Staving off boredom in beloved pets require more than just tiring them out with bouts of physical exercise in the garden or on walks.
Canines are intelligent animals. They must also burn mental energy through brain-busting activities and games.
Instead of gifting squeaky toys and frisbees to your pet, introduce a puzzle toy at playtime, and you’ll quickly notice a change in your canine’s temperament.
We’ve done our research and found a variety of top-notch brain game toys that are exciting, challenging and rewarding!
In this article, we review top 5 puzzle toys and cover what to watch out for when choosing one to save you time and money.
In a hurry? Here is the top 3:
Our Top Picks
Best Puzzle Toys For Dogs
If your prized pooch isn’t a beginner at decoding puzzle toys, take their problem-solving skills to the next level with something more challenging, like this toy.
Your pet must work out how to retrieve hidden treats concealed under the red boxes and white bones by combining various actions, like sniffing, pawing, lifting, tilting, and sliding.
The benefits of the Outward Hound Dog Tornado are that your dog has fun through stimulating play with a toy that requires their utmost attention.
Ten minutes of puzzle time equates to 30 minutes of exercise, which means that your pup can feel happy, satisfied, and relaxed, having expended their mental faculties.
Considering this game reinforces interactive playtime, a deeper bond between you and your pet is likely to develop.
This toy shouldn’t be used as a diversion for when you’re not around. The blocks can be destroyed by unsupervised pets who are heavy chewers.
Additionally, your pet needs to learn that the white bone-shaped pieces aren’t food, which requires training and play being overseen by someone who can act quickly to prevent choking.
Although intelligent breeds, like Border Collies, might solve this brain tease easily, the good news is they’ll be happy for a refill and to start the game over.
If you’re worried about your pet gaining weight because of this exercise, use healthy treats instead.
Otherwise, combine mealtime and play by using this puzzle at breakfast and dinner.
- Intermediate dog toy
- Features 12 treat compartment and 3 white bones
- Easy to clean
- Made from durable, non-toxic plastic
What we liked
- Encourages problem-solving
- Exciting learning activity
- Robust and durable
- Doubles as a slow feeder
- Not bite-proof
One major issue with puzzle toys is that the rewards are snacks, which is fine if your pet is slim, young, and active.
However, for middle-aged to senior pooches that quickly gain weight, standard puzzle games might be a great boredom buster but result in a rounder middle.
Instead of hiding treats to fuel your pet’s curiosity, cute, removable squirrels are stuffed inside a soft tree trunk.
The objective of the game is for your clever hound to find the hidden animals.
A bonus of using this toy is that actual squirrels visiting your yard are less likely to be pursued by rodent-obsessed dogs.
To encourage your pet to play with the toy, you can toss it in the air. This movement will arouse your pet’s natural desires to give chase. Otherwise, leave it on the floor, it will eventually get his interest and curious nature.
Having to seek out toys enhances brain activity and reduces the occurrence of destructive behaviour caused by bored, frustration, and inactivity.
Since your pet is engaged and occupied, there is bound to be less barking, biting, chewing, and things being destroyed at home.
As the toys are made from soft materials, supervised playtime is recommended. Determined chewers will shred the squirrels apart, so reserve this toy for puppies who aren’t big chewers.
The toy doesn’t have to go to waste if your pet can’t locate the squirrels and gives up. The base can be used for tug of war, while the squirrels can be thrown around in the yard.
- Includes 6 plush squeaky squirrels and a soft log base
- Mentally-stimulating and appeals to natural hunting instincts
What we liked
- Less barking, biting, and chewing
- Doubles as a fetch toy
- Gentle on the mouth
- Not for chewers
Are you searching for a new puzzle toy to outsmart your canine mastermind?
This puzzle toy is ideal for furry Einsteins that have perfected the tricks and techniques of basic puzzle activities and require a more challenging brain twister.
If alternative toys are too easy for your intelligent furry friend, try this game for size. It will take your puppy longer to complete and out of trouble.
Despite being a game for the mind, this puzzle redirects harmful behaviours like digging.
Instead of burying bones while destroying your garden, your pet channel these instincts into pawing for treats.
Although supervision with these toys is advised, the in-built pieces make playtime safer, since the snack compartments can’t be torn apart by zealous animals.
You’ll also find that the toy is constructed using durable materials. It won’t easily break if your pet likes playing rough while searching for his favourite treats.
Although this toy is harder to destroy than other playthings featured in the Nina Ottosson pet range, it’s not impossible.
