Dogs need mental stimulation, which is where dog puzzle toys come in. As much as the best dog toys will do this, dog puzzle toys will take things one step further by offering food as a reward for successful play.
Dogs get bored, and when this happens, trouble is often just around the corner. Keeping them stimulated is not only great for their mental health, it’s also great for your home, saving furniture and fittings from frustrated and destructive chewing. If you need any more convincing, read Eight reasons to use a dog feeding puzzle by one of our in-house vets.
The best dog treats are the key to getting your dog to think. They are the reward for solving a challenge. Level 1-rated toys make it easy to get to a treat. They provide simple tests, such as rolling a ball, making them perfect if your dog hasn’t ever tried a puzzle toy before.
But if your pet pooch needs more of a challenge, then level 2-rated toys are what you need to be looking at. They’ll need to learn how to push a slider, flip a lid and pull a cone before they can get that sweet-smelling snack.
Check our top picks of the best dog puzzle toys out there to help you decide what is the best option for you and your dog.
Outward Hound Puppy Hide n’ Slide
Best overall dog puzzle toy
Size: 2-inch x 11.6-inch x 11.6-inch | Color: Green | Material: Wood Plastic Composite | Weight: 2.34 pounds | Puzzle level: Intermediate
To give your dog a happy life balance, it needs mental stimulation just as much as it needs physical exercise, and this Puppy Hide’ n’ Slide dog puzzle toy is designed to give all dogs a fun intermediate challenge. As your pet pooch interacts with the toy, it will stimulate its senses, energize and enhance its natural behaviors, and relieve everyday boredom.
To do this, there are two types of hiding spots for your dog’s favorite snack, with a total of 14 different compartments to make the challenge more engrossing and exciting. You can hide kibble- or if you’re feeling generous, a piece of freshly cooked chicken – under the swiveling flippers or inside the hollow sliding blocks.
If your fur friend is new to the idea of a dog puzzle toy then you can use just one or two of the compartments to get them started. Slowly build up the difficulty level by introducing more compartments to make sure that getting their paws on the food is still giving your dog plenty of stimulation. Keep an eye on them when using the puzzle to make sure they understand what’s happening. Give them plenty of encouragement to help teach them how the game works. Once they get it, simply add more snacks the next time out.
For your pet pooch’s safety – and your peace of mind – the toy is made from food-safe materials that are BPA, PVC, and phthalate-free. Keep it clean with a simple combination of warm water and soap, and you will get hours and hours of fun for you and your dog.
HIPPIH Interactive Dog Toys Ball for IQ Training
Best budget dog puzzle toy
Size: 5.83 x 3.07 x 2.91 inches | Color: Blue, Green | Material: Rubber | Weight: 8.8 ounces | Puzzle level: Easy
If you want to combine exercise and mental stimulation with the added bonus of keeping your pet pooch’s teeth clean then this two-piece dog puzzle toy set is just the ticket. Made of extra-tough rubber these balls are bite-resistant, non-toxic, non-abrasive, and great for giving simple stimulation to all dog sizes and breeds.
The blue ball is aimed at smaller dogs with its 2.75” size, uses a saw-tooth surface design, and comes with a light mint scent. This is great for helping your dog clean their teeth without damaging their gums, giving them a hint of minty fresh breath. But the design also allows you to give your dog a challenge. Simply slip small dog treats between the teeth and see how quickly your fur friend can figure out how to get them out and enjoy them. Try throwing or rolling the ball to give them more of a challenge and a little exercise at the same time. When it comes to dog puzzle toys, we definitely like this one.
If you want to up the mental stimulation stakes then the 3.14-inch green ball will provide more of a challenge. Made from the same non-toxic, extra-tough rubber, the ball can be opened to reveal an inner compartment to add small dog treats. To stop the treats from simply falling out the hole in the ball, multiple rubber layers are used to keep them in place. Your dog will be able to hear and smell the treats as they play with the ball, but they will need to be a bit smarter to get the treat.
Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy
Best plush dog puzzle toy
Size: 7 x 11.75 x 7-inch | Color: Brown | Material: Plush | Weight: 3.53 ounces | Puzzle level: Easy
Keep boredom at bay and save your shoes, furniture, and clothing from getting the chew treatment with the help of this furry plush toy. The more you can engage your pet pooch in non-destructive activities, the better it is for your home and your dog’s mental well-being, making it particularly impressive in the field of dog puzzle toys.
This Hide A Squirrel dog puzzle toy is great for getting your curious canine stimulated, engaged, and entertained. Six squeaky squirrels sit in the 13-inch tall XL soft toy tree trunk waiting to be called into action. Toss the squirrel-filled trunk into the air, and watch as your pet pooch takes up the challenge of getting all the squirrels out of the tree. Leave it standing in the middle of the room, give a squirrel a squeeze, and wait for your dog’s curiosity to get the better of them. Double up the fun – and give your dog some exercise – by grabbing a squirrel and launching it across the room for a game of fetch. Don’t worry if one of the squirrels gets a little too much chewing action, as packs of three replacements are available to buy.
Smaller three-squirrel versions of the toy are available in small, medium, and large. Choose from a 6-inch, 7-inch, or 7.75-inch tall trunk to best suit your dog’s breed and jaw size.
Be warned that this is a soft plush toy, and it isn’t as hard-wearing and long-lasting as many of the dog puzzle toys on offer in this guide. But it is a great option to help stop your dog from chewing your favorite things.
