Dog puzzles – the best games for smart dogs

Dog Puzzles The best games for smart dogs

Dog puzzles are a great way of engaging your dog’s brain and providing them with much-needed mental stimulation. Not only do they stimulate your dog’s natural abilities of problem-solving, hunting, and scent detection, but puzzle toys also help alleviate boredom.

In fact, the more we keep our dogs engaged in games that interest and challenge them, the less likely they are to indulge in destructive behaviors. Dog puzzle toys come in all shapes and sizes but loosely fall into two camps; supervised and unsupervised.

While unsupervised puzzle toys appeal to many, especially when the time is short or a dog is home alone, you must know your dog well. Aggressive chewers can destroy even the most robust dog toy that quickly becomes a danger, so as soon as puzzle toys become damaged, take them away from your dog.

Not sure whether your dog will chew a toy to the point of destruction or not?  Keep an eye on your dog until you’re sure it’s safe to leave them alone with the dog puzzle.

Dog Puzzles, The basics

If you’re introducing your dog to a puzzle toy for the first time, don’t expect them automatically to know what to do with it. Whether you’re using a treat-dispensing puzzle toy or a squeaky toy puzzle, you may need to help your dog understand the game.

Just like when we learn something for the first time, the process can be frustrating if the subject’s too hard. So, start your dog on something simple and work up to more complex puzzle toys.

Food dispensing toys are a great place to start. While some dogs are more motivated by dog toys, most dogs will work for food if the treats are high value enough.

One of the other advantages of food dog puzzles is that they come in all shapes and sizes, and many are suitable for your dog when they are alone (with caution).

Set your dog up for success. If your dog is struggling to work out what to do, help. It won’t benefit either of you if your dog gets frustrated or overwhelmed.

Make it easy to begin with, and once your dog understands the game, you can increase the difficulty as your dog gets better at it.

Dog Puzzle Toys – the benefits

There are many benefits to using puzzle toys and games, not least that keeping your dog busy will tire them out. But puzzle toys do more than that; they can be a real aid in addressing problem behaviors.

Dog puzzle toys get a dog to use their brains, but many encourage natural behaviors like sniffing and hunting for food, which provides the mental stimulation that leads to a happier dog.

Separation Anxiety

As scent is linked directly to a dog’s limbic system, sniffing can positively affect its mood.

So, a treat-dispensing puzzle toy that requires your dog to ‘hunt’ for and smell out food can make your dog feel calm and happy—a perfect reason to use them for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. Similarly, an interactive dog puzzle that encourages your dog to hunt for toys is equally fun.

Eating Slowly

Dog puzzle toys are also fantastic if your dog eats too quickly. Fast eaters not only tend to eat and then vomit, but they are also at risk of bloat – a life-threatening condition. Slowing a dog’s meal also means that they get to experience one of the highlights of their day for longer.

So, here’s our favorite selection of dog puzzle toys suitable for both novice and experienced dogs.

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Kong
  • Instinctual Needs: The KONG Extreme black rubber toy helps satisfy dogs' instinctual needs and provides mental stimulation. Healthy play is important for dogs' physical and mental development,...
  • Fetch Toy: The KONG Extreme's unpredictable bounce makes for exciting games of fetch and other interactive play with your pet. This rubber toy is specifically designed for super power chewers and can...
  • Great For Stuffing: The stuffable KONG Extreme is even more enticing when treat filled with bits of kibble, peanut butter, KONG Easy Treat, Snacks or Ziggies. Dishwasher safe for easy clean up. Bonus:...

No list would be complete without the Kong. The Kong is the perfect interactive dog toy as it’s so versatile and can be used without or without treats.

You can use it as a throw toy for a fetch game, as the unusual shape makes for an unpredictable bounce that dogs love. You can also fill this dog puzzle with treats or smear the outside with peanut butter for dogs that are new to puzzle toys.

Once your dog is working for food, you can stuff the Kong with kibble or treats and freeze it to make a long-lasting and challenging popsicle for your dog to enjoy. Or you can even hide a favorite dog toy inside for your dog to discover.

Made from durable rubber, the Kong is made especially for strong chewers. It’s worth noting that no toy is entirely chew-proof, but it does hold up well to most dogs.

Pros

  • Dog toy, treat dispenser, and interactive dog feeder all in one
  • Suitable for dry and wet food
  • Tough and safe
  • A dog can be left alone to enjoy on its own (with caution)
  • Perfect for the novice and experienced dogs as you can alter the difficulty

Cons

  • It’s hard to find one – apart from it isn’t completely chew-proof
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Trixie Mad Scientist
  • Set includes a base with frame and 3 beakers and 2 sets of patterned lids
  • Step 1: place treats in beakers
  • Step 2: leave lids off until flipping and then balancing beakers is mastered

This is a great treat dispensing interactive dog toy that you can enjoy with your dog. You may have to help them work out what to do initially, but once they’ve got the hang of it, they will be happy to keep spinning those test tubes.