Toy-shredding dogs might be able to puncture the outer plastic, so always keep a watchful eye on your hound while he’s having fun.
- Excellent choice for super smart pets
- Consists outer and inner sliding compartments
- Made of tough, non-removable plastic
What we liked
- Mentally stimulating
- In-built pieces can’t be removed
- Easy to clean
- Toy-shredding dogs can damage the product
Like their owners, dogs need more than physical exercise to sustain their happiness and quality of life.
Teach your pet new skills with this brilliant strategy game.It’s not just fun to play with but contributes toward active learning for all canines.
Whoever came up with the saying that you can’t teach old dogs’ new tricks has never purchased this game for dogs. Seniors with interest in toys will enjoy a round or two of play.
The aim is for your puppy to rotate the treat-holding test tubes and tip out delicious snacks using their paws
The difficulty level can be adjusted to suit your dog’s capabilities.
Remove the test tube caps until your hound gets the hang of the game, then place the caps on the ends to challenge your pet.
One drawback is that the game may not be best fit for ultra-intelligent dogs as this chemistry set can be deciphered within one or two tries.
Additionally, frustrated pets that want instant gratification can bite through the plastic tubes, which aren’t chew-proof.
- Comes with three tubes and a stand
- Non-slip rubber feet
- 2 levels of difficulty
What we liked
- Difficulty levels can be adjusted
- Brilliant strategy game
- Plastic isn’t chew-proof
At first glance, this item resembles a bathroom matt, not a game or slow feeder for canines.
Despite its unusual appearance, dogs seem to like it because it allows them to use their bloodhound scent to forage for food.
Whether it’s for slow down your kibble-guzzling puppy or to induce a fussy pet’s appetite, one of the primary focusses of this toy is around food.
Another is putting your dog’s olfactory system and brain to work by tracking concealed treats.
By hiding kibble in the mat, mealtime becomes more than an exciting game but activates your hounds hunting habits.
The ability to scout their food provides puppies with a sense of having earned their meal while keeping busy. This activity will keep away boredom and depression caused by lack of exercise.
This puzzle toy can be used to keep your pet distracted when he or she is home alone. However, don’t leave your pet to his devices if he likes to chew everything.
Although it’s difficult for puppies to tear the sturdy material apart, determined chewers may be able to detach and swallow fibre pieces.
One pitfall is that although the mat is machine washable and holds shape after being cleaned, it takes a while to dry out fully.
- Eco-friendly snuffle matt
- Made from soft fabrics
- Double-stitched and 100% machine washable
What we liked
- Encourages pets to forage for food
- Used to slow down/encourage eating
- Takes awhile to dry after cleaning
Guide to Purchasing Puzzle Toys for Dogs
Have you ever been on an important call and your pet starts to paw at you, whine, or bark at distant sounds?
These behaviours are cries for attention to ease their boredom and frustrations at having nothing to do.
Understandably, everyday responsibilities prevent you from entertaining your hound around the clock.
Puzzle games are an excellent temporary substitute for when you can’t give your puppy your full attention and on rainy days when he can’t frolic in the garden.
Why are puzzle toys crowd-pleasers to canines?
Taking your furry companions on walks or playing tug of war is great.
However, strenuous activity isn’t the only means of releasing dopamine, the happy hormone, in the brain.
Dogs are a smart species which require both physical exercise and mental enrichment.
These toys for dogs are beneficial in the following ways:
Increased attention span and concentration
Findings show that brain games hold a canine’s attention for longer than traditional dog toys.
Offers much needed exercise
Depending on your dog’s breed and activity levels, he’ll need 30 minutes to two hours of daily exercise.
Keeping your pet active when you’re on the clock isn’t always possible. Dog puzzles keep your hound physically fit and mentally sharp.
Develops problem-solving skills
Puzzle toys are strategic games that teach your pet various techniques to access treats.
During play, your pet problem-solves by combining different actions such as sniffing, nuzzling, pawing, sliding, and lifting pieces of the puzzle. And they get to be rewarded with an array of delicious prizes.
Combines meal and play
Your dog scoffing down his meal could be problematic for his health, causing bloating and other potentially harmful digestive issues.
Puzzle toys slow down eating while adding an element of excitement and anticipation come mealtimes.
Encourages interactive play
Most dog puzzles require human participation, especially if your pooch is new to game and still needs to learn the ropes.
If you’re struggling to bond with your newly adopted rescue, these toys could be what you need to forge a connection and gain their trust.
