Separation anxiety is a condition that many dog owners are faced with and can be quite difficult to remedy. Dogs of all sizes, ages, and breeds can experience separation anxiety, and not only is it heartbreaking for both the dog and their family, but it can also be problematic and lead to many unwanted behaviors.
One of the many ways to help dogs manage their distress is through toys, but what kind of toys could be therapeutic for anxious pups? Well, that’s where we come in. We have scoured the reviews of fellow dog owners to bring you a list of the best dog toys for separation anxiety that are available on the market in 2023.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
The 10 Best Dog Toys for Separation Anxiety
1. KONG Classic – Best Overall
|Breed Size:||All sizes|
|Toy Type:||Training, treat dispensing|
When it comes to choosing a great toy for your dog, it’s hard to go wrong with a KONG. We give the KONG Classic our pick for the best overall dog toy for separation anxiety not just because it’s great for keeping your dog occupied, but it’s also incredibly durable.
The KONG can easily be stuffed with kibble, the KONG Stuff’N Easy Treat Paste, or any of your dog’s favorite treats. This is a great way to keep your dog busy and soothed while you are out as they work to get their reward that is hidden inside.
KONG toys are non-toxic and come in all different sizes, making them ideal for any breed. They even have extra durable options for those heavy-duty chewers. They are also dishwasher safe for easy cleaning and make an excellent fetch toy. The only downside is that once dogs figure out how to get those treats out, they get quicker and are occupied for shorter periods.
2. Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball – Best Value
|Breed Size:||Large breeds|
|Toy Type:||Treat dispensing|
The Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball is an excellent choice if you need relief for your dog’s separation anxiety. It’s also the best dog toy for separation anxiety for the money. This ball works as an anxiety reducer by keeping dogs healthily occupied through encouraging natural foraging behaviors and challenging them to get their treats.
These balls are not only great for separation anxiety, but are ideal for all kinds of play since they roll, bounce, and even float. Interlocking treats can easily be used in the chew ball or you can simply add in your dog’s kibble or favorite treats.
Another plus to this toy is that it is free of latex, vinyl, and phthalates and can be thrown in the dishwasher for cleaning. The downside is that it’s too big for small breeds and owners of serious chewers report it being destroyed in no time, so it may not be ideal for those powerful jaws that like to rip apart their toys.
3. iDig by iFetch – Premium Choice
|Breed Size:||All sizes|
The iDig by iFetch is an excellent toy that not only can help with separation anxiety, but can help save your furniture, carpet, and maybe even backyard from those pesky digging behaviors. The iDig has pockets that allow you to hide treats and toys inside, making it even more fun and interesting.
The base is made from hard shell plastic so it is suitable for aggressive diggers of all sizes. The straps are machine washable and can easily be removed when it’s time for a cleaning. Overall, this is an excellent toy for both mental and physical stimulation.
The downside to the iDig is that it’s fairly expensive, but there are not a lot of toys quite like this on the market. There were also some reports of some fraying of the material after extended, frequent use.
4. Snuggle Puppy– Best for Puppies
|Toy Type:||Behavioral aid|
The Snuggle Puppy made by Smart Pet Love is an excellent choice for little ones that are suffering from separation anxiety and need a little comfort. Snuggle Puppy is crafted as a behavioral aid to help alleviate feelings of loneliness as new puppies go through the crate training process and learn life away from their mother and littermates.
This toy will help provide comfort by mimicking the body heat and heartbeat of a live companion with its disposable heat packs and heartbeat simulator. There are several different color choices available and Snuggle Puppies are machine washable and very easy to clean, which is a huge plus during the messy puppy stage.
Snuggle Puppy will come with two AAA batteries and one disposable heating pack that lasts approximately 24 hours. The material used to craft these cuddly friends is advertised as safe for human use. The downfall is that this is a stuffed toy that is easily chewed up, so owners should supervise use.
5. Licki Mat
|Breed Size:||All sizes|
|Toy Type:||Soother, slow feeder|
The Licki Mat can be used as either entertainment for separation anxiety or as a slow feeder for those that like to gulp things down. It promotes licking, which is linked to an endorphin release that can help soothe and calm your dog if they are feeling stressed out due to separation.
