Best Puzzle Toys for Dogs
To make sure your pooch’s brain stays sharp in their senior years or to provide entertainment for your mischievous pet, offer them puzzle toys – here are some of the best ones the market has to offer.
Same as they need physical exercise, dogs need mental stimulation, too. Almost every dog will have a curious, inquisitive side to them that requires engaging playtime, but some pooches really need to be challenged, otherwise they can develop behavioral issues. For instance, working dog breeds or pooches prone to separation anxiety will benefit most from mind engaging puzzle toys. They need a task to stay content and interactive and puzzle toys for dogs give them exactly that. Similarly, dogs in their golden years could keep their mind nimble and young if they have fun challenges to occupy them. Not all pets will find the same interactive toys fun, though- but here are 10 puzzle toys for dogs that will match any canine’s preferences.
1. Editor’s Pick: Trixie Activity Flip Board Interactive Dog Toy
This challenging toy will provide hours and hours of fun for your furry bestie! How, you might wonder? Well, with yummy motivation, everything is possible. The Trixie Activity Flip Board Interactive Dog Toy rewards your pooch with a treat whenever they open a compartment. The compartments vary in shape and size to make sure even a smart cookie is challenged by the toy- it’s ideal for the intermediate canine gamer.
The cones can’t be knocked over and your dog will have to lift them to get to a snack, the red compartments need to be pushed to slide in order to reveal the goodies and the orange ones flip open with a lever. Luckily, the non-slip rubber feet will keep the toy in place while your pet tries to figure out how to overcome all those obstacles. It’s a lot of fun and it will definitely give your dog some much-needed engaging playtime. And to boot, it’s very easy to clean — just use warm, soapy water to remove any grime between uses. It’s easy to see why this toy is so popular and highly rated among pet parents!
2. Runner Up: TARVOS Dog Puzzle Toy
Nothing will make your pooch put those little grey cells to work faster than the promise of a tasty treat! This interactive dog toy is a great way to stimulate your pet’s brain and keep them engaged for hours on end. The food is placed in the round top feeder, so your pet has to turn it for the food to be dispensed — and even after the kibble falls out, they’ll have to pick it out of the maze below it. Perfect if your pooch needs a bit more of a challenge or if they are a fast, greedy eater. This puzzle toy will force them to slow down and put some brain work into meal time! The size of this puzzle toy makes it perfect for small to medium-size breed dogs.
3. Customer Pick: PetSafe Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble Meal Dispensing Dog Toy
If your dog is one of those ‘will work for treats’ types (and which pooch isn’t, really?), he’ll adore this puzzle toy. The Kibble Nibble might not pose a challenge to a smart, advanced dog, but it will definitely motivate them and occupy their attention regardless- which is really the goal for all puzzle toys for dogs. They might not have to go through hoops or solve equations to get to the kibble, but, hey, the promise of gratification is more than enough to keep the ball rolling. And, as a result, your pet entertained enough to forget all about destructive behaviors!
To boot, in case your dog eats their meal too fast and has digestive issues because of it, you can use this food dispensing toy to feed them. Put their dose of kibble inside and watch them work for their grub. No gobbling down and barfing it all out in minutes! This meal-dispensing toy is suitable for medium and large breeds that weigh over 20 pounds.
4. Best Advanced: PetRageous Thinkrageous Interactive Advanced Level Puzzle
Designed for smart cookies, this advanced level puzzle will challenge your clever canine and sharpen their cognitive skills. The design might seem simple at first, but it’s actually very stimulating and will keep your pooch occupied for hours and hours! There are 4 compartments to hide the treats in, and to get to them, your dog needs to figure out the rotation mechanism, and that’s hard by most dog’s standards, even those that quickly realize the inner workings of puzzle toys. Versatile enough to entertain dogs of all ages and sizes, this advanced level puzzle is definitely going to have your pooch dedicated to figuring it out.
5. Best Stimulating: SPOT Seek-a-Treat Flip ‘N Slide Treat Dispenser for Dogs
The SPOT Seek-a-Treat Flip ‘N Slide Treat Dispenser for Dogs does exactly what it says it does. For it to dispense a treat, your pooch will have to flip and slide the various compartments that hold them. Luckily, your pooch won’t know that so he’ll get to enjoy the puzzle before figuring it all out. And trust us, there will be a lot of figuring it out, even if your pet is a smart cookie. Of course, no challenge is too great for a pooch when there is food involved: the tantalizing scent of his favorite treats will motivate your canine companion to nudge and explore the hidden compartments and pockets, which sharpens their cognitive skills in the process. The fact that there’s a delicious reward at the end of this intellectually stimulating journey is all for the better! Your pet will know that being smart and driven pays off, and that’s what every pawrent wants. Also, it doesn’t hurt for your pooch to realize that treats don’t come for free- you have to earn them, which will come in handy for your training sessions. Sturdy and fun, this toy is suited for pooches of all ages and sizes.