Diverts bad behaviour and anxiety
Digging, barking, and destroying things are sometimes triggered by boredom, frustration, and anxiety.
Dog puzzles are designed to redirect a dog’s attention, encouraging them to concentrate on non-destructive activities instead.
Check out our guide to the best indestructible dog toys if your pet is a chew-addict.
How To Introduce Puzzle Toys
Puzzle toys slow down eating, encourage thinking, commands concentration, and stimulates your pet instincts by hunting their food.
Different breeds pick things up at different speeds. If your dog seems a little slow or can’t figure out how to use the toy, give him time.
Introducing Dog puzzles
- Adjust difficulty level to the easiest for your pet to get used to it
- Start by removing the openings of treat compartments, so that treats fall out quickly
- Dogs showing little interest means they don’t think it’s worth their time
- Tempt them with his favourite treats
- Soft, chewy, and smelly snacks seem to be the most popular among most canines.
What Puzzle Toys Can’t Do
Not a substitute for love and attention
We understand that due to a hectic work schedule, you may not always have the time to devote to your pooch.
That said, not even the most stimulating toy can replace your puppy’s need for human interaction.
Canines are social creatures and need affection from owners.
Shouldn’t replace physical exercise
Your pet still needs to go outside to sniff about, catch up with neighbourhood dogs and run around.
Even if their favourite toy keeps them occupied for extended periods.
Can’t remedy serious behavioural issues
Deep-rooted problems like severe separation anxiety or food aggression can’t be cured with a puzzle toy.
You’ll need a behaviourist or trainer to work through those issues.
If you want to see more options beyond puzzle toys, read our guide to the best dog toys in the UK.
For puppies, you can check out our guide for the best puppy toys.
These are brain teaser toys that challenge your dog mentally.
The aims is to hide treats in compartments for pets to retrieve using different actions.
They can help your pets expand on their problem-solving skills and keep them engaged and focused on rainy days.
Mental exercises are as important as physical activities to enhance your pet’s happiness and to prevent boredom.
They can distract your pet when he’s feeling anxious about being home alone. However, for severe cases of separation anxiety, it’s always best to call on a professional.
There are usually three levels: beginner, intermediate and expert.
If your pet has never had a puzzle toy, start at the easiest level, and work your way up.
You’ll know it’s time for an upgrade when your pet solves the puzzle too quickly and starts to show signs of boredom.
You can’t go wrong with Nina Ottoson toys . We’ve featured 2 which we believe are the top picks for today!
These toys are durable, available in different levels, and are known to keep pets busy for hours.
We also love the Snuffle Matt because it’s not your typical toy.
For pets who prefer uncomplicated playthings, this simple yet effective toy helps to activate their hunting heritage while providing them with a ton of fun.
The Chemistry Set for dogs is another great toy, but not suitable for impatient good boys or hounds that chew.
Haven't decided yet? Here is our top 5:
Our Top Picks
- INTERMEDIATE DOG PUZZLE: Exercise your dog’s mind with the interactive...
- BOREDOM BUSTER: With 12 hidden compartments and 3 dog bone covers you can...
- EASY TO CLEAN: The Dog Tornado puzzle toy is easy to wash by hand with mild...
- HIDE AND SQUEAK FUN: The Hide A Squirrel dog puzzle is an easy way to get...
- 2-IN-1 INTERACTIVE PLAY: Toss the squirrel-filled trunk, place it on the...
- CHALLENGING AND IRRESISTIBLE: Keep boredom at bay and you're curious canine...
- MENTALLY-STIMULATING DOG PUZZLE GAME: The MultiPuzzle by Nina Ottosson is...
- SPIN, SLIDE, HIDE, & SEEK: Place your dog's favorite treats or kibble under...
- 4 CHALLENGES, 1 PUZZLE: The level of difficulty of the MultiPuzzle can be...
- Sturdy and suitable for all dogs
- Keeps dogs mind active for longer, stimulating them and helping with...
- Easy to use, you may need to guide your dog on how to use it for the first...
- 🐶 Snuffle Mat for Dogs Improve Sensitivity-Puts your dog’s nose and...
- 🐶 Feeding Mat for Dogs Simply Challenging- Encourages natural foraging...
- 🐶 Feeding Mat for Dogs Train the Dog's Sense of Smell-This is a fun way...
So, which one did you like?
If you already chose the best fit for your friend fur-ever, why not tell us in the comments section below.
Sharing is caring
Oh go on then, share this article with your friends so they can see how smart your dog is! Maybe they'll get inspired too.