dog puzzle toy

5 of the Best Dog Puzzle Toys to Train Canine Brains

Dogs are seriously clever beasts. We don’t always give our fuzzy little brains the credit they deserve! They might act daft or silly occasionally, but there’s a ton of inquisitive brainpower under the bonnet. That’s why investing in the best dog puzzles might just be the perfect stimulation your pup needs right now.

In this guide, we’ll take you through five of the best dog puzzle toys available to buy online right now. These are well-loved and are not only owner-approved, but get paws-up from happy dogs, too!

In case you’re in a hurry, here’s our top choice for a dog puzzle toy in the UK:

TRIXIE Intelligence toy dog activity "Dog Activity strategy...
  • Board game with 2 skittles and recesses with folding and sliding lids
  • Non-slip thanks to rubber ring
  • Includes training instructions

What are dog puzzles?

Dog puzzles are interactive toys designed to give your pet a mental and physical workout. Much like how many of us enjoy doing puzzles, dogs, too, have a knack for problem-solving. Of course, it helps if there’s a treat or two at the end, and thankfully, the best puzzle toys on the market more than satisfy this need.

Dog puzzles come in various shapes, sizes, styles and types. There are some puzzles that pups can open up to reveal treats, while others are built with sliders, covering up secret morsels. Above all, the best dog puzzles teach your dog to ‘work’ for their rewards. They may have to tip or tilt a toy a certain way, for example.

Or, they may have to use their paws, or teeth, to activate a treat release. It’s really fascinating watching pets solve these problems – and best of all, they love the thrill of getting into some tasty rewards.

Knowing which dog puzzles to buy for your pet may be tricky at first. Some puzzle manufacturers, such as Nina Ottosson’s Outward Hound, ranks toy complexity into ‘easy’, ‘intermediate’, ‘advanced’ and ‘expert’ levels. We’d recommend you choose ‘easy’ if your dog’s never tried a puzzle toy before – it’s probably a good idea to underestimate them if you want to avoid frustration!

Above all, you should take time to read what other dog owners have to say. As dog owners ourselves, we know what works well for treat-seeking pups – and we’ve linked to Amazon sellers with verified reviews. Be sure to read what buyers have to say, as they, like you, just want the best for their dogs!

A word of caution – never leave a dog with a puzzle toy unsupervised. While the best puzzles are designed to be safe for boisterous play and exploration, there’s always a risk an over-exerting pet may hurt themselves. Be sure to watch your pup have fun!

Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Brick Dog Puzzle...
HiCollections Starmark Small Bob-a-Lot Interactive Dog Toy -...
Top Pick
TRIXIE Intelligence toy dog activity "Dog Activity strategy...
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Casino Interactive Treat...
Dog Puzzle Slow Feeder Toy,Puppy Treat Dispenser Slow Feeder...
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Brick Dog Puzzle...
HiCollections Starmark Small Bob-a-Lot Interactive Dog Toy -...
TRIXIE Intelligence toy dog activity "Dog Activity strategy...
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Casino Interactive Treat...
Dog Puzzle Slow Feeder Toy,Puppy Treat Dispenser Slow Feeder...
£10.69
£14.99
£6.19
£16.09
£10.99
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Brick Dog Puzzle...
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Brick Dog Puzzle...
£10.69
HiCollections Starmark Small Bob-a-Lot Interactive Dog Toy -...
HiCollections Starmark Small Bob-a-Lot Interactive Dog Toy -...
£14.99
Top Pick
TRIXIE Intelligence toy dog activity "Dog Activity strategy...
TRIXIE Intelligence toy dog activity "Dog Activity strategy...
£6.19
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Casino Interactive Treat...
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Casino Interactive Treat...
£16.09
Dog Puzzle Slow Feeder Toy,Puppy Treat Dispenser Slow Feeder...
Dog Puzzle Slow Feeder Toy,Puppy Treat Dispenser Slow Feeder...
£10.99

Best Dog Puzzle Toys: Our Top Five

There are thousands of different dog puzzles out there – it’s a little mind-boggling to say the least! That, however, is where we can help. Here’s our top five dog puzzle picks, great for pups of all sizes and breeds.