6. Best Mat: IFOYO Dog Feeding Mat
Nosework is important for dogs- using their sense of smell to explore the world around them is one of their most basic instincts. Snuffle mats encourage their innate foraging skills, give them a rewarding outlet for their curiosity and help sharpen their mind. What more could you ask for?
While most snuffle mats are simple enough, this particular one is intended to pose more of a puzzle than usual. Instead of just offering a mat with plush “tentacles” for your pooch to sniff through for treats, this nosework blanket ups the stakes by adding various hidden pockets, compartments, and fabric tubes where rewards could be hidden. The variety of hiding places and different levels of difficulty for the four-legged treat seeker will make this puzzle toy interesting to a wide variety of doggos.
7. Best Treat Toy: Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball
The concept of IQ Treat Ball seems simple enough. Stuff the ball with your dog’s fave kibble or crunchy treats and watch them roll it over until they all drop out of the ball on the other side. Well… It’s not as straightforward as it seems. Between the two openings, there is an adjustable interior disc which prevents the treats from shooting straight through the ball and gives your pooch something to think about – to boot, you can adjust the difficulty level and control how much kibble is dispensed.
To get the treat out, your four-legged companion will have to put in some effort and try to figure out the best way to shake it out of the ball. And don’t worry, it is super easy to clean with warm, soapy water in between uses to keep everything fresh and hygienic. There are two sizes to choose from, 3” and 4”, both suitable for dogs over 10 lbs – the toy is not recommended for toy breeds and small puppies.
8. Best for Experienced Dogs: Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Challenge Slider Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy
This one is for the more experienced treat hunters out there- the game’s designer labels it as a difficulty level 3 which is considered an advanced level (number 4 is the highest it gets). Your four-legged Einstein will have to slide the compartment lids in specific sequential steps to pry out the treats you’ve hidden inside- and for most dogs, this will occupy them for hours and hours. Even the more intelligent pooches will view this toy as a challenge!
Some dogs will use paws, other their nose to move around the compartments but it’s all the same as this high-quality toy can withstand a bit of robust play: made from premium BPA, PVA, & phthalate free plastic, it has no movable parts for your pet’s safety and can take that enthusiastic clawing without breaking. The compartments hold up to a cup of kibble or small treats, so they can be used to slow-feed your pet or to reward their good behavior and intelligence.
9. Honorable Mention: Jolly Pets Teaser Ball 10-Inch
What’s a better toy for a dog than a ball, you might ask? A ball… Within a ball. Yup, the unique design of this puzzle toy for dogs will have your pooch obsessed with it. The inner ball will roll around when your pet plays with it, prompting them to try and get to it- which is a challenge they’ll never rise up to. You see, this is a teaser ball- and an insanely durable one at that. No matter what your pooch tried to do to it, they won’t be able to reach the ball inside. But here’s a secret: that’s the whole fun of it. And to make sure that every pooch can have a bit of fun, this teaser ball comes in various sizes: small (4.5”), medium (6”), large (8”), and extra large (10”).
10. Also Consider: Dogit Mind Games 3-in-1 Interactive Smart Toy for Dogs
This puzzle will delight clever canines looking for a challenge and their owners, too, as it really give them a bang for their buck. Within a one puzzle, there are actually 3 different challenging toys: Hide-And-Seek, Spin-A-Whirl, and Sliding Puzzle. The goal of this smart toy for smart dogs is to hone their problem-solving skills and keep them entertained for hours. Owing to the size and the materials, this toy is a good fit for small and medium dog breed only- bigger pooches might inadvertently realize that the easiest way to snag the snack is by destroying the puzzle.
11. Best Customizable: Trixie Mad Scientist for Dogs Level 2
Getting a fun toy isn’t rocket science — or is it? Either way, this “mad scientist” dog toy is a sure fire way to get your pooch all excited. Challenging and, above all, genuinely fun to play with, this interactive puzzle features a base with frame and 3 beakers and 2 sets of patterned lids: the beakers hold the treats and your doggo has to flip them correctly for the treats to be dispensed. There are two different lid sizes so you can adjust the difficulty level of the game — some will easily toss out treats and others require a bit more work to dole out the reward. The base is stable thanks to no-slip feet and the toy itself is suited for dogs of all sizes — granted, it does work best for dogs that are not big enough to knock it over completely.
