Canine experts place much emphasis on keeping your dog mentally active. Dogs are intelligent creatures by nature. It is your duty as an owner to make sure that your dog receives the right amount of mental exercise. One of the best ways to make sure that your dog remains mentally fit is to give it a fun toy to play with. A toy that challenges the dog mentally as it plays with it. Today, we’re going to look at the best dog puzzle toys that you can buy. Puzzle toys are designed to put your dog’s mental ability to the test. Challenging them to critically analyze their actions while they play around.
A good puzzle toy can keep a dog busy for hours. These toys have started becoming really popular among dog owners because they really let a dog vent out. Even the most restless dogs can be made manageable with the right kind of puzzle toy.
How Do Puzzle Toys Work?
If you’ve ever seen a puzzle toy before, you might think that these toys are way too simple. This is because these toys are designed to challenge a dog’s brain. Even the simplest puzzle toy can prove to be a great (and rewarding) challenge for a dog.
The concept behind these toys is pretty simple. They give your pet a challenge that requires them to physically and mentally exert themselves. Solving the challenge is incentivized by rewarding the dog with a treat every time they solve it. This reward, coupled with the joy of beating the puzzle makes a puzzle toy incredibly fun and engaging.
What Makes Puzzle Toys So Great
Many people believe that taking a dog out on a walk or playing a game of fetch is more than enough to keep their dog happy. However, the truth is that physical exercise alone is not enough to keep a dog happy. A dog that doesn’t get enough physical and mental stimulation will begin showing signs of restlessness. These signs include bad behavior, cranky moods, and even vomiting for no reason. Any pent up energy in a dog ends up fueling their anxiety. This leads to anxious behavior that can be irritating and worrisome.
A puzzle toy isn’t just a way of keeping your dog busy. It also acts as a sort of therapeutic instrument for your pet. Let’s quickly go through all the advantages that come with a puzzle toy.
Aids Mental Development
According to this article, a dog’s level of mental exercise has a direct impact on their cognitive development. A study shows that dogs who aren’t exposed to frequent mental exercise tend to have inferior learning abilities in the future. This is because mental stimulation develops a dog’s brain and keeps it in good shape. Just like how your dog’s muscles need exercise to stay strong, their brain cells need exercise to stay active.
There is even evidence that claims that dogs who get more mental exercise tend to develop fewer mental problems in their later years. Good puzzle toys are designed to offer dogs challenges that are stimulating but also within the bounds of their instincts.
Improves Their Ability to Solve Problems
Dogs aren’t intelligent for no reason. In the wild, these animals do a lot of hunting, and being a good hunter means being able to solve a variety of problems. Problems such as finding tracks, following scents, and knowing when to attack and when to defend in a fight. Domestic dogs are also great problem solvers, but only if their problem solving abilities are maintained. Puzzle toys are designed to do just that. Some toys are designed to challenge a dog to sniff food out of them and some actually have them forage food out of crevices and holes. Playing with toys like these will definitely enhance your dog’s ability to analyze situations and find solutions.
Puzzle toys are recommended for guard dog breeds specifically for this reason. They keep their instincts in good shape, which helps keep them alert and useful.
Makes Your Pet More Manageable
Dogs are incredibly active and they are always looking for something to do. You cannot expect your dog to sit quietly in your home or your backyard for a good part of the day. The lack of activity is going to get to them pretty quickly. A bored dog is an irritating dog, and it will start looking for ways to ease its boredom. A puzzle toy packed with your dog’s favorite treat can really break the monotony. Some puzzle toys are safe enough to be given to your dog unsupervised. Meaning that they can be a great way to keep your dog occupied while you work. They can even help manage your dog’s separation anxiety. A puzzle toy can distract your dog for a couple of hours and then wear it out enough to put it to sleep.
A puzzle toy offers mental, physical, and practical benefits that make your life a lot easier. They also keep your pet happy and healthy. Now, before we get into discussing all the best puzzle toys, let’s see how to pick the right puzzle toys for your dog. We will also discuss an extra step that you need to take when introducing a new puzzle toy; familiarizing your dog with the toy.
