Why Your Dog Needs More
Our adoring pooches. Yes, you may be the center of their universe, but we have news about your relationship: YOU are not enough to keep them fulfilled. Gasp!
We’re not saying they don’t need you: the affection, the playtime, the food and long walks. Dogs are social creatures and thrive in company. But we sometimes forget that they also need mental stimulation to keep from getting bored.
In the wild, your dog would spend most of his day hunting for food. Challenging but stimulating. And let’s not forget that every single breed was made with a specific purpose in mind.
Terriers are ratters, border collies are herders, and even poodles were originally bred for duck hunting.
So what we’re basically trying to tell you is that your pet is out of a job. And because you can’t be around to entertain them 24/7 (as much as they would like that), they sometimes end up bored, anxious or depressed.
Add some excess energy to the equation, and you end up with doggie disasters like a hole in your couch.
The answer to this puppy ennui? Dog puzzles!
Why Puzzles Are Great For Your Dog
Dog puzzles are an excellent way to stimulate your dog’s brain and keep him physically active. Many involve having to solve a problem to get a treat. But there are also other toys that focus on fetching or stimulating their hunting instincts.
Here are a few of the benefits that dog puzzles have for you and your furry best friend:
Dog Puzzles Help Prevent Boredom
Dog Puzzles Are A Release For Excess Energy
Smart, high-energy dogs need an outlet. Not only do dog puzzles stimulate their brains, but many also present a physical challenge. And a tired dog is usually a good dog!
Dog Puzzles Help Prevent Doggie Disasters
Boredom and excess energy often lead to behaviors like chewing, whining or excess barking. A puzzle is not only a great outlet for your dog, but it may also be healthier for your furniture.
Dog Puzzles Make For Happy Puppies
And that’s a scientific fact. When your dog sniffs for food (as with many of these puzzles), it releases dopamine in his brain. And that makes him feel relaxed and happy.
15 Great Dog Puzzles For Your Fur Baby
Now that we know why dog puzzles are so great for your best friend, here are some great ones to check out. Although many focus on making them work for a treat, the difficulty level varies.
To keep highly intelligent breeds engaged, you may have to up the challenge. Is your canine not such an Einstein? Don’t worry; there’s a little something for all dogs in our puzzle toy round-up.
And if you worried about giving your dog too many treats, we also included some puzzles that don’t involve food at all.
Let’s take a sniff around and see what we’ve got for your pup.
Related: The 9 Best Grain-Free Dog Foods
Nina Ottosson Brick Puzzle, Good for Beginners
With the Brick Puzzle, your dog will have to sniff out his treat and unlock a compartment to get it. Many owners say their dogs figured it out a little too quickly. But for puppies or dogs that are new to puzzle games, this could be a good starter toy.
“Hands down, I love the wooden puzzles by Nina Ottosson,” shared Ivan Petersel, Founder of Dog Wizardry. “The trick is to take the puzzle away before the dog gets bored. This builds engagement for the next time they come out.”
This toy is also non-toxic and can be cleaned in the dishwasher.
Trixie Dog Activity Chess, Good For Smart Dogs
With this puzzle, your dog will be challenged to lift and shift compartments with his nose and mouth to find the hidden treat. There are three levels of difficulty if your dog happens to be a smarty paws.
This puzzle is also machine washable and has non-slip rubber feet so it won’t slide around.
As with some other puzzles, be aware that in the beginning, you’ll probably need to teach your dog how to “win” so that he doesn’t become frustrated.
“Like any game, if it’s too hard and you never win, you usually give up. Or if the game is too easy, it becomes boring.” Shannon Kirwin, Training Director at A Furever Life, explained. “With this in mind, the general rule is start easy, gradually make it harder.”
The Kong Wobbler, Good For All Dogs
Oh, the mighty Kong. This easy to use toy is a classic for a reason. Just fill it up with your pet’s favorite food and let the games begin.
Dogs will have to bat it around to get their kibble out. A good challenge as this toy bounces around unpredictably.
Some owners even ditch their dog bowl all together and use the Kong as a food dispenser, so that their pets don’t gobble their dinner too fast.
Kongs are ultra-durable, and good stimulation for even the smartest of dogs as the physical challenge never ends!
Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Toy, Good for Smarty Paws
The dog tornado has swivel compartments stacked on top of one another where you can hide treats. The difficulty level is a bit higher here, so it’s good for brainier canines that need a challenge.
Keep in mind that your pup may need a bit of training to get the hang of it at first.
Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat, All Dogs and Especially Anxious Types
As we mentioned before, sniffing around for food releases dopamine in a dog’s brain, which is why this puzzle is great for nervous pooches (but most dogs will also love it.)
Just hide kibble or treats between the thick, shag-like strands and let your pet snuffle around. The Paw5 Mat is made from upcycled materials, and the strands tend to stay upright better than in many other brands.
To clean it, just pop it in the washer and tumble it dry on low. For once, you won’t mind dog food on the carpet!
Outward Hound Fun Feeder, Good for Gobblers
Does your dog eat his food like you’re going to take it away from him any minute? Then you might want to try this clever puzzle at mealtime. It will give your dog a little challenge and slow down his pace.
And although wolfing down his food may seem like normal dog behavior, eating too fast can result in choking or digestions issues like bloating.
The Fun Feeder is also made from food-safe plastic and is free of BPA, PVC and phthalate. A healthy and fun choice all around!
iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher Toy, Good for Fetchers
Is your dog a fetch fanatic? If so, they’ll love this inventive toy.
The iFetch launches the ball, so your dog can chase it. Once your dog brings it back and drops it in the machine, the iFetch sends it flying once again. Which should save you from getting fetch elbow while keeping your best friend entertained.
