Of course, you want your dog to live his best life. Adding puzzle toys to your pup’s daily activities can really improve his well-being. They can also be useful during times he can’t go outside because of inclement weather or if he’s unable to participate in rigorous activities because of a health issue or because he’s a senior.
How do you use dog puzzle toys?
Puzzle toys for dogs range in sizes, difficulty level, materials and activities, but the ultimate goal for your dog is to solve a challenge and get to a treat. Many dog puzzle toys are interactive, and your dog must learn to swivel or move a lever away or press a button to get to his prize. Once your dog figures out how to get to the food, there are often options to increase the difficulty level.
In addition to providing a fun activity for your dog, puzzle toys:
- Improve problem-solving skills
- Stimulate the mind
- Keep the dog busy
- Help provide exercise
- Help tire the dog out
- Prevent boredom
- Help brain development in puppies
- Help keep seniors’ minds sharp
- Help relieve anxiety or stress, if the dog puzzle isn’t too difficult
- Build confidence
- Can be used as a type of slow-feeder bowl to slow down dogs who scarf down their food, risking bloat or intestinal upset
Enrichment activities are important for a dog to have a well-rounded life. Note: Take the calorie count of the treats or kibble in the toys into your dog’s daily food allowance.
How to choose a puzzle toy
It’s important to choose the right toy for your dog as each dog has his own preferences. Some like to chew, while others like to chase things.
Dog puzzle toys vary in their level of difficulty as well as their material. Some are very easy to maneuver but others are more challenging. If your dog is new to puzzle toys or is a puppy, start with one that’s easy to figure out. You don’t want your pup to get frustrated or give up. Engaging with the toy should be a rewarding, pleasurable experience! When choosing a dog puzzle toy, take into account the following:
- Level of difficulty
- Your dog’s toy and play preferences
- Durability and strength of toy
- Ease of cleaning
- Size of the toy
Remember to always supervise your dog when using the puzzle toy. And you need to rotate toys so that your pup doesn’t become bored with them.
Recommended puzzle toys for dogs
- The original Kong, which costs from $7.99 to $25.99 on Chewy.com. This is a tried-and-true toy that all dogs should have. It’s great as a stress-relieving chew toy that also helps prevent boredom. The Kong can also be used to help a dog enjoy his crate and occupy his time. It comes in various strengths from puppy, senior, classic and extreme, depending on how forcefully your dog chews. For safety, so that the toy doesn’t wedge in your dog’s mouth and potentially obstruct his airway, the Kong also comes in various sizes:
- X-Small for dogs up to five pounds
- Small for dogs up to 25 pounds
- Medium for dogs between 15 and 35 pounds
- Large for dogs between 30 and 65 pounds
- X-Large for dogs between 60 and 90 pounds
- XX-Large for dogs 85 pounds and over
The interior of the Kong is relatively easy to clean with soapy warm water and a clean toothbrush, rinsing well afterward. You can fill it with a variety of safe fillings, such as pate moist canned food and freeze it so that it takes some time to get the filling out. This toy is on the easy scale.
- The Smarter Toys Pet Zone IQ Treat Dispenser Ball Dog Toy, which costs $9.49 and $14.95 on chewy.com. It comes in a small and large version, can be dismantled for cleaning and can be filled with kibble and even a few small treats. To show your dog how it rolls —literally — roll it and have a few kibbles fall out. Rolling and chasing the ball is fun, rewarding and exercises your canine companion. This is a relatively easy toy, though it may take a while to empty because of the maze-like inside. Note this is not a chew toy.
- The KONG Wobbler comes in a small and large version and looks somewhat like a doggie bowling pin. It costs $14.99 and $19.99 on chewy.com. A dog bops it with his nose or paw and a piece of kibble or treat comes out. Then, the toy returns to an upright position. This is a relatively easy toy for a dog to figure out. The Wobbler can help a dog build confidence in new experiences as well as provide physical and mental exercise.
- The RundA Snuffle Mat for Dogs costs $29.99 on Amazon.com. This washable mat’s made of soft fabric with upright pieces of material with nooks and crannies where treats and kibble can be hidden. As long as a dog doesn’t chew the mat, it’s great because it encourages his natural foraging instinct to hunt for food. After all, dogs have a “nose brain.” At first, you can scatter a few kibbles on top of the mat, eventually placing them deeper when your pup understands what’s expected.
- The Nina Ottosson tornado puzzle by Outward Hound is $14.44 on Amazon.com. It’s an intermediate-level puzzle where the dog needs to swivel the pieces apart to reach the prized kibble or treats. It’s a great toy for problem-solving and building confidence with new experiences. For extra interest and difficulty, you can place bone-shaped pieces that are provided over the kibble that must also be removed by your pup. Not a chew toy, the plastic can be washed.
- The Nina Ottosson MultiPuzzle, Expert Level, sells for $32.99 on Amazon.com. This is one of the more challenging puzzles where your pup needs to spin, slide and unlock various pieces to reach the desired kibble or treats. Figuring out how to solve this complicated puzzle toy can build your canine companion’s confidence and improve his problem-solving skills. As long as this puzzle toy’s not too difficult for him, your pup can also learn how to deal with slight frustration and be rewarded when successful. The MultiPuzzle can be washed and isn’t a chew toy.
There are many reasons to give your beloved canine puzzle toys. They help provide mental and physical exercise and prevent boredom. Providing enrichment activities is important for our dogs to have well-rounded lives. After all, who doesn’t want his dog to enjoy life fully and have fun?