Please note, all prices listed below are based on the RRP at the time of writing. You might be lucky and grab a bargain!

1. Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Brick Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy

Sale
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Brick Dog Puzzle...
  • BOREDOM BUSTER INTERACTIVE DOG TOY: As one of our most popular intermediate level 2 designs, the Dog...
  • FLIP, LIFT, & SLIDE TO HIDE TREATS: The Nina Ottosson Dog Brick comes with 3 types of treat hiding...
  • ENCOURAGES POSITIVE PLAY HABITS: This fun and rewarding puzzle is great for reducing anxious dog...

In our collective opinion, Nina Ottosson’s doggy puzzle brand is the leading name in canine brain training! Their puzzles are premium-grade – but, more often than not, you’ll find the RRP (listed above) cut down to size. 

This particular treat toy is ranked as a ‘level 2’ puzzle, or for ‘intermediate’ problem-solvers. The puzzle comprises three ways to access hidden treats. Dogs have to open chests, lift out plastic bones and even slide blocks to get all the treasure! 

They can choose to use paws or teeth – and this particular tray should give your pet 15-20 minutes of hunting fun (depending on their aptitude!).

We love this puzzle toy because it’s free from harmful chemicals and elements that might harm our pets. It’s also amazingly easy to clean and put back together (because we can’t expect our pups to tidy up, can we?).

Advantages:

  • Three different treat zones for three times to fun
  • Easy to wipe clean and rebuild
  • Great for training dogs to use paws and teeth
  • A time-consuming distraction for most pets

Disadvantages:

  • Some dogs may get too clever for this toy too quickly!
  • Can be expensive compared to others (but check for deals)

2. Starmark Bob-a-Lot Interactive Dog Toy, Small

HiCollections Starmark Small Bob-a-Lot Interactive Dog Toy -...
  • A fun and interesting way of feeding dogs of all sizes
  • Food/treats are inserted at the top and then the bob-a-lot wobbles and bobbles dropping treats as it...
  • Adjustable openings to customise difficulty, providing a good interactive challenge

We’ve mentioned Starmark’s brilliant Bob-a-Lot before here at Doggy Dream Team, but it continues to be massively popular with the pup-owning masses! We’re not surprised – this is one of Amazon’s best-selling interactive toys, and it’s likely thanks to the fact it’s so simple.

The Bob-a-Lot is a treat dispenser toy, which means dogs have to work out how to tip and tilt it the right way to release rewards. You simply pop the treats into the top of the toy, and as your pet knocks and wobbles it around, it’ll steadily release tasty morsels. You can even adjust it to your dog’s ability – meaning if they start finding Bob-a-Lot too much of a breeze, you can increase the difficulty level!

This wonderful toy is a great puzzle staple that appeals to dogs of all sizes. In fact, there’s a small and a large option you can choose between, meaning if your pooch has larger chops than most, go ‘XL’.

Advantages:

  • Very affordable
  • Well-loved by dog owners and their pets
  • Nice and simple design
  • Adjustable treat dispenser function

Disadvantages:

  • Maybe not as challenging as other toys

3. Trixie Dog Activity Flip Board

TRIXIE Intelligence toy dog activity "Dog Activity strategy...
  • Board game with 2 skittles and recesses with folding and sliding lids
  • Non-slip thanks to rubber ring
  • Includes training instructions

Trixie’s Dog Activity range is another line that’s picked up lots of praise by pet owners on the web. This particular dog puzzle toy is graded at ‘level 2’, meaning it’s perfect for those pups who already have some experience with interactive puzzles. Trixie grades its toys from level 1 to 3, with ‘1’ being easy, and ‘3’ being challenging.

Much like the Outward Hound treat puzzle listed above, this toy offers flip-ups and sliders for dogs to navigate with teeth and paws. Your pooch will need to learn how to activate and reveal reward centres, making this toy particularly useful for training memory recall. It’s also developed with all breeds in mind, making this puzzle a one-size-fits-all solution. However, we’d recommend it for smaller dogs first and foremost.

In some cases, if your dog’s new to puzzles, you may need to guide them through this particular toy. That’s not a bad thing – and the fact it’s both hard plastic and non-slip makes it safe to use across the home.

