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Best dog puzzle toys: Keep your canine companion entertained for hours

dog puzzle toys
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking for new ways to offer your canine companion some mental stimulation, dog puzzle toys are well worth considering. These fun and challenging playthings will give your dog's brain a good workout and they're ideal for those times when you've had to leave your forever friend home alone.

While the best dog toys can provide hours of fun and physical activity, keeping your pup's mind sharp is equally important and that's where puzzle toys can be a great addition to your box of tricks. Because they're reward-based, your dog will have no clue that their brain is getting its daily workout - they'll be too focused on trying to figure out how to release that all-important tasty treat!

Although puzzle toys are suitable for all dogs, we find they're particularly important for highly intelligent breeds who require constant stimulation to ensure they don't get up to mischief. If you have a dog that won't stop barking, chewing the furniture, scratching the skirting boards or just generally wreaking havoc, it may be a simple case of giving them something productive to do (like a puzzle toy) that will channel all that energy into something more appropriate.

When selecting a puzzle toy, the first thing you want to be on the lookout for is a model that has lots of compartments that will allow you to hide plenty of the best dog treats in. Next up, check the difficulty level and ensure you're getting one that suits the abilities of your canine companion. Level 1 works well for puppies and dogs that haven't tried a puzzle before, while higher levels are great for highly intelligent breeds and those that have mastered the beginner levels.

To help you find the perfect dog puzzle toy for your forever friend, we've rounded up our top picks that are proving popular in 2022...

PetsRadar's pick of the best dog puzzle toys...

dog puzzle toys

(Image credit: Outward Hound)

Outward Hound Puppy Hide n’ Slide

Best overall dog puzzle toy

Specifications

Size: 2-inch x 11.6-inch x 11.6-inch
Color: Green
Material: Wood Plastic Composite
Weight: 2.34 pounds
Puzzle level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
14 snack compartments
+
Made from food-safe materials
+
Easy to clean
+
Intermediate puzzle level

Reasons to avoid

-
Small treats only

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. 

dog puzzle toys

(Image credit: HIPPIH)

HIPPIH Interactive Dog Toys Ball for IQ Training

Best budget dog puzzle toy

Specifications

Size: 5.83 x 3.07 x 2.91 inches
Color: Blue, Green
Material: Rubber
Weight: 8.8 ounces
Puzzle level: Easy

Reasons to buy

+
Two-piece set
+
Extra-tough rubber
+
Cleans teeth
+
Fresh mint fragrance

Reasons to avoid

-
Simple puzzles

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. 

dog puzzle toys

(Image credit: Outward Hound)

Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy

Best plush dog puzzle toy

Specifications

Size: 7 x 11.75 x 7-inch
Color: Brown
Material: Plush
Weight: 3.53 ounces
Puzzle level: Easy

Reasons to buy

+
Engaging and entertaining
+
Toy replacements available
+
Sizes for all breeds

Reasons to avoid

-
Not long-lasting

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. 

dog puzzle toys

(Image credit: TRIXIE)

TRIXIE Dog Activity Flip Board

Best strategy dog puzzle toy

Specifications

Size: 9 x 9 x 1 inches1.06 Pounds
Color: Blue/White
Material: Plastic
Weight: 1.06 pounds
Puzzle level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Challenging
+
Non-slip base
+
Dishwasher safe
+
Instructional booklet

Reasons to avoid

-
Not many compartments

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.

dog puzzle toys

(Image credit: Outward Hound)

Outward Hound Dog Brick

Best multi-option dog puzzle toy

Specifications

Size: 12.75 x 9.25 x 2 inch
Color: Blue
Material: Plastic
Weight: 1.49 pounds
Puzzle level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
20 treat compartments
+
Many puzzle combinations
+
Non-slip base

Reasons to avoid

-
Only accommodates small treats
-
Easy to lose brick bones

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.

dog puzzle toys

(Image credit: Joansan)

Treat Dispenser for Dogs Training Funny Feeding

Best starter dog puzzle toy

Specifications

Size: 9 x 9 x 1.15 inches
Color: Blue
Material: Plastic
Weight: 13.5 ounces
Puzzle level: Intermediate

Reasons to buy

+
Non-detachable and adjustable sliders
+
Large treat compartments
+
Non-slip base

Reasons to avoid

-
Adjustable screws can break sliders

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.

OurPets Waffle & Sushi Interactive Puzzle Game

(Image credit: Amazon)

OurPets Waffle & Sushi Interactive Puzzle Game

Best for multi fur baby households

Specifications

Size: 10.83 x 9.25 x 1.81 inches
Color: Mixed
Material: Plastic
Weight: 1.5 lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Great for dogs and cats
+
Suitable for all life stages
+
Easy to clean

Reasons to avoid

-
Covers slide easily

If you have both canine and feline furkids in your family (or even if you don't!) this cute interactive sushi puzzle game is a real winner that's suitable for both big and small furry paws. 

Made up of nine compartments, place your dog's treats in each one and then move the flippers to cover them over. This is a great way of strengthening your pup's cognitive abilities and it makes a good alternative to a snuffle mat.

Made of durable plastic, the toy is strong and sturdy and it's easy to keep clean too - simply hand wash with mild soap and water and then leave to dry. The only downside is that the sushi covers are quite loose, so we recommend this as a superb entry level puzzle for dogs who haven't been exposed to these kinds of toys before. 

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. 

Steve Jenkins is a freelance content creator and long-time journalist with more than 20 years in the industry. He has written for numerous titles covering tech to pets, with his latest faithful hound always by his side. When not walking his dog, or discussing who’s best - cats or dogs? Loud guitars, AFC Bournemouth, Photoshop, and trying to save the world take up the rest of this time.