Licking up their tasty treat will keep them entertained and will even induce saliva production that can aid in overall dental health. The Licki Mat is crafted to be environmentally friendly and is made without any BPAs.
Licki Mat can be used for dogs of all sizes and owners are impressed with it overall. There aren’t many cons to having the Licki Mat around other than this isn’t your typical toy that can be used for separation anxiety as well as playtime.
6. Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game
|Breed Size:||Small breeds|
|Toy Type:||Treat dispensing, puzzle|
This Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game is a great way to provide some much-needed mental exercise to keep your anxious dog’s mind busy. You simply hide the treats away in the puzzle and allow your dog the pleasure of figuring out how to get to them.
This is a very rewarding game, as your dog gets their favorite treat as a reward for all their effort. You can change the difficulty level with the white plastic blocks. Having something that challenges them can certainly help with separation anxiety and ease their mind a bit.
Unfortunately for the big dogs, this toy is designed for the smaller breeds. Owners did report that it wasn’t as sturdy as they preferred and particularly clever dogs have figured it out easily, making them solve the puzzle much too quickly.
7. Chill Playtime Kit Dog Treats
|Breed Size:||Medium breeds, large breeds|
|Toy Type:||Treat dispensing chew|
The Chill Playtime Kit is a great all-in-one toy that is great for medium and large-sized dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. This kit comes complete with a durable chew toy that is BPA and latex free and a delicious treat spread that is made with a peanut-based spread with naturally calming ingredients such as melatonin and chamomile.
You can fill the ends of the Chill bone with the tasty treat spread to keep your dog occupied and soothed when they are feeling anxious. It will have them take time out to relax and work to get every last bit of the paste out of there.
This is a great choice for medium to large breeds but is much too large for small dogs. The bone is very durable and great for heavy chewers, but some owners did complain it has a strong smell even after several washes.
|Breed Size:||All sizes|
The Jolly Ball Teaser Ball is made specifically for dogs that love balls – which is why it’s a ball within a ball. Made from high-density polyethylene durability, this toy is designed to roll around in an erratic pattern and keep your pup entertained and wondering how in the world he gets that ball out of there.
This is great for separation anxiety because of how mobile and exciting the toy is and the challenge it poses will keep them busy. You can even add in some peanut butter or other spreadable treat to entice them even further.
Jolly Ball’s Teaser Ball is also a great toy for individual play and as a water toy for pool days or time spent on the river, lake, or beach. It comes with several different size options so dogs of all sizes can get in on the fun. Owners of serious chewers do report the outer ball being easier to destroy than they’d hoped with pieces of the plastic being chewed off.
9. Zippy Paws Burrow Sleepy Hide & Seek
|Breed Size:||All sizes|
Zippy Paws makes some super fun hide-and-seek toys that can make great options for separation anxiety. The Burrow Log & Chipmunks is one of the many different cute creature options that is made from plush and features a log and squeaky toy chipmunks that you can hide on the inside.
This is a very well-reviewed interactive toy that can keep your dog occupied as they work to get those chipmunks out. Other than promoting lots of mental stimulation and excitement, this toy is very easy to clean since it’s machine washable.
The downfall is that this is in no way meant for heavy chewers, so if you have an anxious dog that likes to chew, the plush is much too easy to destroy. It’s a good idea to supervise your dog during play to prevent them from swallowing the material.
10. Trixie Flower Tower
|Breed Size:||Small to medium breeds|
The multiple-level Trixie Flower Tower is a fun, interactive toy that makes your dog put on their thinking cap and figure out ways to get to those tasty treats. This toy requires your dog’s concentration and will keep their mind busy, so it can be a great tool for separation anxiety sufferers.
It has non-skid rubber feet to keep the toy in place as your dog gets to work. You can either increase or decrease the difficulty level by removing cones and you will even be provided a little booklet that contains training advice.
Whether you choose to use treats or your dog’s regular kibble, you can hide it in many different places. This toy isn’t really big enough to accommodate large breed dogs, but it’s great for small to medium-sized breeds. There are some complaints that it isn’t as sturdy as expected, so that’s something to keep in mind, but overall, this toy gets great reviews from lots of dog owners.
