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One of the most challenging (and enjoyable) parts of being a pet parent to the energetic and brilliant Cinema is the constant quest to find toys and games that keep her mentally stimulated.

For the last few months we’ve been experimenting with the more home-grown variety, but for Christmas I was excited to drop a little hard earned cash on some awesome new puzzle toys for her.  Thanks to Cinema’s joyous raid of her present collection, I’m delighted to share my findings in time to inspire (or deter) our readers!

Puzzle Boards

61uZD9Kg1qL__SL1000_Nina Ottosson is synonymous with puzzle toys for pets but the hefty price tag of $45 or more can be a major deterrent for pet parents on a budget.  Now, I’m not too proud to admit that I’m not above knock-offs, especially when I know it’s going to be covered in dog slobber within hours of its purchase, so when I saw the Ethical Pet Products “Seek A Treat Shuffle Bone” on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond I was pretty excited.  However, my excitement was short lived as I read the reviews on this product.  The most disturbing of which mention that it has VERY SHARP EDGES which can (and occasionally do) cut the dog’s mouth while they’re playing with it.  Additionally, the product is made out of particle board which dissolves on contact with a dog’s saliva.  I can’t really think of two worse attributes in a dog toy.  Needless to say, I did not purchase it.  And neither should you.  More importantly, it serves as a reminder to ALWAYS check consumer reviews on dog toys.  They will help you weed out the highly destructible and, more importantly, the highly hazardous.

Puzzle Balls

Mazee_PlanetDogCinema LOVES puzzle balls, However, I’ve come to suspect that it’s not because they’re challenging but because many of them are practically Pez dispensers for pups.  You put the treats in one hole, they immediately fall out another, she eats them in 30 seconds, end of game.  So, for Christmas, Cinema was the elated recipient of the Mazee Orbee-Tuff.  The unique inner-maze provided at least 7 straight minutes of treat dispensing fun and Cinema loves the pliable outer shell.  It quickly became one of her favorite toys even without the treats.  Max, bless his heart, prefers to sidestep the whole “work” part and just follows Cinema around picking up the treats she’s missed.  A word of advice though, this toy would never hold up to an active chewer.

Kongs And Such

linkables-dog-treat-toyKongs have quickly become one of the most recognized dog toys.  They’re durable, come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are often the stand-by for dispensing treats.  However, the most common complaint is dogs are done with them in a matter of minutes.  Even frozen peanut butter doesn’t put up much of a fight.  This Christmas, I decided to give Premier Busy Buddy Linkables Dog Toys a try.  They were a HUGE hit!  They come in three separate sections or ‘links’ and offer a progressive way to challenge your dog.  Cinema loves that she constantly has a “new” toy every time I vary the connectors and gets quite a workout running with, tossing, and rolling this toy around the house.  We have only had this toy for a short time and Cinema is remarkably careful with her toys, so we have no first hand negative comments, but one of the biggest complaints about this product is its fairly destructible.  Pet parents of chewers or aggressive players might find the ends chewed off or the toy cracked if the fun is not supervised.

Our most successful Christmas toy was not a dog toy at all.  The Discovery Kids Adventure Play Tent, which was a whopping $15, has become a permanent fixture in our living room.  While I’ll never win the decorator of the year award, I will never get tired of watching both of my fur kids run in and out of the “Adventure Tunnel” while playing chase through the house.  Additionally, Cinema absolutely adores using it as an obstacle in her favorite game: keep-away.

Which leads me to my final point: toys are a wonderful addition to every dog’s day, are a great way to entertain your pup while you’re trying to get chores or work done, and can provide much needed mental stimulation, but the ultimate “toy” for your dog is YOU.  You will always be their favorite source of entertainment and you will always have the best understanding of what they will find fun.  So, trust your instinct, read reviews, think outside of the box, and play, play, play!