One recommendation I make to most of my clients is to find a way to incorporate puzzle toys into their dogs daily life. Ideally, every dog owner should have a few different types of puzzle toys, and for their dogs to only be fed via these delightful little enrichment devices. Why? It's like free training! All you have to do it fill it up, give it to your dog, and like magic your dog gets mental enrichment and physical stimulation without you having to do anything but watch and be entertained. As a trainer, I am very thankful so many companies have developed so many types of puzzle toys.
So, here are some of my very favorite types of dog puzzle toys!
Stuffed Puzzle Toys
The Classic Kong toy has been a real life-saver. I give the Kong Company complete credit for me not losing my mind when my dog Kai was a puppy. The Kong company makes all different types of toys and products, but their original classic design is still my favorite. These toys are especially great for teething puppies. Here's how I use them for myself and my clients.
Prepare Kongs the day before you intend to use them. Here's how:
- Measure out your dog or puppy's diet for the day. Based on that amount, figure out how many kongs you will need in order to get your dogs entire diet divided up evenly into the kongs.
- If your dog is on a kibble diet, you need to mix it with a binder. Some examples include a little bit of a high quality wet/canned food, gravy, chicken stock, vegetable stock, etc.
- Once the mixture is sticking together slightly, you are ready to stuff your kongs. Once the kongs are stuffed, wrap them in cling wrap and put in the freezer.
- Once the kongs are frozen, you can give them to your dog all at once or divide them up throughout the day!
Looking for a puzzle toy that your pooch will love but will also look stylish on your refurbished wood coffee table in your mid-century living room next to your potted succulents? Look no further. The Odin dog puzzle toy is sleek, attractive, and most importantly functional. Because it's modular, you can even purchase multiple Odins and link them together!
For a toy that requires no preparation in advance, the Tricky Treat Ball from Omega Paw may be the easiest to use. Fill 'em up, give them to your dog, and that's it! Now mealtime takes 30 minutes instead of 30 seconds. These are great for dogs who tend to eat their food too fast.
Time-Release Puzzle Toys
Looking for something a little more high tech? Then you should check out The Foobler! It's an automatic self-reloading puzzle feeder with six timer activated pods. So you can set it and forget it. It even syncs with your smart phone!
"A self-reloading puzzle feeder at last! A dog's natural instinct is to hunt and forage for food. It keeps their brain and body active and engaged. Puzzle feeders are designed for that purpose but they must be refilled after every single use. The Foobler is an automatic self-reloading puzzle feeder with 6 timer activated pods. Its like having 6 puzzle toys in one, that deliver a full day's worth of regular kibble or treats for them to enjoy."
Classic Puzzle Toys
When it comes to the classic puzzle toy, no one does it better than Nina Ottosson. She's been designing these innovative devices for almost 25 years! The best part is that she has different toys for different breeds, ages, and levels. I've used several of the different models she produces and I've loved every single one. I can't recommend these highly enough! Nina really knows her stuff!
Eco-Friendly Puzzle Toys
West Paw Design is a great company and we really like their Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog Toy. They make lots of their products out of recycled materials and they also will take used torn up products back from you and recycle them into new toys! Not only that, they offer a one time replacement, they are BPA and phthalate-free and non-toxic, they float, and are dishwasher safe!
DIY Puzzle Toys
Muffin Tin with Tennis Balls: Using a muffin tin, add as many tennis balls as there are spots for muffins in your tin. Hide a couple of treats inside the muffin tin cups, then cover all of the cups with tennis balls. Now your dog has to figure out which tennis balls are hiding a treat underneath!
Pupsicles: freezing different things is an easy way to turn any treat or bone into a fun puzzle.
Freeze treats: take an ice cube tray and put a dog treat in each ice compartment. Fill the tray with water and freeze.
Bully Stick Popsicle: Take a bully stick and place it standing up into a cup full of water. Make sure the end of the bully stick is sticking out. Freeze and voila! Bully Stick Popsicle!
Box Taped Shut: Take a cereal box or some other type of cardboard box and throw treats inside. Tape up the ends. Note: the point of this is to let your dog destroy the box!