Puzzle toys often seem confusing at first glance (especially if you are a dog). A toy that seems too complicated might not interest your dog enough. To make sure that your dog understands what to do with the toy, you should spend the first few play sessions acting as a playmate for your dog. This activity can be pretty fun. Simply sit down with your pet and explore the toy together. Figure out how it works and show it to your dog. Dogs are quick learners and your pet will quickly figure out what to do with the toy.
Some dogs tend to give new toys a harder time, especially if the toy is difficult to figure out. In such cases, you should take a step-by-step approach to introducing the toy.
Start off by simply adding the toy to your dog’s toy collection or place it somewhere visible. Making the toy visible will get rid of any fears that your dog might have towards it. Once your dog is used to seeing the toy, you can begin building its confidence. This can be done by playing with the toy in front of them or adding your pet’s favorite snack into the toy. Doing so will slowly make your dog accept the toy, encouraging them to begin exploring the toy more openly.
Choosing The Correct Toy
Puzzle toys come in many shapes and sizes. There are a number of factors that you must consider before buying a toy. These factors will decide how entertaining and safe a puzzle toy is. Safety is always a big concern when it comes to toys. You must pick a toy that is durable enough to not be broken or ripped apart. The toy shouldn’t be a potential choking hazard and neither should it harm your pet in any way.
The correct size of a toy depends on the age and size of your dog. Bigger dogs need bigger toys and the opposite holds true for smaller dogs. A toy that is too small for a dog could be swallowed while a toy that is too big could be too difficult to play with.
Toys are built using a variety of materials; toys designed for chewing and pulling are generally made of more malleable materials. Toys designed for throwing around and other activities tend to be made using harder materials. The build quality of a toy determines how long a toy will last and how safe it is to play with. A toy should not be soft enough to be ripped apart by a chewer and neither should it be so hard that it ends up hurting your dog’s teeth. Picking a toy that is made with the right materials can be tricky. Luckily toy makers often categorize toys into age groups. Toys made for puppies are soft and malleable, toys made for teething juveniles are malleable but also durable and so on.
Puzzle toys are all about providing an entertaining challenge. For a challenge to stay entertaining, it needs to be difficult but not so difficult that your dog cannot solve it. If you are about to get a puzzle toy for the first time, then you want to get something simple. A toy that helps your dog get familiar with the concept of solving a problem during playtime and get rewarded.
Generally, the more moving parts a puzzle toy has, the trickier it is to solve. Some toys come with adjustable holes that let you change their difficulty levels as well.
We have talked about what makes puzzle toys great and how you can pick the best one enough. It’s time we start looking at the ten handpicked puzzle toys that are going to keep your dog and you happy.
- PetSafe Busy Buddy
- Milk-Bone Active
- Interactive Dog Toys by FurryFido
- OurPets IQ Treat Ball
- West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl
- KONG Wobbler
- Ethical Pet Interactive Seek-A-Treat
- Dog Tornado Puzzle
- TRIXIE Pet Products Flip Board
- Buster Activity Mat
PetSafe Busy Buddy
- An egg shaped food dispenser with a heavy bottom that makes it wobble in its place when it gets pushed.
- Slowly dispenses food as the dog plays with it. Its dispenser hole is large enough for a dog to nudge treats out with its tongue as well.
- Large capacity, can hold up to 2 cups of dry kibble.
- Made with durable plastics and dishwasher friendly.
- Its hard plastic body can be dangerous for dogs with heavier bites. The hard plastic can be broken and swallowed.
- A hollow ball with plenty of spaces to dispense food from as it rolls around. It is designed to be used with larger treats.
- Has a simple design and is large enough to be safe for larger breeds as well, it comes in three different sizes.
- Its body is made of non-toxic plastic.
- The toy is simple enough to be a perfect first puzzle toy.
- The ball’s design makes it structurally weak, heavy chewers can easily break it to bits.
Interactive Dog Toys By FurryFido
- Dispenses food as it is played with. It also lets out sound every time it gets bitten.
- A multipurpose toy that dispenses food along with acting as a dental toy. Its surface is designed to remove food particles from a dog’s teeth as they chew on it.