If your dog ‘graduates’ from level 2 with flying colours, be sure to try Trixie’s level 3 offering – a chess board, only for the smartest of treasure hunters!

Advantages:

  • Non-slip and built for boisterous play
  • Great for memory training
  • Exciting and diverting for long periods
  • Ideal for smaller breeds of dog, but designed for all

Disadvantages:

  • Some owners warn of pieces that are small and loose – always supervise your dog

4. Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Casino Interactive Treat Puzzle Dog Toy

Sale
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Dog Casino Interactive Treat...
  • BOREDOM BUSTER INTERACTIVE DOG TOY: The Dog Casino is an advanced level 3 puzzle game that will...
  • SWIVEL, PULL, & LOCK TO HIDE TREATS: Simply pull out the orange drawers, fill with treats,and push...
  • NO REMOVABLE PARTS & EASY TO CLEAN: Built in play pieces that don't come out when your dog plays to...

Back to Outward Hound, it’s time to take a look at one of the more advanced puzzle toys available to creative doggy brains! This is ‘level 3’ on Ottosson’s complexity scale, meaning it’s recommended for pets that have graduated from intermediate or slightly tricky treat trays. It’s one level down from ‘expert’, but all the same, this puzzle will certainly give your dog something to play for.

This ‘dog casino’ toy works on the idea that treats are placed in drawers all around the main tray – and can then be locked away! It’s up to your creative canine to work out how to unlock and release their rewards. This is a fiendish challenge, but one that the smartest of pets have proven to work to their advantage.

You don’t even have to lock the drawers if you’d like to get your dog better acquainted with how the game actually works. Then, when they’re a little more confident, swivel the locks into place and let them work out what happens next.

As with other Outward Hound toys, this dog puzzle arrives free from anything nasty in the manufacturing – making it safe for pups to enjoy at their leisure. However, do always make sure your dog is fully supervised.

Advantages:

  • Ideal for dogs who are progressing quickly in training
  • Amazing fun for owners – can your dog rise to the challenge?
  • Made without nasty chemicals and by-products
  • Easy to clean and maintain

Disadvantages:

  • May be more expensive than most – but fingers crossed for a discount!

5. Elezenioc Dog Puzzle Slow Feeder Toy

Dog Puzzle Slow Feeder Toy,Puppy Treat Dispenser Slow Feeder...
  • 【INCREASE FUN & IMPROVE IQ】 -This Dog Puzzle Feeder Toy is full of fun. It not only needs the...
  • 【INTELLIGENT DESIGN】 - Dog Puzzle Feeder Toy has treat compartments & moving pieces will keep...
  • 【SLOW FEEDER TOY】 - Dog Puzzle Feeder Toy can slow down feeding to prevent overeating and help...

Finally, let’s move onto something a little simpler. Elezenioc’s slider puzzle tray is eye-catching and may seem complex at first, but it shouldn’t take too long for most curious canines to get stuck into. That said, it’s proven to be a great time-consuming activity for dogs of all ages to get accustomed to.

Built with a non-slip footing and tightened casing, this dog puzzle is built with boisterous paws in mind! In fact, it works great as a simple treat dispenser for puppies that just want to play and explore. Available in three fun colours, your dog simply needs to slide the various treat zones open to access tasty food. It’s a lovely entry-level toy that works well as a slow treat dispenser, ideal if you want to keep your pup occupied for a little while.

This also means you can help your dog digest rewards, too, without risking them wolfing everything down in one go! This treat tray is made with non-toxic material, ensuring your pooch’s safety no matter how hard they go at it.

Advantages:

  • Great price for an entry-level toy
  • Super-safe in more ways than one
  • Ideal as a slow treat dispenser
  • Nice and easy to keep clean

Disadvantages:

  • Very clever pets will find this toy very easy to complete
  • Not a well-known brand

Is Your Dog Bored?

4 signs that indicate your dog may be bored:

  1. Chew the furniture
  2. Bark excessively
  3. Dig up the garden
  4. Generally behave badly?

If you answered “Yes” to any one of the above, then you may have a bored dog on your hands. Bored dogs lack mental stimulation!

