- Puzzle toys engage a dog’s natural instinct to hunt and forage for food, prevent boredom, and feel more relaxed overall.
- We asked a professional dog trainer to pick the best dog puzzles, from boards to balls to snuffle mats.
Puzzle toys are one of the best and most convenient ways to work a dog’s brain. While they come in a variety of forms, each puzzle toy challenges a dog to locate and eat food hidden inside. Completing the job doesn’t just bust boredom or provide a distraction when quiet time is needed, it can actually make a dog calmer and more relaxed overall. To choose the best dog puzzles for a wide variety of pups, I’ve leaned on my decade of experience as a professional dog trainer. While not every dog will love every option, there’s a dog puzzle here to fit the confidence level and ability of every canine.
Here are the best dog puzzles in 2021
- Best dog puzzle board: Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game
- Best stacked dog puzzle: Trixie Flower Tower Activity Game
- Best plush dog puzzle: Outward Hound Hide-a-Squirrel Plush Puzzle Toy
- Best rolling dog puzzle: Starmark Treat Dispensing Ball
- Best gravity-dispensing dog puzzle: Trixie Mad Scientist Windmill
- Best snuffle mat: Shy Coyote Pets Snuffle Mat
Best dog puzzle board
To reveal hidden treats in the Brick Puzzle Game dogs must flip, slide and remove its bone-shaped bricks.
What we like: Encourages three different foraging skills, intermediate-level challenge appropriate for most dogs, BPA-free
The Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game is an intermediate-level toy that provides doggy-appropriate brain training for puzzle newbies and pros, alike. The 13-by-9-inch puzzle conceals treats in three ways, each of which requires a dog to use a separate skill: lifting and removing bone-shaped bricks, flipping open the lid of hollow blocks, and sliding those blocks on their tracks. When it needs a cleaning, the base and removable bricks can be hand-washed with water and mild soap.
Best stacked dog puzzle
The Trixie Flower Tower Activity Game has multiple levels and plenty of slots, sliders, and cones for hiding treats.
What we like: Encourages different foraging skills, adjustable difficulty level, dishwasher-safe
The Trixie Flower Tower Activity Game challenges a dog to reveal hidden food by sniffing, nudging, and pawing at its layered petals. The durable plastic toy has four stacked rotating trays and a nonslip rubber ring on its base. On the top level, three compartments fitted with removable cones hide treats. On the lower three, hidden slots hold treats. You can also insert additional cones in the 12.5-inch-diameter base to increase the puzzle’s difficulty. The toy comes with instructions and tips for use.
Best plush dog puzzle
The plush Hide-a-Squirrel Plush Puzzle Toy comes with six squirrels to discover, extract, toss and squeak.
What we like: Two toys in one, comes with six plush squeaking squirrels, large enough to stuff with additional goodies
Outward Hound’s Hide-a-Squirrel Plush Puzzle Toy engages a dog’s hunting instincts. The soft, hollow polyester tree trunk has five openings through which dogs can nuzzle and extract six small squeaking squirrels. Up the excitement by hiding additional goodies like stuffed Kongs, bully sticks, and treats in the extra-large trunk. Once freed, the squirrels can be tossed, tugged and nibbled; if your dog destroys them, a replacement pack is available. The extra-large Hide-a-Squirrel is 13 inches long by 8 inches wide and is machine washable.
Best rolling dog puzzle
The rolling Starmark Treat Dispensing Ball gets a dog up and moving as they coax the toy to drop its food.
What we like: Encourages physical activity, durable, dishwasher-safe
The Starmark Treat Dispensing Ball puts a dog with excess energy to work. Insert treats or kibble through the openings at the top and bottom, then give it to your dog to roll and chase. As they do, pieces of food will fall out at random, encouraging them to continue the game. Starmark’s vanilla-scented ball is made with chew-resistant plastic that is dishwasher-safe. It can also be used with Starmark’s interlocking treats and floated in water.
Best gravity-dispensing dog puzzle
The windmill-style Trixie Mad Scientist drops treats randomly from its beakers when spun.
What we like: Dispenses food as it spins, mix-and-match beaker lids to increase challenge, dishwasher-safe
The Trixie Mad Scientist Windmill puts a unique spin on the puzzle toy. The 17-inch tall windmill-style toy is fitted with four beakers capped with perforated lids. Place treats or kibble in each beaker, and as your dog sniffs and nudges, treats fall onto the tray below. This toy is made for beginners, but it comes with a set of lids with fewer perforations to increase the difficulty. An instruction book offers tips and tricks for encouraging disinterested dogs and upping the challenge. Trixie’s Mad Scientist is made from plastic with nonslip rubber feet and its beakers and lids are dishwasher-safe.
Best snuffle mat
The Shy Coyote Pets Snuffle Mat engages a dog’s nose and noggin’ when sprinkled and stuffed with treats or kibble.
What we like: Variety of soft ridges and pockets for hiding food, folds for storage, washing machine-safe
While any dog will love the Shy Coyote Pets Snuffle Mat, it is an ideal foraging toy for those that lack confidence or have declining mobility, cognition, or vision. With no moving parts or plastic pieces to intimidate or trip them up, dogs are free to let their nose guide them to treats or kibble sprinkled among the mat’s folds, pockets, and loops. The brightly colored and generously sized 28.7-by-28.7-inch Shy Coyote Mat has a nonslip base with a squeaker, bell, and crinkle material sewn inside. This mat is water repellant, washing-machine safe, and folds easily for storage. It comes with a training guide to help get your dog off on the right paw.
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