Buyer’s Guide: Choosing the Right Toys for Dogs With Separation Anxiety
Consider Your Dog’s Preferences
Not all dogs will enjoy playing with all types of toys, so it’s important to know and understand your dog’s preferences before making a final decision. For example, your dog may love balls and will do best with a toy that is either a treat dispensing ball or an interactive ball toy of some sort. You’d hate to waste your money on something that doesn’t suit their fancy in the first place.
Make Sure It’s an Appropriate Size
Before you purchase a dog toy, especially if you are online shopping, check out the size of the item and the breed sizes it is designed for. You do not want to purchase a toy to help you deal with separation anxiety only to have it not be size appropriate for your dog.
Keep it Mentally Stimulating
Separation anxiety happens when a dog is apart from their owners and becomes incredibly distressed. Having a toy that keeps them occupied and mentally stimulated will help distract them from their anxiousness and they work to solve a puzzle or get that treat worked out.
Treat Dispensers Are Great
Most dogs take very well to treat dispensing toys because the way to most dogs’ hearts is through their stomachs. Treat dispensers entice them and give them the motivation to focus on the toy rather than on the stress of being apart from their people.
Consider Your Dog’s Chewing Habits
Some dogs are heavy-duty chewers while others may not chew hardly at all. Destructive chewing behavior is very common with separation anxiety, and if this sounds like your pup, you want a toy that can hold up under those sharp teeth and powerful jaws. You don’t want to offer soft, plush toys or those that are easily destroyed to a hardcore chewer.
Keep Safety in Mind
Remember that toys are best used under owner supervision since no toy is indestructible. They can pose a choking hazard or could lead to foreign body obstruction if swallowed. Remember to talk to your vet if you have concerns over what kinds of toys (if any) they would be comfortable with you leaving down while you are outside the home.
Additional Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can be difficult to remedy and finding toys is just one of the many tools you can use to help ease your dog’s anxiety. Toys aren’t going to be an end all be all and solve the problem though, so here are some extra tips to keep in mind.
Don’t Leave Them Alone for Long Periods – At First
Crate training is recommended for every dog and while some may graduate to being left out of the crate while you are away, it shouldn’t start that way. Never leave your dog alone for long periods in the beginning and make sure you start slow and work your way up to more extended time away. You can start by leaving them alone for 5 minutes, increase to 20, then an hour, and so forth. This can help them get used to your absence gradually.
Exercise Your Dog
A tired dog is a more relaxed dog. If you know you are going to need to leave the home, try taking some time out to exercise your dog before you go. Depending on the breed and energy level, you may have to carve out more time for certain dogs. Try going for a walk, jogging, or even taking them outside and letting them play for a while. When they are back inside and ready to wind down, then you can leave so they can spend the time you are gone getting their much-needed rest.
Don’t Put Emphasis on Leaving the Home
A lot of owners make the mistake of kissing their dog goodbye, telling them how much they love them and making it very obvious they are leaving the house. If you are saying goodbye before you leave, do so long before you walk out the door, so your dog isn’t associating the two. Simply get things in order before you go, keep your energy calm and assertive, and leave the house without any change in energy. Dogs pick up on a lot, and when they realize you’re about to go, it can kick their anxiety into overdrive.
Turn on Comforting Sounds While You Are Out
One way to combat separation anxiety is by turning on familiar noises while you are away. This can help comfort your dog since they are hearing normal sounds that are going on in the home while you are there. This can be the television, music, or even an audiobook. That background noise can be very helpful to certain pups.
Talk to a Professional
If you are concerned about your dog’s separation anxiety, it’s a good idea to get in contact with your veterinarian for guidance. You may even need to rule out any underlying health conditions before you start tackling separation anxiety. If you have been working on helping your dog with this issue to no avail, there’s no harm in contacting a professional dog trainer for some help. Separation anxiety can be difficult to treat and a professional opinion can never hurt.
When it comes to toys for separation anxiety, the reviews speak for themselves. The KONG Classic is a great overall choice because it comes in many different sizes, is durable, and holds all kinds of treats your dog must work to get out. The Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball is very wallet-friendly and offers ball-loving dogs a great way to keep busy. The iDig will keep your dog busy and encourage natural digging behavior. There is no shortage of great choices out there, but remember that toys are only one tool in the process of solving separation anxiety.
Featured Image Credit: Justin Veenema, Unsplash