If you’re reading this article, you likely already know that dogs are similar to people in several ways. Not only do they love food, but they also love a good mental workout. And while there may not yet be a doggy version of the Wordle to boost their problem-solving skills, there are plenty of dog brain games and dog food puzzles to help. A dog food puzzle is a great way to stimulate, entertain and sometimes distract your dog during mealtimes.
Dog food puzzles come in various shapes and sizes, meaning there’s a toy for every kind of pup. These fun mealtime additions hold all sorts of treats or dog food, requiring your dog to solve a problem to score the delicious reward. These puzzles are of great help if you’re dealing with boredom, speedy eaters, picky eaters or dogs who love a challenge. Here are some reasons why turning to a dog food puzzle might be an idea both you and your dog can get behind.
The Benefits of Choosing a Dog Food Puzzle
Switching to a dog food puzzle from a standard dog food bowl isn’t just a novelty idea; it offers several genuine benefits. Of course, with a dog food puzzle, your dog will enjoy a challenge, but there are more reasons to consider putting these brain-training challenges in front of your pooch at mealtimes. They include:
- Mental Stimulation: The biggest reason to try a dog food puzzle is the mental stimulation it gives your dog. Instead of simply moving food from one place to another (i.e., the dog’s mouth), these puzzles get your dog’s brain thinking by presenting obstacles between bites. In addition to keeping your dog’s mind sharp, a puzzle may also help improve its cognitive ability and increase your dog’s IQ.
- Fitness: Certain dog puzzle toys are great at getting your dog moving during the solve. As your pet scratches, bites, tosses and generally does everything it can think of to release a treat or find a way inside, the movement is burning energy at the same time. While solving a puzzle may not be the same as running in an open field, this additional period of activity can still have benefits, especially for dogs who regularly opt for a more sedate existence.
- Prolong Eating Time: Speed eaters are an issue many owners commonly encounter. Dogs that eat their food quickly may encounter health issues. Luckily, dog food puzzles are ideal for managing meal durations, as they dish out food bit by bit rather than in one vacuum-able pile.
- Distraction: If your dog tends to get bored and turn its attention to destroying shoes, furniture or other household objects, a dog food puzzle is a great way to distract them from destruction while also dealing with any potential boredom at the same time.
- Fun for You: Lastly, dog food puzzles are great fun for you as an owner. Seeing your dog figure out a challenge teaches you more about your dog and can create some memorable moments.
How to Choose the Right Dog Food Puzzle
When choosing the best puzzle toy for your dog, there are a few factors you need to consider. These include your dog’s breed, size and how experienced your dog is with solving problems. Matching the size and breed up with a potential product is simple. Beyond this, most puzzles come with a level advisory, allowing you to match your dog to tasks within its abilities. Here’s an overview of available difficulty levels:
- Level 1 (Easy): These beginner-level dog food puzzles are ideal for introducing naturally curious dogs to the idea of solving problems or having to search for food at mealtimes. They generally have a “one-stop” solution that keeps your dog interested and can be solved without genius-level problem-solving skills.
- Level 2 (Intermediate): Level 2 is the next step once your dog is comfortable and has some experience solving easier problems. Building on level 1, these games add an extra level of difficulty, usually in the form of covers, flaps, levers or sliding tiles. Level-2 puzzles are the most popular.
- Level 3 (Advanced): If your dog shows signs of more complicated problem solving, you may want to advance to level 3. These “two-step” solution puzzles mean your dog has to perform two individual solves to get to their tasty reward.
- Level 4 (Expert): Level 4 puzzles are designed for the most intelligent dogs. These complicated toys feature multi-step solves and often allow pet owners to adjust the difficulty if necessary. They can include sliding tiles, spinning wheels and lockable elements to give your dog’s brain a workout.
Scroll down to discover our favorite dog food puzzles available online. We’ve got games for every breed, size and intelligence.
1. Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Interactive Puzzle
With basic- to expert-level solves, Outward’s selection of more than 20 dog food puzzles has something for every dog. For example, this Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Interactive Puzzle features slidable tiles that can be pawed one at a time to reveal the hidden treats underneath. It’s easy to fill, brightly colored and made from durable materials. This impressive range of products features four difficulty levels and has the backing of 55,000+ five-star ratings from Amazon users.
2. Frisco Hide & Seek Plush Chewy Box Puzzle Dog Toy
BEST FOOD-FREE STIMULATION
If you’re looking for a way to stimulate your dog mentally and physically without the food reward, give this Frisco Hide & Seek Plush Chewy Box Puzzle Dog Toy a try. It’s suitable for all dog breeds and sizes and includes three removable toys which can be stuffed inside the larger plush box. The squeaker bone, rope toy and squeaker ball will provide your pooch with plenty of visual and audible stimulation to keep them entertained and coming back. It’s also handy for getting dogs to bond with one another. Furthermore, the plush construction of the box and toys makes them great for your dog to cuddle with.