Although we would suggest that this toy is always used with supervision as it’s not chew-proof, it will give your dog plenty of mental stimulation and fun.

The different size caps add variety, with the wider holes offering an easier win for your dog. It’s well made but can be pushed over by an over-enthusiastic dog.

Pros

  • Fun and challenging Dogs can use both nose and paw to gain rewards
  • Difficulty varies, so it keeps your dog interested in it for longer
  • Well made
  • Perfect for experienced problem solvers that like to use their brain

Cons

  • You may need to invest time in teaching your dog how to use it
  • Not recommended for dogs that like to chew
  • Only suitable for dry food
  • Better for interactive games rather than leaving your dog alone with it
Buster Activity Mat
  • Have fun together with your dog and stimulate your dog mentally. Give your dog more content in everyday life with the BUSTER Activity Mat. With the BUSTER Activity Mat you can give your dog new...
  • The BUSTER Activity Mat has 35 press studs placed 4 inches apart. You can attach different tasks to the mat, most of them with varying levels of difficulty depending on whether you fold the tasks or...
  • The BUSTER Activity Mat starter set contains a mat with a carrier bag and 3 activities: The Envelope, The Water Lily and The Cone Cloth. These 3 activities are a great start for your dog. Additional...

We love the Buster activity mat as it’s suitable for puppies through to oldies and can grow as your dog learns how to solve each puzzle.

The Buster mat comes with three challenges as part of the starter set, each with three difficulty levels. There are compartments to open, things to pull, and flaps to lift, which will keep your dog engaged for longer. What’s more, once your dog has mastered these, you can buy extra games for your dog to enjoy.

The Buster mat is made from sturdy nylon and comes with a convenient carry bag for activities on the go. It’s is a perfect puzzle toy for the novice or experienced problem solvers.

Pros

  • Suitable for all dogs from puppy to seniors
  • Additional challenges can be bought separately, which keeps it interesting
  • Three levels of difficulty for each challenge which encourages your dog to problem solve

Cons

  • You need to invest time to teach your dog how to use this puzzle toy
  • Large dogs can easily tear the activities off the mat, which defeats the object of the game
  • Supervised activity only

We make no apologies for including a second Kong product in our choices. The Kong wobbler is a tough, fun, and unpredictable dog puzzle. The Wobbler’s size means that if you feed your dog kibble, you can put your dog’s whole meal in it, which is the perfect way to slow down eating. The weighted anti-slip bottom gives the Wobbler an unpredictable wobble as your dog noses or paws at it that encourages your dog to play.

While this toy is robust, it’s worth noting that it won’t stand up to tough chewing. Unlike other Kongs, the wobbler is hard plastic, not rubber. So always remove it after your dog has finished playing with it.

Pros

  • Fun for your dog
  • The unpredictable wobble makes it an exciting dog toy
  • Large enough for a full meal
  • Suitable for both novice and experienced problem solvers
  • Easy to wash

Cons

  • The noise! If your dog is enthusiastic, walls and furniture will take a bashing.
  • It won’t withstand heavy chewing
  • Semi-supervised play only
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Spot interactive Seek-A-Treat shuffle board
  • This dog training toy is made of sturdy wooden construction
  • Training treats- this dog feeder requires your dog to actually think about what they are doing and whether it will get them the desired results
  • IQ puzzle- a dog training device that provides them the mental stimulation they need to flourish, strengthen and test their skills

If you want to give your dog a real mental challenge, then the Seek-A-Treat Shuffle Bone is perfect. There are ten holes in which treats can be hidden, and then depending on the difficulty; they can be left open or covered by the six disks.

Your dog’s job is to work out that they can slide the disks to get the treats underneath. Made of sturdy wood, the Seek-A-Treat puzzle toy is perfect for supervised and interactive dog play.

Pros

  • It’s a great mental challenge for your dog.
  • It can be made easier by partially exposing the treat
  • Suitable for novice and experienced dogs (with training)

Cons

  • Once your dog has worked out what to do, it doesn’t present much of a challenge.
  • Easy to chew, so supervision is a must.
  • You may have to spend some time teaching your dog how to use it

Trixie has a variety of puzzle games or dogs. We particularly like this flip board which Trixie classes as a ‘Training level 2’ or an intermediate dog puzzle.

Made of sturdy plastic, the flip board has sliders, flaps, and hats that need to be lifted off to get a treat.