TRIXIE Dog Activity Flip Board
Best strategy dog puzzle toy
Size: 9 x 9 x 1 inches1.06 Pounds | Color: Blue/White | Material: Plastic | Weight: 1.06 pounds | Puzzle level: Intermediate
Channeling your pet pooch’s energy and curiosity into a positive and challenging game is something they will love. The TRIXIE Dog Activity Flip Board is rated as a level 2 toy, and will provide plenty of stimulation as your dog tries to sniff out the snacks. To make sure that the dog doesn’t get too frustrated, a non-slip rubber ring keeps the base in place while they take up the treat opening challenge.
While the board rewards your pet pooch every time they correctly open a compartment, there aren’t as many compartments as the Puppy Hide n’ Slide. However, the challenges are slightly more difficult. There are a few sliding covers to kick off the game challenge. Fill with treats and sit with your dog to introduce them to the game. Once they have got past the easy option you can up the difficulty level. A couple of compartments are lifted by dog bone-shaped handles that sit to the side of the lid. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.
The final challenge comes in the shape of two pull-up cones. Your dog won’t be able to knock them over to get to the treat, they will need to pull the cones up before they can get to the smelly snack inside. A handy instructional booklet offers tips and tricks on how to challenge and train your dogs of all ages through play.
Once your fur friend has finished slobbering all over the activity board, you can give it a quick wipe down with warm water and soap. Alternatively, take the easier option and pop it in the dishwasher, so it’s clean and ready to go for the next time out. Of all the dog puzzle toys listed here, this is one we rate.
Outward Hound Dog Brick
Best multi-option dog puzzle toy
Size: 12.75 x 9.25 x 2 inch | Color: Blue | Material: Plastic | Weight: 1.49 pounds | Puzzle level: Intermediate
With 20 hidden treat compartments, the search for those tasty treats isn’t going to be easy for your pet pooch. A premium boredom buster the Dog Brick is no one-trick pony. A level 2-rated dog puzzle toy, there are a whole host of game combinations that you can try to stimulate your dog, encourage positive play habits and help get rid of less acceptable destructive behavior, making it one of the more educational dog puzzle toys here.
There are eight sliding treat covers, with two each set in four rows. This allows you to move each cover to create a whole set of different combinations to keep your pet pooch entertained and amused. You can try two covers together in one row while having them separated in the next row, and try something different in the next row. Then the next time, move them around again for more fun and stimulation for your dog.
To avoid any canine frustration and stimulate the senses, each sliding cover comes with its own scent hole. To add to the puzzle feast, and to keep your dog thinking, there are removable brick bones that can conceal a third hidden compartment in this puzzle dog toy. You can keep these for later challenges. Once your dog has mastered the many slider combinations on offer introduce brick bones.
Don’t forget, this game is meant to be fun and interactive, so sit with your dog and gently encourage them to play. If they find a puzzle too difficult and don’t get any help they will simply give up and walk away. This is one of the dog puzzle toys you may have to persevere with, but it's worth it.
Treat Dispenser for Dogs Training Funny Feeding
Best starter dog puzzle toy
Size: 9 x 9 x 1.15 inches | Color: Blue | Material: Plastic | Weight: 13.5 ounces | Puzzle level: Intermediate
Of all the dog puzzle toys here, this one is all about exercising your dog’s brain rather than its body. Made from safe and durable ABS material, this colorful toy features 14 food compartments, which are accompanied by eight non-detachable plastic sliders that allow you to fill and cover with tasty treats. It also means that your pet pooch will avoid swallowing the sliders.
If your dog is new to dog puzzle toys then this is a great starting point for them to learn. Start on the outer ring, and you can fill two compartments with tasty treats and cover one. This will entice your dog to take the easy treats, but at the same time encourage them to move the slider to get their paws on the hidden snacks. To keep up the challenge for your pet pooch and keep the game interesting, you can choose to leave some compartments completely empty.
An inner ring boasts four large compartments that can accommodate more than just kibble or small treats. These are accompanied by three sliders that give you the option to choose what to cover. The sliders can move through 360 degrees, meaning you can place where you want in the inner ring. Myriad combinations will keep your dog stimulated and entertained for hours, but it won’t be long before they work out how the slider work. To up the difficulty – and the challenge – the sliders have hidden screws that can be used to tighten the free-flowing nature of the slider. But be careful not to tighten too much, as you will break the slider.
How to choose the best dog puzzle toy
Dogs need mental stimulation as much as they need physical exercise. Keeping your pet pooch from getting bored will stop them destroying property, improve their mental health, and keep them entertained.
When on the lookout for a dog puzzle toy, you need to think about what level your dog is at. If you have never tried your dog with a puzzle toy before it’s best to start off with a level 1 game, such as the HIPPIH Interactive Dog Toys Ball for IQ Training. These are tough durable rubber balls that make it relatively easy to get a tasty treat. The Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy keeps the challenge low, but is high on entertainment value, and is a definite boredom-buster for a dog who loves a game of fetch.
For dogs who have already dabbled with puzzle toys, level 2 toys are a better choice. The Outward Hound Puppy Hide n’ Slide comes with 14 compartments to help stimulate your dog, and is the ideal option for your first foray into intermediate games. For a different challenge, the Outward Hound Dog Brick, Treat Dispenser for Dogs Training Funny Feeding, and TRIXIE Dog Activity Flip Board will give your fur friend plenty of stimulation and a reason to use both their nose, paws, and jaw to get their favorite tasty treat.
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