Interactive dog toys are all the rage in the dog supply industry these days. Finding new and innovative ways to occupy, challenge, and motivate pups can be a really fun experience for both you and your dog. The question though, is how to give these toys a shot without breaking the bank and wasting too much hard earned money on something your pup will never touch again. In comes Outward Hound with three different puzzle treat ball options! We will cover the Hide A Treat Puzzle Ball, the Treat Chaser Puzzle Ball, and finally the Whirli Treat Puzzle Ball. With all three options having MSRPs around the price of a Kai Krate, you can give interactive dog toys a fair shot without spending more than $20.
A Word About Outward Hound
Outward Hound is a pet company based in the USA, priding them on innovation. They create some of the most well known and widely recognizable interactive dog toys and games, innovative dog feeders, and outdoor travel gear for dogs on the market, in addition to creating higher quality toys such as the Outward Hound Invincibles Toys lineup. As a company who’s mission statement is centered around innovation, it only makes sense that they are the logical place to start when it comes your dog’s first interactive dog toy.
Engaging Fun For Everyone!
These Outward Hound puzzle treat balls are the perfect toy for any food-motivated pup. It’s a fun and engaging way to feed your pups and keep them busy. By filling a puzzle ball with kibble or training treats, your dog will be motivated to sniff around and investigate what’s inside. Through simple movement, turning and jostling, the treats slowly trickle out of the holes on the exterior of the puzzle ball. These balls are usually colorful, make an attention-grabbing sound as the treats are tossed around inside, and often appeal to dogs of all ages.
Some concerned pup parents may hesitate to purchase plastic toys for their pups because of all the harmful chemicals often found in plastics. With Outward Hound there’s no need to worry! Their puzzle treat ball options have food safe plastic which means they are BPA, PVC, and Phthalate free; you won’t have to worry about any toxins reaching your dog’s treats. So, if you’re looking for a safe toy to keep your pup occupied without having to intervene, you’re in the right place. Whether you’ve got a new puppy or an older dog, dogs of all ages can enjoy a puzzle ball, keeping them excited and curious until the ball is completely empty. It’s a fun and fascinating way to reward your pups with just about any treat that can fit into the holes properly. Options like abcxyz can work for almost any breed as well, removing the concerns over “is this the right sized toy for my pup?” Puzzle treat balls such as the Whirli can make a great gift idea for friends or family with multiple dogs of varying sizes too.
The only downside we have seen to these types of toys is that dogs can often quickly notice when the ball is empty and may lose interest almost right away. However, as soon as you refill it, your pup will be right back rolling it around for the treats. A puzzle ball is great for both physical and mental exercise, and if you choose the right option, they are often durable enough to keep up with more aggressive dogs play styles.
Is this toy right for my pup?
According to Outward Hound, and in our professional experience, this is a fairly easy type of puzzle for most dogs to figure out, you can simply just give them a filled ball and let them go wild. Many puzzle balls are large enough for bigger breeds to play with, but also not too large that smaller toy breeds can’t play as well, and with training treats as the go to for most puzzle treat balls, even the reward is universal. The three options we cover here are not designed for puppies specifically, but in our experience they are easy enough for dogs of any age to play with.
If you’ve got a dog that eats their food way too fast, filling a treat ball with kibble can help to slow them down and keep them satisfied longer. The Outward Hound options we cover here roll around quite well on both carpet and harder floors, no matter where you put this ball your pup will easily be able to play with it. All in all, these can be a great toy to keep your dog busy and distracted when you’re not actively play with them.
What are the health benefits?
When your dog gets bored, they can engage in destructive behavior; puzzle toys such as this treat chaser will keep your pup occupied even when you’re not playing with them. Interactive toys can relieve boredom, anxiety, and prevent pups from eating their food too fast. Puzzle balls will keep your dog playing until all of the treats are released. The beauty of this product is that you can put just about any treat inside to fit your dog’s specific needs. The larger the treat, the harder it will be for your dog to get them out.
What about the mess?
Unfortunately, most treat balls do not open for cleaning, which isn’t typically a problem unless you try to use wet food to fill it. As long as you’re using dry food and treats you won’t have any issues cleaning the ball out. Most treat balls can also be soaked in water to allow stuck pieces of food to dislodge and disintegrate over the course of approximately 30 minutes.
Outward Hound Hide A Treat Puzzle Ball
First up on our list is the Hide A Treat Puzzle Ball. While this treat ball option comes in at the lowest MSRP on our list at under $10 for a two pack, you must be aware these guys are tiny. At approximately the size of a baseball, these are not large breed friendly, so please don’t pick one up trying to save a few dollars thinking this will work for your German Sheppard. Only a small handful of kibble or training treats will fit in these balls, and due to their size, they’re likely to disappear under couches and coffee tables, or at least get lodged right around the edge so that your pup goes wild scratching at your carpet.