There’s enough variety in this puzzle toy to keep your dog interested, and you can introduce each element separately to extend the learning period.

Pros

  • Varied mechanisms to get a treat so challenges your dog to think
  • Just one of a series of games with three levels of difficulty across the range
  • Durable

Cons

  • Always supervise your dog as this dog toy has parts that can be chewed or swallowed.
  • It’s a small puzzle toy, so it may not suit larger dogs
  • Super smart dogs will work it out quickly
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Outward Hound Hide a Squirrel
  • HIDE & SQUEAK FUN: The Hide A Squirrel dog puzzle is an easy way to get your furry friends engaged for hours of fun! Just fill the tree trunk with 6 stuffed squeaky squirrels, toss it, and let your...
  • 2-IN-1 INTERACTIVE PLAY: Toss the squirrel-filled trunk, place it on the ground, or take the squeaky plush toys out and launch them for a game of fetch your dog is sure to love!
  • CHALLENGING & IRRESISTIBLE: Keep boredom at bay and your curious canine mentally-stimulated while feeding their natural instincts to hunt with plush squeaky squirrels they won't be able to resist!

If your dog is more toy motivated, this puzzle toy from Outward hound could offer the perfect alternative to food games.

Depending on your choice of size, your dog could have fun hunting out up to six squirrels nestling in a tree trunk. Not only will your dog enjoy pulling the squirrels from their hiding place, but each toy has a squeaker.

Whether you play, hide the squirrel or toss and fetch the squirrel, your dog is in for a treat.

Pros

  • Perfect for toy motivated dogs
  • Supervised play is best due to chewing risk

Cons

  • It won’t withstand a chewer or dog that enjoys ‘de-stuffing toys
  • Risk of flying squirrels – if your dog shakes toys to kill them, you may need to protect delicate objects!
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Nina Ottosson dog casino
  • BOREDOM BUSTER INTERACTIVE DOG TOY: The Dog Casino is an advanced level 3 puzzle game that will challenge your dog's ability to learn sequential steps and combinations to seek and find hidden treats...
  • SWIVEL, PULL, & LOCK TO HIDE TREATS: Simply pull out the orange drawers, fill with treats,and push back in. Swivel the dog bone to lock the drawers for an added challenge or leave them in place get...
  • NO REMOVABLE PARTS & EASY TO CLEAN: Built in play pieces that don't come out when your dog plays to prevent choking. Durable construction also helps to keep this dog toy intact, making it your new...

Our list wouldn’t be complete without at least one puzzle from the Queen of dog puzzles Nina Ottosson.

If your dog’s an experienced puzzle solver, they will love the challenge of this puzzle toy. Not only can they pick up the bones, but there are also little drawers for them to pull open to reveal treats.

What’s more, you can vary the difficulty by locking specific flaps with the bone shape pegs provided.

Pros

  • Great dog puzzle for more experienced dogs
  • Can vary the difficulty by using the bone pegs provided

Cons

  • Too difficult for some dogs -risks your dog getting bored
  • The drawers are very tricky to pull out when flat on the floor
GoBone interactive Smart Bone
  • Automatic, all-day exercise and play: Add a renewed peace of mind to your day knowing your dog is happy and entertained
  • App control: Instantly take control of GoBone and turn it into a gaming device for you and your dog. Compatible with iPhones running iOS 9.0 or later and smartphones running Android v4.3 or later
  • Personalized entertainment: GoBone automatically adjusts its behavior based on age, weight, breed, and play style to engage your dog longer and more often

If you love apps, this is a perfect dog puzzle for you and your dog. Your iPhone or Smartphone controls GoBone.

GoBone has an automatic play mode that moves the bone for ten minutes and then sleeps for twenty minutes for up to eight hours. Its smart technology means that the movement is personalized to your dog’s age, weight and breed.

Not only that but if you want to get involved, you can play with the GoBone via the app, making it an interactive gaming experience for you too.

Bringing the puzzle toy bang up to date, the GoBone is a fun way to play chase with your dog!

Pros

  • Fun to use and can entertain your dog while you’re busy
  • Perfect for toy motivated dogs
  • Different modes mean that you can keep your dog interested

Cons

  • Won’t stand up to chewing
  • Not enough movement to entice a dog that isn’t prey driven

Dog Puzzles

If you could only choose one puzzle toy for your dog, we would go for The Kong. Not only does it serve as a throw toy, but it can be stuffed with kibble or other foodstuffs and frozen for long-lasting entertainment.

Puzzle toys for dogs are an ideal way of getting your dog to use its brain. But remember, these are interactive dog toys, so they are best enjoyed with your input too.

Last update on 2021-04-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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