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What are the best enrichment toys for anxious dogs?

Dogs are bred to be our closest companions, with their delightfully cheerful demeanour and happy-go-lucky nature. In fact, 95% of pet parents are said to rely on their pets for stress relief. But it’s not just owners who experience stress and anxiety. A recent survey of 14,000 dogs found that about 75% displayed at least one anxious behavior.

The most common issue to trigger the anxiety was noise sensitivity. For example, a fear of fireworks, or noisy weather like thunder. Separation anxiety in dogs is also extremely common with 8 out of 10 dogs  finding it hard to cope when left alone.

In our previous blog, we discussed why dogs experience anxiety, and the main signs to look out for that show your dog is suffering. So, within this article, we will be exploring dog enrichment toys and the part they play in helping to soothe anxious dogs.

When feeling anxious, dogs tend to soothe themselves in four ways – licking, chewing, sniffing, and shredding. As we are sure you’ll agree, we would much prefer our furry friends to soothe themselves through enrichment toys rather than taking it out on our belongings! But which dog enrichment toys are best for your anxious dog?

Well, you have come to the right place. See below for the very best dog enrichment toys WOOOF has to offer that will help your pup find their inner zen. We also include pro's and con's for each so you can make a more informed decision.

Anxious pug
JC Gellidon via Unsplash

1. Lick Mats by SodaPup for anxious dogs

Does your dog show stress and anxiety through excessive licking? Then a Lick Mat is the perfect choice. Lick Mats are simple but effective and great for directing a fretful dog’s attention towards something more stimulating. Any dog will find pleasure in licking between the crevices, with each mat featuring different fun designs to choose from.

Just simply spread your anxious dog's favourite soft treat across the surface of the mat. This can be dog friendly peanut butter (or Poochbutter), canned dog food, cream cheese, plain yoghurt, or crushed treats that are moistened with water.

Pros of Lick Mats:

  • Lick Mats are budget-friendly,
  • Great to use with both wet and dry food,
  • They are easy to clean, and fairly durable,
  • They’re travel-friendly and can be taken with you wherever you venture.
  • Lick Mats will keep your dog entertained and has a calming effect.

Cons of Lick Mats:

  • Lick Mats will not be ideal for dogs who are not stimulated by food.
  • Standard Lick Mats will not be the best solution for chewers, particularly aggressive chewers. If your dog likes to play rough, opt for a LickiMat Tuff Soother instead.

2. Snuffle Mats for anxious dogs

What dog doesn’t find pleasure in having a good sniff? Snuffle Mats encourage anxious dogs to use their senses and foraging skills to solve a problem. All you have to do, is hide some tasty, irresistible treats within the layers of the fabric for your pup to sniff out.

Snuffle Mats are highly beneficial for keeping anxious dogs busy, or keeping bored dogs entertained through enrichment.

Sniffing has a calming effect on pets who are feeling anxious. In fact, experts say just 20 minutes of sniffing is equivalent to an hour’s walk when it comes to enrichment for your fur baby! It provides lots of mental stimulation for them and helps keep their brains healthy and satisfied. 

Pros of Snuffle Mats:

  • Mentally stimulates and tires your dog,
  • Helps to slow down eating, preventing indigestion and bloating,
  • Great to use for training and encouraging your dog to use their senses,
  • Can be used indoors when the weather is bad, and your dog is not having a proper walkies!

Cons of Snuffle Mats:

  • Could be messy and leave crumbs around,
  • Some dogs could pull and chew at the fabric once the treats are gone. We recommend not to leave your pup alone with this product.
  • Can be more costly than some other dog enrichment toys on the market.
Snuffle mats

3. Classic KONG for anxious dogs

Most dog owners will have heard of or seen the Classic KONG before. This dog enrichment toy is loved for its versatility and durability. The KONG can be used as a treat dispenser or as a ball substitute for an exciting game of fetch. It has a unique and unpredictable bounce!

Classic KONGs are made of a natural, strong red rubber, perfect for anxious dogs who enjoy chewing. To extend playtime, you can either put your dog's favorite treats in the KONG or freeze it with dog-friendly Poochbutter. This will provide your pup with extra enjoyment.

Pros of KONG Classic:

  • Made from durable, non-toxic rubber that is dishwasher safe,
  • Can be filled with a variety of dog treats or stuffing,
  • Versatile and can be used as a treat dispenser or a fetch toy,
  • KONG’s are a budget-friendly option.