3. Bojafa Durable Dog IQ Chew Toy
Take the tennis ball to the next level by upgrading it with the Bojafa Durable Dog IQ Chew Toy. This durable ball can be stuffed full with snacks to be released as it rolls around, is squeezed or is bitten the right way by your dog. Handily, the pursuit of releasing the treats inside helps to clean your dog’s teeth to prevent plaque and tartar build-ups, thanks to the non-toxic rubber material. The balls also have a light mint scent and can be used to play fetch.
4. Dr. Catch Dog Puzzle Food Feeder
BEST NEXT STEP
This Dr. Catch Dog Puzzle Food Feeder is a level two toy and an ideal next step for dogs looking to progress from level one. The slidable panels provide a greater challenge for your pooch without being frustratingly difficult. Each covered hole also has enough space to reward your dog with a worthwhile snack before moving on to the next one. Furthermore, the feeder is available in two different colors and has the backing of more than 4,000 five-star ratings from other dog owners.
5. TRIXIE Activity Flip Board Strategy Dog Toy
Thanks to the several different types of treat-hiding compartments, this TRIXIE Activity Flip Board Strategy Dog Toy gives your dog a more comprehensive range of mentally stimulating tasks to solve. It’s an ideal choice for dogs who enjoy puzzle games. The plastic toy is dishwasher safe for easy cleaning and sports non-slip rubber feet to keep it in place as your dog figures everything out. It’s designed for adult, medium breed dogs and allows pet owners to mix things up to maintain a dog’s interest, even after multiple uses.
6. BARMI Dog Toys Stuffed Dog Chew Toy
BEST ANIMAL TOY
Some dogs love animal-shaped toys. If your dog falls into this category, the BARMI Dog Toys Stuffed Dog Chew Toy will go down well. This cow-shaped cuddly toy features a cutout compartment in its body for housing treats. You’ll also find raised particles that help to clean teeth and a squeaker for additional enjoyment and audible stimulation. This toy is great for all breed sizes and can help with loneliness, fixing bad habits and general training.
7. WINGPET Indestructible Dog Chew Toy
BEST FOR AGGRESSIVE CHEWERS
If your dog loves to spend time chewing and biting, the WINGPET Indestructible Dog Chew Toy could suit its desires. This cross bone-shaped dog toy is made from durable rubber and features an open space at its heart for treats, peanut butter and other attention-worthy snacks. In addition to being great fun for your dog, the toy can help to clean your canine’s teeth. It’s best suited to dogs between 60 and 90 pounds.
8. TRIXIE Mini Mover Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy
The TRIXIE Mini Mover Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy is the most challenging puzzle on our list. This level-3 game is designed for smarter-than-the-average dogs who love exercising their brains. The toy measures 9.75 by 7.75 inches and is made up of three elements in the form of lifting cones, sliding tiles and a moving knob. Each compartment can hide one or more treats for your dog to search out. Furthermore, the whole toy is dishwasher safe and has an instruction booklet to help you make the most of it.
9. KONG Wobbler Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog Toy
BEST FOR WEIGHT LOSS
If your dog could do with shedding a couple of pounds, this KONG Wobbler Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog Toy could be the motivation it needs to get moving. This nearly indestructible toy can be filled with treats and given to your dog to figure out. Treats will be released when the right angle is achieved as they bite, throw, and roll the Wobbler around. In the meantime, your dog has fun and spends its energy. This made-in-the-USA toy is produced from a high-strength polymer, can be washed in a dishwasher and comes in small or large sizes.
10. TRIXIE Dog Activity Pet Strategy Game
The TRIXIE Dog Activity Pet Strategy Game is another level-2 dog food puzzle offering something different. The game is made up of a base frame with three rotatable beakers. Each beaker can be fitted with one of two sets of patterned lids, allowing you to increase or decrease the difficulty. TRIXIE also produces several easier puzzles which are popular with pet owners and worth checking out. Their range comes backed by more than 30,000 five-star ratings from happy Amazon customers.
11. Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game Dog Toy
With its pop-off covers and sliding tiles, this Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game Dog Toy is more than capable of giving your dog a mental workout. The toy can be classed as level 2 or level 3, depending on whether you choose to include the removable covers. This ability to adjust the difficulty makes this puzzle well suited to dog owners looking to advance their canine’s treat-hunting skills. Place treats inside each compartment and let your pup figure out how to get access using their paws and nose.
12. STELLAIRE CHERN Snuffle Mat
BEST SNUFFLE MAT
Snuffle mats, like this STELLAIRE CHERN Snuffle Mat, are a great way to put your dog’s nose to the test. Hide treats throughout the various flaps, pots and tassels to encourage your dog to forage and retrieve their prize. This mat is made from up-cycled materials and comes in two sizes and four colors. It can also be rolled up for more accessible storage and machine washed if your pup’s particularly messy.