12. Best Plush: Hide a Squirrel Fun Hide and Seek Interactive Puzzle Plush Dog Toy
Nothing gets a pooch going like a game of hide and seek! And that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to run around the house and hide in nooks and corners of your home to entertain your dog. There are puzzles that give your pet the same type of excitement! The base of this toy is actually a hiding place for stuffed toys your pet is supposed to burrow out of their hiding. There are multiple designs available, from squirrels hiding in a tree trunk, bees in a hive, to racoons in a trash can, so you can choose the one that seems the most fun for your pet. The sizes also vary so all dogs can find a match – small, medium, large, and extra large are the available options.
13. Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Interactive Puzzle Game Dog Toys
Nina Ottosson is a brand name in the world of dog puzzles – and it’s easy to see why her designs are so popular with pet parents. Not only are these toys challenging and fun, but they are also easy to clean and quite durable. This particular design is rated as a level 2 difficulty (out of possible 3), and is considered to be an intermediate level, so a solid choice for pooches that quickly get bored with your basic puzzle toys. The treats are hidden underneath 14 hidden compartments, and your pooch will have to take sequential steps to get their paws on the yummines within. BPA, PVC, and phthalate-free, this interactive puzzle toy can be cleaned with warm water and soap between uses. The size of the toy makes it suited to all breeds, big and small.
14. West Paw Qwizl Tough Treat Dispensing Dog Chew Toy
Keeping aggressive chewers entertained is no easy feat. Especially if their favorite pastime is destroying your favorite shoes! But this clever little toy is sure to direct their attention elsewhere. The toy holds a treat inside (works best with a big bully stick) but only the small cutouts on the side reveal that to your pooch – just enough to release the scent and get them drooling. The goal here is to get the treat out which is quite challenging, and as a result, will keep your dog stimulated and engaged for hours on end. Extremely durable and safe, this engaging toy is made in the USA and comes in small and large size to suit any pupper’s needs. To boot, it’s dishwasher safe, so all that slobber and grime will quickly come off – and the toy will be perfectly sanitized for further use.
15. Sniffiz SmellyMatty Snuffle Mat for Dogs
Vibrant colors and plenty of stuff to sniff out – what’s not to like? Fully adjustable and versatile, this snuffle mat is perfect for training as it will easily adapt to the needs of a nosework newbie and can be modified to become more challenging as your pet’s skills grow. The snuffle mat comes with 5 brain teasers you can attach to the mat: book, puzzle board, handkerchief, ball pocket and wallet. In addition to the inside of these, you can also hide treats and kibble in the petals of the center flower (each petal is a pocket) and in the “grassy” fringes as well. Perfect for nosework in dogs of all ages and sizes, and even better if you have a greedy eater and want to really prolong their mealtime.
What should I consider when choosing puzzle toys for my dog?
The level of cognitive skills varies from dog to dog, so the first thing to have in mind is choosing a puzzle toy that’s at an appropriate difficulty level. For puppies and newbies, start with basic interactive dog toys, and as their mind develops and sharpens, you can continue on to more challenging puzzles. Of course, there are also practical things to consider – a puzzle toy should be easy to clean, durable, and made from pet-safe materials. Avoid flimsy constructions that could be broken or chewed off easily and those with plenty of small pieces your pooch could inadvertently swallow and get into a world of trouble.
Do puzzles make my dog smarter?
Like it is with any skill, your pet’s cognitive skills can also be sharpened and developed. Your dog’s mind will be mentally stimulated by puzzle toys that challenge them, and as a result, their mental capacity can be increased significantly. This is particularly true for curious, clever pooches that could advance to the highest difficulty levels of puzzles! Not to mention that, in addition to making your pooch smarter, puzzles provide a productive and engaging way to burn off extra energy and offer tons of fun for any doggo.
How do I teach my dog to use puzzle toys?
The fastest way to a pooch’s heart – and mind – is a tasty treat. The promise of yuminess acts as a great motivation, so it’s fairly certain that your dog will try to figure out a puzzle toy straight away. After all, it is the process of trial and error that gets them the results they want! They might try to smash, claw, or chew their way to the food at first, but as long as the toy is durable, they’ll quickly realize that force is in vain and that they have to be clever to get to their goal. Try assisting them at first, by lowering the difficulty level or making treats easier to find, and then gradually increase the challenge when they realize the basic principle of the puzzle.
Why do dogs do puzzles?
Many dogs, particularly those that are considered to be working breeds, need a task to feel fulfilled and happy. And since, in most cases, there are no sheep to be shepherded or prey to be retrieved, it’s up to you to offer alternative “jobs” to prevent destructive behaviors and stave away boredom and depression. Puzzles provide a problem-solving process that’s both fun and challenging and give your pet an opportunity to channel their instincts into a productive and entertaining activity.
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.
A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.
More by Angela Vuckovic