Can you imagine having a two-year-old child in your home all day, every day, without any toys or games?
We all know what would happen – they would make their own entertainment and destroy your home.
So it’s hardly surprising that dogs are the same way. According to researchers, the average dog has the intelligence of a 2 to 2 1/2-year-old child.
That’s why every pet parent should have dog puzzle toys for their pup.
What Is A Dog Puzzle Toy?
Unlike a bone or a ball you need to throw for your pup, a dog puzzle toy is a toy your dog needs to interact with to make it do something.
Since most dogs love food, it’s most often a toy that contains treats they need to work at to get. Some toys may also make funny sounds or erratic movements which entice your dog.
Interactive dog puzzle toys that reward your dog with food are often in the form of a ball your dog has to roll to release the food, a toy stuffed with food or treats, or more of an actual puzzle where your dog has to open a small door or slide a lid aside to get at the treat.
I’ve used puzzle toys with my dogs since they were puppies, and they still enjoy them now as they age. Keeping very active Labrador puppies busy is a challenge and puzzle toys definitely helped.
So why is this so important for your dog?
Why Interactive Dog Puzzle Toys Are Important For Your Dog
Dogs are like busy, furry little people who need mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble and challenge them. Which is one of the reasons why having interactive dog puzzle toys for your dog is so important.
Since pet parents aren’t able to play with their fur kids every minute of the day it’s important that pups can entertain themselves part of the time.
Some of the many benefits of puzzle toys are:
- Mental and physical exercise
- Reducing boredom and destructive behaviors
- Reducing anxiety by providing your dog something else to focus on
- Opportunity to use their sense of smell abilities
- Fun training tools for you and your dog
- Stretch out meal times
- Decrease issues with your dog eating too fast
- Provide stimulation while your dog needs to be crated
- They make your dog happy by combining their love of play and food
So it’s clear there are lots of benefits to interactive toys for your dog. Does that mean you can just put a few out at the beginning of the day and head off to work?
That depends on the dog, the toy, and your level of comfort.
Supervision With Dog Puzzle Toys
When you choose a toy for your pup, especially if it will be alone with them at home or in their crate, you need to make sure it’s safe and something they can’t chew through.
None of the toys discussed below are guaranteed to be indestructible, not even the Kongs in the aggressive chewer section.
If you choose a ball style toy for your dog make sure it’s too big for them to get their jaws around so the ball doesn’t become lodged in their mouth.
Make sure to supervise your dog carefully with any toy for the first few sessions with it so you can gauge how they play with it. Remember that a bored dog at home may be tougher or more persistent in chewing a toy than when you’re watching.
NONE of the toys listed here are meant to be chew toys.
You may like some toys that you feel should only be used under supervision.
Those toys are great to use mornings or evenings to feed part or all of your dog’s meal, as rainy day activities when you can’t be outside as much, or extremely hot or cold days when it’s safer for everyone to stay in.
With all that out of the way let’s look at some toys based on your dog’s size and chewing style.
Small dogs can certainly be chewers, but it takes them much longer to destroy most toys than a larger breed aggressive chewer.
If your pup is a small breed or puppy, check out the toys in the small dog section.
For dogs who are regular chewers (meaning they don’t usually chew up their toys) check out the average chewers section.
And for pups who like chewing A LOT, or are very strong chewers, see the strong and aggressive chewers section.
Note: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle Toy
This plush hide and seek interactive puzzle toy from Outward Hound is such a fun toy for small dogs and puppies.
All of our dogs played with this toy as puppies and loved it. It’s available in bee, bird, hedgehog, squirrel (shown) and rainbow styles.
Each animal or shape has a squeaker in it that makes it more exciting for your dog when it’s pulled out of the hole.
SAFETY NOTE: Because this is a plush toy you need to make sure you keep extra close supervision of your dog or puppy when they are playing with this toy to avoid and choking hazards.
If your dog’s squeaky toys from this puzzle get too slobbery or chewed up, you can also get replacements.
Snuffle mats are great interactive dog puzzle toys for many reasons. First, they engage your dog’s sense of smell. Hiding food and treats in the mat makes your dog work for their food by using their nose.
Secondly, for doggos who eat too fast, snuffle mats also help slow down their feeding. And of course, they’re just plain fun for your pup!
This mat is machine washable and has an anti-slip back that helps it stay put on your floor.
The mat comes in two sizes, medium and large, and could be used by larger dogs as well. Just watch them carefully for chewing issues. Usually, your dog will be so busy sniffing for food and treats that they won’t chew on it until everything is gone.
This is the only toy that’s being included in every section. Our dogs have used various size Kongs since they were puppies, and still do today. They are useful for so many reasons and are very durable.