Everyone we’ve spoken with or heard about that has purchased one of these reports back that they’re smaller than they expected, often much smaller. At such a small size, larger breeds may easily pick up and carry off the ball, a feat not easily achieved with some of this puzzle treat balls’ larger, more smoothly rounded cousins featured below. Made of a dog safe plastic, and coated with what feels like a rubber or latex compound, these treat balls could turn out to be dangerous in the jaws of stronger chewers, that may mistake the ball for a mere vessel for treats that needs to be cracked open. Plastic shards and dog’s mouths are a bad combination, so as mentioned earlier, we absolutely do not recommend these toys for anything but the smaller toy breeds. Even then, with much safer, and better options, we have a hard time recommending these at all. Onto the next item!
Kai Tip: Out of training treats (or just tired of purchasing a new bag too often?) Try healthy cereals such as cheerios! You’re dog will love the “people food” aspect of them, they don’t break the bank, and they fit wonderfully inside most treat balls!
Outward Hound Whirli Treat Puzzle Ball
At 5 inches tall, and made of a more sturdy construction, this ball is a step up from the Hide A Ball toy. This toy also comes with a base to place the ball on, which is different, not good, not bad, just different. You can fill the ball (be it with a little hassle because of there being multiple holes) then place it on the base and let your dog have at it. They nose the ball off of the base, the ball rolls and dispenses treats in a trail, your dog cleans up the treats for you (how kind of them!) and that’s basically the end. Unfortunately, it seems this toy has too many holes for it’s own good. Breaking up larger dog biscuits into awkward sizes can significantly expand the length of time your pup will play with the puzzle ball, so that can be encouraging. However, for a puzzle treat ball at a $15 MSRP, we feel you may be better served with our next item in Kai’s review list.
Outward Hound Treat Chaser Puzzle Ball
Now this is a quality ball! At a $15 MSRP, this ball comes in at a higher price-point, but is also significantly more friendly towards dogs of any size. At 5 inches in height, it comes up to about chest level to smaller toy breeds, and while this puzzle treat ball could fit in the jaws of larger breeds, the construction is significantly more sturdy than it’s predecessor featured above. The two halves slide independently of the green center strip, allowing the ball to do some interesting turns and swivels. Add to that the green center of the ball is weighted off-center, and you have a ball that swivels, wobbles, and rolls every-which-way to create a level of unpredictability that your dog will appreciate to keep them involved.
Inside the toy there are various flaps and poles designed to keep treats jostling and making noise when the ball is pushed around by your pup. This is a wonderfully innovative design for it’s cost and simplicity, and while ultimately it is still a level 1 toy, it’s a great first purchase in the interactive toy department. One thing we noticed that seemed odd was that the openings for treats are directly opposite of each other. This means if you’re loading the treat with a hole at the top, they’re falling right back out at the bottom. You have to either cup your hand over the bottom hole while you load treats in, or you need to feed them in one at a time with the ball tiled. Certainly not a deal breaker, but it does seem odd when you experience it firsthand, so it’s notable for you as our readers.
What To Fill The Ball With
In our testing, we used training treats by zukes found here. They work sufficiently, but ultimately they are about 40% of the size of the holes, which results in them falling out relatively easily. Depending on the interest level of your pup, that could be good, or bad. Our testers Harley and Kai are both very interested in the ball even after the 10th use over a month, but a handful of Zukes training treats only lasts a few minutes before they’ve all fallen out. Treats closer to the size of the hole would be ideal, so we moved up to Best Buddy Bones by Exclusively Dog. These worked much better, as they can only go in or out of the treat ball in one direction due to their length. The result is a prolonged period of fun for your pup, but still no mess or hassle for you as the owner. Any treat small enough to fit in the holes should work just fine, but the longer treats that can only come out longways results in a much better experience for everyone.
Cleanup is not the cleanest process you can possibly think of, as due to it’s design and sturdy construction, the ball does not open. Ultimately though, that’s not a major problem, as this ball can be soaked in water to allow crumbs or other treat remains to dissolve. The only time we can think of where that wouldn’t be sufficient is if you were to use wet treats or food of some kind. Not being able to scrub the inside of the ball could make wet food remnants awfully tough to deal with, so perhaps it’s best to stick to dry treats here. We’ve found approximately 30 minutes to be the sweet spot for allowing the toy to soak. Thanks to the weighted portion of the ball, once you get water inside the ball it will actually weigh itself down and sink to the bottom of the water, so you don’t have to hold it under or create any sort of crazy contraption designed to drown your dog’s toy in the sink.
All in all we do recommend this toy as a great start to becoming a member of the interactive dog toy club. It’s fun, it’s easy, and thanks to amazon, it’s very affordable, as you can often find these on amazon for a decent discount under the MSRP of $15. They also make great gifts for friends with dogs of most any size, especially when combined with a solid bag of treats for that first play experience.