Are Kongs, hedgehogs, and smoked pig's hooves your go-tos when it comes to pimping out your dog's toy box? All good choices, I'll grant, but in today's equal parts tech- and pet-crazed world, there are so many more to consider. Some of them are even worth your consideration. Like the following, my picks for the 9 Best Toys to Occupy Your Dog.
(Note: All items' prices are listed as they were at printing. Prices are subject to change.)
iFetch Automatic Ball Launcher $115. Activates when a mini iFetch tennis ball rolls through the device's funnel (presumably, any dog smart enough to hunt down and bring the ball back will be smart enough to figure out how to drop it in the funnel too.) Then, after a pause of a few seconds, or enough time for your twinkle-toed pooch to get its jig going, iFetch fires at one of 3 selectable launch distances.
Petcube - Interactive Wi-Fi Pet Camera $199. Does your dog give you a forlorn look of abandonment that stirs an overwhelming sense of guilt in your heart and makes you feel like a complete a-hole every time you leave the house? Petcube is an inconspicuous, 4" x 4" x 4" box that sits on a table or shelf and enables owners to watch, talk to, and play with their little champ using a smartphone and mobile app. It houses a 162-degree wide angle camera capable of streaming 720p video for seeing what Brutus is up to, a low-intensity, pet-safe laser pointer on a movable platform for engaging with him, and a microphone and speakers for asking if he'd like you to bring him some Pad Thai from Bangkok Gardens.
Talking Babble Ball $7 to $9. I could see how this clucking, gurgling, nonsense-spouting toy could drive you as crazy as it does your dog, but it should be a good time for you both for at least as long as it takes Bubba to destroy it. And on that note, be aware that the Babble Ball does not rank high on the durability scale. It's not a good match for powerful chomping jaws and extreme chewers. See what it can do--and what kind of dog it is a good choice for--here.
Kurgo Skipping Stones $11. Fun for your to skip, fun for him to skip--or, more likely, kerplunk!--after. These floating dog toys avert the slimy wetness of tennis balls submerged in water and slobber, plus stand up to chewing post retrieval. One reviewer points out their irregular shapes make them fun to bounce on land too, as their erratic movements and patterns further entice dogs and test their reaction times.
ChuckIt! Flying Squirrel $6 to $10. Throws like a flying disc, looks like a flying squirrel. Spinning feet and an inability to run up trees to safety make this ChuckIt! release even more exciting for dogs into retrieving, not to mention far less of a disgusting mess for you to deal with once they complete the mission and drop the limp squirrel back at your feet.
PetPeek Fence Window $41. A 9-1/2" acrylic dome installed in your pre-existing wood or vinyl fence that gives your dog a view of the world outside his world. Also instills the pant-wetting fear in Girl Scouts, kids selling little league raffle tickets, and other unwanted visitors that your "Beware of Dog" sign just can't muster.
DogTwister Interactive Game $28. No, not your traditional Twister for dogs, or--ew--Twister for humans and dogs, but Nina Ottosson's DogTwister is in interactive game that challenges dogs and promotes QT with their owners. You hide treats in the wheel's depressions and cover them with the paw print blocks. Dogs must then circle through blocks, moving them one at a time, to uncover the rewards. Included bone pegs optionally lock certain blocks to increase difficulty.
Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy $12. Dogs feed and get fit at the same time with StarMark's Weeble-style toy. It has adjustable openings and a roomy interior that can hold up to 3 cups of pet food. One whiff and the batting, rolling, and manipulating for edible rewards will begin. The Bob-A-Lot stands 10" high and 6" wide and is suitable for dogs of all sizes.
Outward Hound PupSaver Dog Life Jacket $15 to $25. OK, maybe he won't think the big orange life vest is fun, but your weak swimmer or dog overboard will enjoy the water-based activities they can now take part in thanks to Outward Hound's high-vis colors, multiple reflective strips, easy-grab handles, quick release buckles, and, most importantly, no-fail flotation.
No More Woof - Dog to Human Translator $65 to $1,200. Your bonus entry. Not because it's maybe the coolest item on the list, but because it's completely fake. Probably. I mean, the Nordic Society of Invention and Discovery will certainly take your money for pre-orders of No More Woof, a device that claims to pick up the latest technology in micro computing and EEG, and plop it down onto the heads of dogs, so as to translate their barks, groans, and sighs into plain English. But no one seems to think there is any chance in doggy heaven that the results are accurate.
Still, NSID claims that fitting your dog with a headset contraption that includes sensors, processors, and a loudspeaker will eventually result in a real-time broadcast of its emotions, desires, and comments about the weather. NSID does admit that their Dog-to-Human translator is a work in progress, constantly undergoing changes. At this point, they feel they have identified EEG patterns indicating 2 to 3 distinct canine thoughts: "I'm tired," "I'm hungry," and, when a dog sees a new face, "Who are you?"