If you have a smart dog with an active mind puzzle toys are one of the best ways to prevent them from growing bored. The importance of mental enrichment for a dog’s overall health and exercise requirements cannot be overstated. Mental stimulation can use as much energy as physical exercise.
When my little Yorkie, Asia, is at home by herself for periods of time I leave her with three or four different puzzle toys hidden around the house. The first time you do this show your dog where you are hiding the puzzle toys. Once they get the idea of the game searching for the puzzle toys will add extra stimulation for them.
Here are my top 9 picks of the best puzzle toys for dogs, in no particular order, each providing different levels of difficulty and challenge for your dog, plus a bonus recommendation at the end.
The Buster Activity mat is a mat with press studs which you can attach different tasks and challenges too. You can also vary the difficulty of the individual tasks by either folding the task or leaving it open. The mat comes with three tasks included to get your dog started.
You can purchase additional tasks if the need arises. This makes this one of the more versatile of the puzzle toys. It is made from a durable nylon and has a non-slip texture on the bottom to help keep it in place.
It can also be hand washed if required. If your dog is prone to chewing and destroying things this puzzle may not be the best choice.
What attracts me most to this puzzle toy is the versatility. I like how you can vary the level of challenge and add more challenges later if your dog is too smart.
The Tornado puzzle has three layers that spin with four compartments on each level. It also comes with bone puzzle pieces you can place over the treats to add an extra level of difficulty.
The constant movement and spinning action keep your dog engaged. This puzzle is also great to feed your dog their dry kibble to slow them down. Especially if they are fast eaters or to make mealtime last longer if they are on a diet.
The only downside is your dog may cheat and flip the puzzle over so the treats drop out. In that case, you may need to teach let to use it properly.
The Bob A Lot puzzle toy is another great option for providing mental enrichment at meal times and in general. This toy comes in two sizes – Small and Large
The large can hold 3 cups of food which is enough for a full meal for most dogs. It has a weighted non-slip bottom with an upper and lower chamber inside.
You can adjust the size of the openings to vary the degree of difficulty. This is one of my own dog’s favorite puzzle toys and keeps her busy for up to 15 minutes. Much longer than many other puzzle toys
.It is strong and durable but be sure to remove the toy when your dog has got all the treats or food if they are prone to chew their toys.
The Tug a Jug is not just a puzzle toy as it has a dental gum massaging top and rope. Even without treats in it is a fun toy for dogs anyway.
This is one for smart dogs that solve most puzzle toys quickly. Your dog has to work out that they need to pull the rope in a precise way to get the treats to come out.
Although it looks like it may not be very durable it is, in fact, reasonably strong and can take pretty rough treatment. Also can hold a lot of food so can be used at mealtime to slow that speed eater down.
5. Kong Classic
It would be remiss to not include the Kong Classic in any discussion of puzzle and interactive dog toys. This toy was probably the greatest toy to happen to dogs since the invention of the bone.
It is very strong and can be used as a chew toy alone. At one stage the manufacturer claimed that the Kong was indestructible but I think there may have been a couple of dogs disprove this. They must have been pretty tough dogs as I have never seen a dog destroy one of these. If your dog is one of these super tough dogs I would recommend the Kong Extreme which is the toughest of the range.
Apart from the Extreme the Kong comes in a range of models including; the Classic (the standard red one),
Puppy which is a softer customized rubber suitable for puppy teeth and gums
Senior with specially formulated rubber for aging dogs
In addition, the Kong Classic comes in a variety of sizes from small to large. I recommend finding the size that you think is best for your dog. Then get the next size up. They tend to not hold as much food as you think.
The Kong has so many uses from stuffing treats, to filling with paste so your dog has to get their tongue in there. They are also great to freeze when the weather is hot for a great summertime treat. You can also get treats and stuffers that are specifically designed to fit just right into the Kong. Also available are pastes that come in peanut butter and liver flavors in a spray can for ease of use.
The Kong is so versatile that it is well worth getting a multi-pack of two or three for different uses or keep one in the freezer all the time.
To learn more read “How to use a Kong for dogs”
The Trixie Memory Trainer is a demanding game and may take some initial training to teach your dog how it works. It works by your dog pressing the remote control and then your dog gets the reward.
Move the remote control either close to the dispenser, in another room or even in the garden to make it even more challenging.
Also comes with a ground spike for putting in the ground outside and a suction cup for attaching to the wall. Runs off batteries or also comes with USB power cable. Certainly different to any other puzzle toy I have seen.
This one is for the really smart dogs and is a more advanced difficulty level. The Dog Casino Puzzle has small bone-shaped covers on the top and drawers on the side.
To make the task more difficult you can lock the puzzle pieces so your dog has to twist to unlock them and then lift the bone or pull the draws out.
If your dog seems to solve most puzzle toys easily then this is one you will definitely need. Best for dogs that need a real challenge.
Whatever your dog’s problem-solving skills there is a puzzle toy here that will help give them mental enrichment and relieve boredom. Read “Secrets to maximize the benefit of your dog’s toys” and “Mental enrichment and Mind Stimulation” for more on using toys to provide mental stimulation for your dog.
The spinning bottles give your dog a good level of challenge and keep them entertained for long periods of time. As long as there is food in the bottles they probably will keep going. This interactive puzzle toy comes in two sizes so you can select the one to suit your size of dog.
The iFetch Frenzy is the only dog puzzle toy that doesn’t use treats. The ball itself is the reward. Your dog drops the ball into the top and scrambles to find it as it randomly rolls from 6-12 feet out of 1 of 3 chutes at the base.
There’s no launching, like our other iFetch ball launchers. This product allows dogs to quickly return to the real challenge: the mental game of guessing where the ball will appear next.
This automatic rolling treat ball from Petgeek is activated by a soft touch from your dog and can last for up to 7 hours. Requires two AAA batteries and goes into sleep mode after a period of no activity.
Provides physical exercise and mental stimulation as they figure out how to release the treats. Can hold up to 380ml of kibble or small treats(sized up to 0.3 inches). This is ideal for the home alone dog also.
View the Petgeek Automatic Rolling Ball on Amazon,
A Snuffe Mat is another great way to provide for your dog’s natural digging instinct and to provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom. A Snuffe mat is a mat that is made of fleece and you can hide dry food or treats into it. If you are someone that is good at crafts you can try to make one yourself or check out the range of Snuffle Mats at Amazon.
Top Puzzle Toys for Dogs