Why Boredom Leads to Bad Behaviour

Consider a dog in the wild. He tracks down his supper, gives chase, makes a kill, and then eats it. This engages all his senses and burns energy. Contrast this with the modern pet and a bowl of kibble placed in front of him twice a day. Now what…?

Whilst his physical need for food is met, vital sensory stimulation is missing. The bored dog makes his own entertainment, which results in chewing, barking, digging, or being generally obnoxious.

However, there are ways the savvy pet parent can redirect that excess energy into appropriate activities, to turn the destructive dog into a contented canine.

Why buy puzzle toys for your dog?

Still unsure whether or not puzzles are a wise investment for your dog’s toy box? Let’s take a look at some of the advantages.

They’re tons of fun!

Above all, the best dog puzzle toys are designed and built with fun in mind. None are so taxing that dogs will find them frustrating or boring. Rather than chase the same old ball or chew that raggedy-looking tugger, puzzles engage your dog’s brain and give them something a little different to try.

They’re fantastic for exercise.

While puzzles provide brain training first and foremost, many dog puzzles provide excellent physical exercise, too. Some will wobble and shake about, encouraging your pet to chase and get access to treats!

They’ll help to prevent boredom.

Yes, even dogs can get bored. They are remarkably intelligent creatures – meaning that they crave mental stimulation as well as tasty rewards and long walks. Dogs love routine, but at the same time, something a little bit different in the odd new game or treat will keep them happy and engaged.

If you don’t have the time or space to actively play with pets more than offering them the odd toy, puzzles are perfect at keeping their little cogs whirring. As always, of course, you must ensure you supervise your dog(s) while they take to their new toys!

You can easily manage their treats.

Treat management can be tricky, especially when you have a dog that’s already overweight – but you still need to train them! You can use dog puzzle toys to portion off their rewards, biscuits, and even daily food.

This works by ensuring your pets don’t overfill or overload themselves with food too quickly. By having to work for their food, they can better pace themselves. It’s scientifically proven that eating slowly can prevent the need or urge to eat more – and that psychology may work on your pets, too!

If your dog doesn’t get too much exercise for any reason, carefully managing a slow release of treats is also important to avoid them from gaining too much weight. As mentioned, doggy puzzles are also superb for encouraging physical exercise, too, making it an asset to any canine diet routine.

They’re fantastic training aids.

Training a dog is hard work – and it takes on many shapes and forms! While teaching your pup to heel and stay is one thing, making sure they get enough mental stimulation elsewhere can sometimes be tricky to arrange.

The best dog puzzle toys provide dogs with opportunities to get creative in solving problems. They’ll learn to use paws and teeth to open and slide away pieces, and may even learn cause-and-effect – encouraging them to push a button or activate a lever, for example, to unlock a treat or two.

You’ll be surprised at what your dog(s) can achieve! Why not look at puzzle ranges such as Trixie or Outward Hound, too, which provide different difficulty levels? Once your pet’s passed level 1, upgrade to levels 2, 3 and 4 – and remember to take things slowly!

They’re welcome (non-destructive) distractions!

Bored, lonely or even upset dogs can get very destructive. Without a healthy outlet for these emotions, they can end up destroying items or even hurting themselves. While it’s a good idea to try and help your distressed dog in any way you can, dog puzzles can offer a helpful step towards giving them something extra to do.

Occupying your dog’s mind is a great way to help take their mind off stresses such as separation anxiety, too (though someone will need to be with them to observe play). General anxiety in dogs may be counteracted by a fun toy or puzzle that will take up their mental and physical energy.

Of course, different dogs react to toys and distractions in different ways. Therefore, puzzles may not be the perfect solution for your pooch’s individual problems. If you’re concerned, always make sure to get in touch with your vet for advice before investing in puzzle toys.

What is Mental Stimulation for Dogs?

We have talked about puzzles and toys in this article, and its important to remember that brain games for dogs aren’t about Sudoku but engaging those canine senses through ‘environmental enrichment’, providing an outlet for behaviours such as sniffing or digging.