- Offers multiple features, making it a versatile and interesting toy.
- Cleans your dog’s teeth as it plays, promoting dental health.
- Despite being an “indestructible” toy, it is not capable of surviving powerful jaws.
OurPets IQ Treat Ball
- Another ball design slow feeder. This toy comes with a translucent top that lets dogs see what it contains, making the toy more attractive for them.
- There is a hole on one side that dispenses treats when the ball is rolled over.
- The opaque half of the ball makes treats “disappear” sometimes. This keeps things interesting for the dog and encourages it to play with the ball more.
- A simple yet attractive toy that can keep a dog entertained for some time.
- Comes with adjustable feeding levels to make the puzzle easier or harder.
- Its materials are non-toxic and the toy is quite easy to clean.
- Has great build quality, making it quite hard to break.
- The toy can get quite noisy when rolled around on hard floors.
West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl
- A chew toy that has the ability to become a treat dispensing dog toy as well. Treats get placed in the toy’s center and have to be taken out by chewing on the toy.
- Slots running along the toy keep the treat visible. This makes the toy even more interesting.
- Its chewable body is great for promoting dental health as well. The toy is designed to clean your dog’s teeth as it gets chewed on.
- It is made of durable and safe materials that can really take a beating.
- The toy can float in water, making it a great outdoor/poolside option.
- Easy to clean and easy to fill up with treats.
- It is expensive for a toy that is pretty simple in design.
- Larger dog breeds are able to chip away its sides.
- A wobble dispenser made by KONG. The toy has a hole in its middle from where it dispenses treats when pushed hard enough.
- Designed to make a dog really work for its food. This makes it a good option for fast eaters and fatter dogs.
- Made by a company that has a reputation for making toys that last.
- Can hold a variety of treats and is designed to force a dog to make an effort for its food.
- Its design is so simple that it doesn’t provide a mental challenge that will last.
- The toy can be pried open if a dog manages to get its paw stuck on its side.
Ethical Pet Interactive Seek-A-Treat
- A slide to reveal style toy that comes with multiple compartments. The compartments can be filled with treats and your dog will have to sniff them out.
- Has a wooden body and a very simple design. Your dog must rely on its sense of smell to find the correct compartment and then open it to get the treats.
- Great for developing your dog’s sense of smell from an early age.
- Its design makes it safe enough to leave your dog alone with it. You won’t have to worry about choking hazards.
- Its body is made of eco-friendly wood, making the toy environmentally friendly.
- Its wooden body is not that strong, meaning the toy will have a short lifespan.
Dog Tornado Puzzle
- Its body consists of multiple compartments, stacked on top of one another. Each compartment is rotatable, your dog must move them around to reach their food.
- Designed to be used during playtime or even as a regular feeding bowl.
- Highly interactive dog toy, offers multiple levels of complexity that your dog must solve.
- Can be a great tool to discipline your dog’s eating habits.
- Has smaller parts that dogs could easily chew on and break. These could become potential hazards if the toy is given to a chewer.
TRIXIE Pet Products Flip Board
- An advanced dog puzzle toy that has multiple covered compartments on a single tray.
- Various kinds of lids cover every compartment. Your dog will have to learn how to remove each lid to reach their treats.
- Great for cognitive development. Can be used as a training tool as well.
- Can offer a great challenge for dog breeds that aren’t that smart.
- Its lids are not durable, a dog can easily chew through them.
- Treats can be taken out of a toy by flipping it over.
- The various compartments offer very little space. You can only fit a handful of treats in the toy.
Buster Activity Mat
- A mat on which you can attach a variety of “activities”. Each activity hides treats in some way and your dog must fish them out.
- The toy is designed to be expandable, you can buy more activities in the future.
- A toy that offers various challenges at the same time.
- It is portable and easy to clean.
- Incredibly expensive.
- The toy’s cloth body makes it suitable for small dog breeds only
These are some of the best puzzle toys that you can find at the moment. Each toy has something different to offer and is capable of keeping a dog entertained. Whichever toy you pick, just remember to always check on your dog while they play with it.