Owners)

Nearly as many dogs live in U.S. homes as kids, and they're smarter than you think (the dogs, that is). Give them the STEM education they deserve with this holiday gift guide.

Popular Science teems with nerds who loves dogs. I'm certainly in that category, and you probably are, too -- hey, I didn't click the link with "science" and "dogs" in it. So here are some nerdy dog statistics: Nearly as many pet dogs exist in the United States as human children. More precisely, about 70 million dogs curl up in 36.5 percent of homes, compared to 78 million kids living in 45 percent of homes. What's more is that dogs are smart. Very smart. With the proper training, some can learn more than 1,000 words, among other intellectual feats.

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To give your furchild the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education that it deserves, peruse five nerdy dog toys we're excited about in this gallery.

Fetchtastic Automatic Fetch Machine
Lesson: Classical Mechanics Dogs love playing fetch, but the game comes with two major problems. First, the ball rapidly develops a slimy coating of dirt and slobber. Second, few dogs understand complex physics. Dogs new to the game wildly chase after a rolling, hopping, chaotically bouncing ball, only to crash into fellow mutts at the dog park and crush the high expectations of their owners. We live in a post-Newtonian world, so accelerate your dog's physics education with this automated ball launcher, called the Fetchtastic. The machine sends balls on perfect, arc-like trajectories every seven seconds. This allows dogs to analyze a near-ideal flying-ball system, helping them infer the paths of less-than-ideal flying balls (at least one can hope). The best part: Your dog will quickly learn to reload the launcher itself. Hello, slobber-free hands. $164.95, ActiveDogToys.comCourtesy ActiveDogToys.com
Kong Genius Toys
Lesson: Mathematical Manifolds Smart dogs tend to be the most interested in things you do not want them to touch. Lots of exercise every day can wear them down, but they bore easily and may try to learn, for example, what exists inside your couch cushions or underneath your carpet. No one needs these investigations, so occupy their minds with Kong Genius and other tough-to-solve puzzle toys. Pop a treat in either the Mike or Leo models to help your dog appreciate the nuances of mathematically beautiful shapes -- and the frustratingly complex openings the treats must pop out of. If your dog is on tenure track in solving puzzle toys, grab both the Mike and the Leo, then connect them together. Another good puzzle option, with three different shapes that fit together, is the Busy Buddy Linkables set. $11 small/$16 large/$21 extra-large, Kong Genius (Leo or Mike) $33 value pack, Busy Buddy LinkablesCourtesy Kong
GoGoDogPal Remote Controlled Dog Toy
Lesson: Robotics Whirring, remote-controlled vehicles either terrify your dog or send it into a playful, sanguinary rage against the device (mine falls into the former). Sure, it's fun to grab a controller, sit back, and cause four-legged mayhem. But sharp metal and silicon plates in an excited dog's mouth is a recipe for busted gear and hefty vet bills. If your dog is a furious appreciator of mechanical objects, and you have the liquid income to spare, get a GoGoDogPal remote-controlled dog toy. The device is a high-speed armored shell that comes in cat, groundhog, or racoon. This is blatant people marketing, as dogs could care less what's painted on the shell -- their desire is to disassemble the toy and learn about its inner robotic workings. But at least the design will give curious onlookers a laugh. $299.99, GoGoDogPalCourtesy GoGoDogPal
Dog Miracle Puzzle
Lesson: Neuroscience A brain typically makes up 1/40th of our body weight. Depending on the breed, dog brains make up 1/125th of the animal's weight -- but that doesn't mean they're dumb. A border collie named Chaser, for example, has learned more than 1,000 different words over the years. He can even infer new ones with a little help, so take a chance on your own pooch and challenge it to a game of memory. Some of the best dog memory puzzles come from the shop of a Swedish designer named Nina Ottosson. Thy're are simple enough for a dog to get while challenging your pet to rely mostly on memory, instead of smell, to discover tasty treats. With a little practice on one of these toys, Fido will be playing Simon Says in no time. €25.00, Nina OttonssonCourtesy Nina Ottosson
Hot Doll
Lesson: Sexual Anatomy I've seen my dog's head mounted too many times for her own good, or mine. Guy dogs at the park can't seem to find the correct, reproductive half of my dog before their owners run over to break off the fling. Enter the Hot Doll. It looks like a cutesy, dog-shaped back massager -- until you find photos on the Internet of dogs mounting it, and you learn it has a silicone insert that simulates a lady dog's special parts. In short, it's a sex toy for dogs. Humping happens most often with unneutered and even unspayed dogs, but some fixed dogs still do it out of excitement, anxiety, or boredom. This toy doesn't seem like a good solution to those problems -- you'll need to develop and stick to a behavior adjustment routine -- but the Hot Doll's makers seem to think otherwise: "Dogs have sexual needs ... which push them to climb on various object such as cushions, teddy bear, and worst case on legs of you neighbors, guest, postman or your own." Whatever the cause of humping, at least this toy can help promiscuous male dogs locate the reproductive half of a female dog. €159.00, Hot DollCourtesy Hot Doll