“While we often envisage enrichment in the context of zoos, it has an important place in pet homes.” 
L Haug, DVM, MS, DACVB

With a destructive dog stop thinking about what he can’t do, and shift the emphasis onto what he can. For example, your Beagle loves to shred the sofa. What do Beagles love best (apart from destruction!)? Why, following a scent of course.

Mental Stimulation Games for your Dog

Beating boredom is easy and frees up time, when you know how. In addition to dog puzzle toys, look at the following suggestions for brain games for dogs that keep both of you happy.

Scent-sational

Lay a scent trail in the garden for your eager Beagle to follow. Simply hide a favourite toy beneath one of two, up turned buckets, and have the dog sniff it out. Then drag the toy over the grass (to lay a scent trail), hide it under a bucket and tell the dog to “Go find…”

This makes a great game, and as the dog learns what’s expected you can make the trail longer and more complex.

“The average pet receives low levels of environmental stimulation, and most of this is repetitive and predictable.” 
L Haug, DVM, MS, DACVB

Food and Feeding

From now onwards, make your pet work for his food by engaging his mind. Here’s how:

  • Scatter his food on the lawn so he has to go searching for it.
  • Divide his dinner into several pots and dot them around the garden.
  • Place kibble inside a taped, rolled newspaper – Let the dog chew to the food.
  • Drill holes in an empty plastic bottle and put biscuits inside. The dog bats the bottle to get the kibble to drop out.
  • Put his treats inside empty cereal or cardboard boxes and tape them up, so he has to chew to get the goodies.
  • Investigate the exciting range of commercial puzzle feeders. These include the Buster Cube or Activity Ball, or Kong for wet food (A top tip is to pack the Kong with canned food and pop it in the freezer overnight. Licking out the frozen food keeps a dog busy for hours.)

The Importance of Play

Play might appear frivolous fun, it provides vital stimulation. For example:

  • Plush toys: Some dogs love the feel of fur in their mouth and love the role play games with a cuddly toy.
  • Squeaky toys: This plumbs into the squeal of a creature in distress (Oh no!) and is a strong trigger for hunting and chase behaviour
  • Balls and Frisbees: Lots of lovely chasing…just like a wild dog after a rabbit.
  • Tug toys: The fun of dragging prey to ground

A Healthy Mind and Body

A played-out dog is a happy dog. Exercise keeps both body and mind fit, and lack of exercise is a common cause of boredom. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise that is appropriate for his age and breed. But that doesn’t have to mean doing circuits of the park. Branch out and look for stimulating experiences for both of you:

  • Swimming: Enrol in a dog-swimming class and teach him a new skill.
  • Play Parties: Arrange for meet-ups with other doggy friends for them to romp around and wear themselves out.
  • Canine Clubs: Look for a local agility or Flyball club. These days there are all sorts of unusual activities for dogs including Canicross, Bikejoring, Scenting, Tracking, Treibball, and weight pulling.
  • Easy Options: The easy way to wear a dog out is to teach him a love of Frisbee catching or fetch!

If you Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

If your dog is a chewer, channel that energy to an appropriate chew toy. Find a durable, long lasting dog chew and praise him for chewing on it. Remove the chew in-between times so that it remains novel and exciting.

If your dog is a digger, then designate a digging patch in the garden. Invest in a cheap kiddie’s sandpit and fill it with earth. Bury a favourite toy in it and encourage the dog to dig and find it.

Final Thoughts

The best dog puzzle toys are fun not only for pets, but for owners, too! It’s fascinating to see our furry friends solve problems that require genuine deeper thinking. Of course, if your dog is completely new to puzzle toys, it makes sense to take things slow – and to show your pooch how to use their new gizmos with lots of patience.

In time, you may find that your pet starts to show incredible mental aptitude – you never truly know their potential! As always, discuss puzzle toys with your vet if you’re unsure how to get started – but the five brilliant toys we’ve picked here are ideal to help kick off a new education regime!

Dog toys don’t have to be boring – or always focused on fetch this, fetch that! Give them a mental workout – with tantalising treats waiting as buried treasure they can unlock.

TRIXIE Intelligence toy dog activity "Dog Activity strategy...
  • Board game with 2 skittles and recesses with folding and sliding lids
  • Non-slip thanks to rubber ring
  • Includes training instructions

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