Cons of KONG Classic:

  • KONG Classic is not ideal for aggressive chewers. They will be better suited to the extra-durable version of KONG.
  • May not be suitable for dogs who are unable to eat when feeling intense anxiety,
  • Tends to be more difficult to fill and layer compared to other dog enrichment toys.
KONG dog enrichment toy  variety

4. SmartyPaws Puzzler Donut Slider for anxious dogs

If your pup is one to need more of a challenge to stay occupied, we recommend the SmartyPaws Puzzler Donut Slider. This ZippyPaws toy helps anxious dogs learn problem-solving skills while having fun and getting their favourite treats.

The Donut Slider also features different levels of difficulty to entertain your dog and distract them from any anxiety they are feeling. Puzzle toys such as these are recommended by veterinary experts to manage doggie boredom and help to keep our furry friends mentally engaged.

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, puzzle toys like the Puzzler Donut Slider can give them something else to focus on.

Pros of Smarty Paws Donut Slider:

  • Interactive design for experienced furry puzzle solvers!
  • Different levels of difficulty,
  • An affordable dog enrichment toy option,
  • Can be filled with dog treats and kibble,
  • Teaches dogs problem-solving skills.
  • Has a non-slip base to prevent sliding

Cons of Smarty Paws Donut Slider:

  • Can be frustrating for beginners. This type of puzzle toy is best for the more experienced puzzle solver.
  • Could elevate your dog’s stress if they are not a fan of puzzles.

Similar Puzzle Toy products for anxious dogs

5. Honey Pot Enrichment Burrow Dog Toy for anxious dogs

Burrow Toys are great for anxious dogs who don't find treat-dispensing or puzzle toys stimulating. Burrow toys are also fantastic for keeping senior dogs occupied and maintaining their cognition. If your dog’s anxiety tends to result in destructive behaviours such as chewing or digging, burrow toys can help keep them occupied and prevent damage.

Older dogs benefit from softer toys that are gentle on their jaws. They may also enjoy a dog toy that provides comfort without requiring much physical effort.

The Honey Pot Enrichment Burrow Toy will ensure your dog is abuzz with excitement! They’ll forget all about their anxieties as they try to dig the Zippy Burrow Bees out of the honey pot. Simply push the busy bees into the holes of the soft toy and watch as your pup tries to pull them out. Bee-ware, they’ll be begging you to put the squeaky bees back in again and again for hours of fun!

Burrow toys are perfect to keep your furry friend busily engaged in hide-and-seek play that prevents boredom, reduces anxiety, and promotes mental stimulation.

Pros of Burrow Toys:

  • Bees squeak to elevate excitement in your pup,
  • Great for senior dogs or canines who are not motivated by food,
  • Serve as a good introduction to puzzle toys for beginners as they don’t need too much physical exertion and are a relatively easy puzzle to solve.
  • Perfect for pups who love cuddle toys and find them comforting.
  • Ideal for small to medium sized dogs.

Cons of Burrow Toys:

  • Soft design could be destroyed by some dogs, particularly if they are an aggressive chewer.
New image of Burrow Toys

6. Honey Pot Treat Dispenser for anxious dogs

One of the latest dog enrichment toys on the market has soared in popularity. We simply couldn’t forget to mention one of our best sellers of 2023! There’s no wonder why the Honey Pot Treat Dispenser is so popular amongst anxious dogs. It is infamous for putting a stop to a dog’s chewing problems and helps them fight away boredom blues and separation anxiety.

The Honey Pot also features a simple design with no extra holes to cover. This means it’s brilliant for beginners as it’s easy to use and fill with your pup’s irresistible treats. The delightful dog enrichment toy can be filled with kibble, canned food, dog-safe peanut butter, or even your special homemade dog treats.

For extra excitement, you can mix wet and dry food within the Honey Pot before popping into the freezer for a few hours to make a cool challenge that will keep your dog happy.

Pros of The Honey Pot:

  • The easiest of dog enrichment toys,
  • Encourages slow eating,
  • Reduces problem behaviours such as chewing,
  • Reduces boredom and relieves separation anxiety,
  • Easy to clean, with no extra holes to cover up
  • Best for medium-sized dogs.
  • New colours have recently been released for further enjoyment!

Cons of The Honey Pot:

  • Not so great for short-snouted breeds because of the deep and narrow entrance. For example, toy dog breeds will find the Honey Pot alternative enrichment toy, Small Toppl, easier to use. Large dog breeds should opt for XL Toppl instead. 
  • Not recommended for aggressive chewers (KONG Extreme would be a better choice).

Similar Treat Dispensers for anxious dogs

Dog enrichment toys for anxious dogs from WOOOF

Finding the perfect dog enrichment toys and games is crucial to help to soothe your fretful pet. They keep your furry best friend entertained, mentally stimulated, and can really make the difference in helping to calm anxious dogs in stressful situations.

At WOOOF, we have a wide variety of dog enrichment toys that are perfect for anxious dogs. To see our full range, head over to our website today:

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