You play all the games with your puppy — fetch, frisbee, tug-o-war — to keep them exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But what about mental games? Don't forget about puzzle toys for puppies, which will keep your furbaby's brain stimulated in addition to all the fun they have with balls and rubber Kongs.
How do they work exactly?
Typically, puzzle toys for dogs involve hiding treats somewhere in the device that requires a degree of cleverness or problem solving skills to find. Your puppy may have to pull or push levers, slide compartments open and closed, or dig things out with their snout. Sometimes, they might have to sniff around to detect the location of a treat with just their nose.
The common thread among these types of toys is that they stimulate your dog’s intellect, while also developing its natural instincts like tracking, foraging, hunting, sniffing, and chasing. They make your dog smarter and help fight boredom, too. Puzzle toys encourage obedience and can provide immense stress relief. They offer a way to stay alert and prevent anxiety or depression — especially in antsy puppies. Without further adieu, here are the some of the best puzzle toys for dogs.
1. A Labyrinth-Like Bowl That Makes Lunchtime A Fun Challenge
Simply Pets Online Slow Feeder Bowl
Make mealtime fun for your pooch with this interactive puzzle dish. The durable food bowl, which is constructed from a blend of bamboo fiber and rice husks, morphs lunch into a mentally stimulating game. The bowl is extra sturdy and features a complex, maze-like shape that forces pups to use their natural problem solving skills to eat. On top of that, it promotes slower eating, reducing bloating, vomiting, and overeating. "Very pleased!" said one Amazon customer with a medium sized dog. "He has a large head and snout and has no problem getting the food out of the little nooks and crannies."
2. A Squeaky Plush Toy Aquarium You Can Bury Fish Inside And Let Your Dog Dig Out
ZippyPaws Sea Buddies Burrow Interactive Squeaky Toy
Give your dog a squishy challenge with this plush puzzle toy featuring little fish he can dig out of their "aquarium." Just bury the squeaky water creatures inside and watch your pup go wild trying to pull them out. One excited Amazon customer wrote, "My dog is a part dachshund (around 20 pounds), so this is right up her alley since dachshunds were bred to dig! She loves these games. She can easily squeak the fish and likes to stick her nose in the two holes to fish them out. Once they are all out, she plays with the square plush container and digs at it." The toy was designed for small and medium sized dogs and comes in additional versions with crabs, sharks, or seahorses, too.
3. A "Snuffle Mat" That Develops Your Dog's Natural Scent-Finding Instincts
TZAMCW Snuffle Mat
Based on your dog's natural instinct to sniff out scents, this foraging toy offers fun mental stimulation for them — and a healthy amount of stress relief as well. Simply hide a snack or a small toy in the snuffle mat and let your pooch go wild trying to find it. This toy, which is made from non-toxic felt and waterproof nylon, develops three important things: canine intelligence, obedience, and problem-solving abilities. An Amazon reviewer raved about it, writing, "We bought it because we wanted to encourage foraging in our dogs. We hid little pieces of kibble in the mat and then had our dog come in and forage ... Now, when we come home, our dogs pull the snuffle mat out as if they want us to load it with treats."
4. A Colorful IQ Puzzle With Sliding Compartments To Hide Treats
SunGrow Unique Shuffle Puzzle Smart Toy For Puppies
Crafted with high quality wood, this "hide-and-treat" puzzle toy features little compartments made for stashing treats your pooch will love trying to get. The compartments are covered with shuffle sliders they can nudge open with their snout or paws, which — by offering natural rewards for your pup's hard work — helps develop their minds and motor skills. Speaking from experience, one purchaser wrote on Amazon: "I have a 4 1/2 month old Havanese and she LOVES this puzzle. It keeps her busy and she gets so excited when she sees it. It was a great investment!!! I'm very happy with it."
5. A Treat-Dispensing Ball That Provides Mental Stimulation While Promoting Dental Hygiene
CHLEBEM Interactive IG Puzzle Dog Toy Ball
This fantastically versatile dog toy is at once a fetching ball, a slow feeder, and an IQ puzzle game. Constructed with ultra durable, chew-proof rubber, it can withstand hours of gnawing and shredding without becoming totally dismantled. As you throw it, little bits of food spill out, offering your puppy a trail of treats. Even better? This stimulating indoor-outdoor toy also cleans your pup's teeth. One purchaser, whose dog "loves" playing with the multi-use toy, confirmed the its durability in a review. "It's super sturdy and she tends to chew on it so it has held up thus far."
6. An Adaptable 3-D Tower With Multiple Challenge Levels
Trixie Pet Products Gambling Tower
This amazingly stimulating tower puzzle offers a fully 3-D labyrinth made for hiding treats and puppy problem solving. To get the treats out, your pup has to tug at the rope loops which then release bits of food down the middle chute and out through the opening. The multi-level toy also has three cones on the base to stash additional treats. Start on the first shelf and adapt the difficulty as your dog masters each level, varying the number and placement of treats. What's more, this toy is just the first in a series of 3-D puzzles that includes a flip board, a poker box, and a chess game. If you don't know where to start, here's how a purchaser detailed their strategy in a review on Amazon. "I combine a level 1, level 2, and this level 3 Trixie game," they wrote, "and it keeps her busy for a bit."
7. A Spinning Puzzle Toy That Turns In Circles As Your Dog Chases It
Outward Hound Dog Tornado Treat Dispansing Toy
Combining food dispenser and spinner toy, this treat tornado provides premium intellectual stimulation in addition to being ridiculously fun for both dogs and their owners. With 12 treat compartments, the toy contains uneven, bone-shaped puzzle pieces that work together to create a treat barrier. The constant spinning motion will ensure your puppy is both engaged and entertained. "Our two pups love this," noted one Amazon reviewer. "[It] gives them [the] opportunity to use their brains as well as occupies them for a good time trying to get all the treats out! When they get bored with their other toys and looking for something to get into, I pull out the Dog Tornado!"
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