Kongs are available in a variety of sizes. Ther are special sizes and varying levels of rubber strength for Kong toys for puppies, small through large dogs, seniors and power chewers.
Classic Kong toys are basically hard rubber cylinders that are hollow in the middle for you to stuff with food for your dog. You can also leave Kongs empty as toys for fetching or chewing.
Kongs are so versatile in their uses. Just a few of the ideas you can use them for:
- Slow feeding dogs who eat too fast
- Crate training to keep your dog busy and excited about going in their crate
- Reducing anxiety when you leave the house
- Training puppies or adult dogs
- Playtime and fetch
- Distraction during nail trimming or grooming
- Redirect excitement when new people enter your home
You can include any of your pup’s favorites like peanut butter, canned food, yogurt, applesauce, easy cheese, dog treats, fruit, berries, or canned meats. For teething puppies, or to make the Kong last longer for adults, you can freeze it overnight.
It’s also very easy to make Kong stuffing recipes at home using your dog’s favorite foods. Check out our post on easy dog Kong recipes you can make at home with leftovers.
Hipat Large Dog Treat Ball
This Hipat dog treat ball toy has been one of our chocolate lab’s favorite treat toys her entire life. She isn’t a bug chewer but LOVES food, so she hasn’t been gentle on this toy and it’s still held up well.
Just add treats or kibble in the main opening of the ball and let your dog have at it! There’s a small lip inside the opening of the ball that slows the kibble from just falling out and makes the last few pieces harder to get.
The ball has indented shapes built-in which makes it easy for your dog to pick up and reposition the ball.
To clean you can just rinse it out. It’s hard to get all the water out because of the small lip inside the main opening though.
I made a small hole on the opposite end with a small screwdriver to let the water drain out the other side, but it’s not necessary to do so.
Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Puzzle Toy for Dogs
These puzzle toys by Nina Ottosson have been a big hit with our dogs, but especially with our chocolate lab, Casey, who is the smartest of the lot.
Even if your dog is not a huge chewer, however, you’ll want to keep a close eye on them while they play with this due to pieces they could remove and swallow.
There a lot of different varieties of these puzzle toys for your dog to try, from very easy to quite difficult.
Each toy has multiple spots to hide treats or kibble, and your pup has to figure out how to get them out by removing pegs, sliding covers over, opening flaps, etc.
I’ve found these toys to be sturdy and easy to clean. A great brain workout for your dog on a rainy day or just for fun!
OurPets IQ Treat Ball Interactive Dog Toys
Another toy that’s popular around our house is this interactive treat ball. I would opt for the larger 4″ size no matter the size of your dog.
This ball is great because it has a divider in the middle which holds the treats in the bottom of the ball, releasing just one or two out at at time to make the ball last longer.
The opening in the middle divider is also adjustable according to treat size. You can use regular dog food or small to medium size treats depending on the shape.
Your dog will use her nose to roll the ball around on the floor to get the treats to fall out. Our cats even like to play with this one.
Strong and Aggressive Chewers
If you have an aggressive chewer, and you’ll know if you do, please make sure to supervise you dog with these toys. While you should, of course, supervise all dogs with new toys, aggressive chewers can destroy a toy very quickly and increase their risk of ingesting or choking on pieces.
Starmark Treat Dispensing Chew Ball
This treat ball made it through years of abuse from our black lab, Cooper, who had an incredibly powerful bite and could chew a toy to bits in minutes.
The openings on each side of this ball are just right for adding kibble or small to medium size treats. Cooper would crush the whole ball in his mouth to pulverize the treats and make them fall out faster, but it still took him quite a while!
It’s also a fun toy for just throwing and retrieving for your dog, and has a great bounce.
Kong Extreme Dog Toy
This large black Kong Extreme is made for real power chewers. It was our black lab, Cooper’s, toy for all of his adult life, and is so strong that it has now been inherited by our Shepherd mix, Finn.
I’m unable to flatten this toy at all, but Cooper could flatten it in his jaws to crush dry treats inside. Even so, it always bounced right back.
Our dog Finn doesn’t have as much strength in his jaws but is a very strong chewer. This Kong is perfect for him not only because of the strength but also because it’s the longest of all the Kong toys.
He has a very long tongue (like a giraffe or anteater 😉 ), and he can use it to reach the very bottom of the Kong for any food stuck there.
Kong Wobbler Large Dog Toy
This toy was another huge hit with super chewer Cooper.
The Kong Wobbler Dog Toy can be unscrewed from the bottom to easily add a handful of treats. The bottom of the toy is weighted so when the dog pushes on it, it will wobble back and forth dispensing treats.
Make sure to screw the bottom on well after putting treats in or your dog may learn to unscrew it in their search for fast food 🙂 .
Does your dog have a favorite interactive puzzle toy that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below:)