The machine runs on batteries and can be set to distances between 10 and 40 feet. Just keep in mind that your dog may need a bit of training to put the ball back in the hole.
After that, it’s game on for your canine outfielder.
iFetch Frenzy Dog Puzzle Toy, Good for Ball Chasers
If you’re looking for a more economical toy that doesn’t need batteries, the Frenzy Dog Puzzle is another great option for dogs that love to chase balls.
This toy works purely with the force of gravity. When your dog drops the ball in the top hole, it rolls out in a random direction from one of the bottom holes, which will definitely keep your dog guessing!
Starmark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Puzzle Toy, All Dogs and Fast Eaters
It looks like a mini punching bag, but this wobbly toy is sure to engage your dog and slow down fast eaters.
The Bob-A-Lot has a weighted base and adjustable holes at the top and bottom. Fill it with his kibble or favorite treat and then adjust the size of the openings to vary the difficulty level. He’ll have to use his paws and snout to get the food out.
Some people even put their dog’s entire dinner in this puzzle to stop them from gobbling. It’s a lot more challenging than begging for food under the table!
Trixie Mad Scientist Turn Around Interactive Dog Toy, For Intermediate Canine Brains
This puzzle is for dogs that like a decent challenge. They’ll have to turn the beakers upside down long enough for the treats to fall out. Included with this puzzle are lids with different-sized holes so you can decide the level of difficulty.
Though it may seem simple to us, this treat dispenser may not be for dogs who are new to puzzles. But if your doggy is extra smart, this is a challenging and delicious experiment.
Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel, for Hunters and Doggies on a Diet
Maybe you’re looking for a puzzle that won’t increase your dog’s calorie intake. In that case, you may want to try this toy that relies on your dog’s natural hunting instincts.
Just stuff the squeaky plush squirrels in the soft tree trunk and watch while he pulls them out. Then you can start all over again.
Yes, it does require a little more interaction on your part. And it may not be for heavy chewers. But for the right pup, it’s loads of fun.
Qwizl Treat Dog Puzzle Toy, Good for Heavy Chewers
This flexible puzzle is made to stand up to heavy chewers and should make playtime and food last longer. It can be used with a variety of dog treats, and the shape makes it easier for dogs to hold on to with their paws.
This chew toy puzzle is also non-toxic, dishwasher safe and recyclable.
It also doubles as a great toy to play fetch with and can even be used in the pool as it floats. Now that’s a flexible toy!
Related: 10 Of The Top Life Jackets For Dogs
West Paw Toppl Treat Puzzle Toy, Good for All Dogs
This puzzle can be used with all kinds of different treats, including dog-safe peanut butter. Just fill it up with your dog’s favorite reward, and he’ll have to use the two different openings to get his treat.
If he needs more of a challenge, you can insert a smaller Toppl into a larger one and make him work extra hard. It makes for a ton of delicious, wobbly fun!
Trixie Activity Flip Board Interactive Dog Puzzle, Good for Intermediate Puzzle Solvers and Small Dogs
With this puzzle, your dog will have to learn to open different compartments to get his treat. Some slide, some flip open, and with others, he’ll have to lift a cone. A rubber rim will keep the toy in place while he plays.
This Flip Board was designed with small dogs in mind, and you will need a little teaching time for him to get the hang of it.
OSPet Interactive Dog Puzzle Toy, Good for Fast Eaters
This puzzle toy comes with a double challenge. First, your dog has to spin the slow feeder to get the kibble out. Next, he has to fish it out from the maze at the bottom. This is a good toy for fast eaters, and will also keep your dog’s brain stimulated.
It’s a win-win for dog owners!
Dog Gone Fun!
As you can see, there are lots of fun, inventive puzzles to keep your pooch entertained. Before buying, be sure to keep your dog’s personality and habits in mind.
Is he a heavy chewer? Does he or she love to play ball? Are they a super-smart breed like a border collie that needs extra challenges? There’s a puzzle for every type of dog though you may need to experiment a bit before you find the perfect fit.
Remember that if your best friend is new to puzzles, you may want to start with something simple. And with certain puzzles, you may need to do a bit of training. Bat the toy around for him or show him how to open the compartments.
Another tip: try a few different puzzles and rotate them, so your dog doesn’t get bored.
Joan Hunter Mayer, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Inquisitive Canine, knows what makes a good puzzle toy. She shares, “My go-to puzzle toys are those that actually present problem-solving opportunities for dogs, and not just slow down their feeding habits.” She added, “Slow-feeder types are good and have their purpose. But, those that create situations where the dog needs to think too are even better.”
And remember, while puzzles will stimulate his canine brain and help to stave off boredom, they’re no replacement for quality time with you and other dogs. Pooches love to run in a pack!
Here’s to happier and healthier puppies (and fewer chewed up shoes)!
You may also be interested in: 10 Of The Best Subscription Boxes For Your Pets (Dogs, Cats, Birds And Horses)
The 15 Best Puzzle Toys for Dogs:
- Nina Ottosson Brick Puzzle
- Trixie Dog Activity Chess
- The Kong Wobbler
- Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Toy
- Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat
- Outward Hound Fun Feeder
- iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher Toy
- iFetch Frenzy Dog Puzzle Toy
- Starmark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Puzzle Toy
- Trixie Mad Scientist Turn Around Interactive Dog Toy
- Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel
- Qwizl Treat Dog Puzzle Toy
- West Paw Toppl Treat Puzzle Toy
- Trixie Activity Flip Board Interactive Dog Puzzle
- OSPet Interactive Dog Puzzle Toy