Even the most interesting toys can get boring for our four-legged friend. Or sometimes we can’t interact with them as much as they want to interact with us. So how can we keep them busy? Dog puzzles seem to be all the rage these days, and there’s so many. But which ones are worth paying money for?
What are some good dog puzzles for little dogs? Dog puzzles that offer incentives, such as treats, provide mental stimulation, or encourage activity are worthwhile investments. When selecting dog puzzles, consider what your dog needs, when it will be used, and what your budget will allow.
Read on as we let you know about the benefits of these brainy toys and give you some suggestions to get your four-legged buddy thinking.
What are Dog Puzzle Toys?
These are toys, eating mats, or activities designed to get your canine to solve some sort of puzzle to receive their prize. Most often, these prizes involve food or treats. Sometimes, there can be small toys hidden inside larger puzzles, and those small toys are ideal for smaller dogs.
There are many reasons for these toys, some of which include:
- Mental stimulation. Dogs are smart and need their intelligence stimulated and nourished. Many canines don’t get enough mental stimulation throughout the day. These toys can offer your pet many hours of problem-solving, anticipation, motivation, and reward.
- Curving boredom. Unless you have the ability and means to always have activities available to your pet, they likely face boredom every once in a while. Even still, dogs can be finicky, just as humans can, and will need exciting new ways to bring enjoyment into their lives.
- Overeating or eating too fast. Many dogs will eat far too much when food is laying available in a dish at all times, or they may even eat too fast for them to properly chew, swallow, and digest in a healthy manner. Little dogs are especially prone to do this, and, with their smaller bladders and bowels, they typically need to use the restroom more because of this, which can lead to accidents and messes, as well as health concerns.
- Encourage activity. Some dogs are kept inside a lot, or even put into a kennel when needed. This limits their activity and leads to weight, digestive, and other concerns. Without something like the puzzle toy or other stimuli, these problems may not be properly managed or avoided.
How do Dog Puzzle Toys Work?
There are different types of puzzle toys, and the reason for purchasing them will decide how each works. Your specific needs for your unique canine will decide on what puzzle toy or toys you go with. The main types of dog puzzle toys involve:
- Alternative feeding tactics are important for dogs that eat too much or too fast. These puzzle toys will give your dog manageable bites as they play and are active with their toy. Most often these come in the form as a maze-mat, hollow toy, or button or slider puzzle. They will require the dog to solve the puzzle, play with the toy and figure out how to reach the food, or eat in small bites they can get to out of the mat.
- Activity with treats are more for mental and active stimulation than portion control. These will be a bit more in-depth with their puzzles and need for solving. Sliders, buttons, and other obstacles are included with these toys, as they are with the puzzle that provide toys.
- Toys for extended exercise and motivation. These are a bit simpler, usually, when compared with the treat puzzles. They do, however, offer a large motivation for the completion of the puzzle or different parts of the puzzle toy. A new toy is something most canines get very motivated and excited for and is a good way to get your dog extra exercise when you may not be able to personally.
- Teething toys are most often silicone and will come in the form of hollow toys that offer treats or food as they chew. It will give a distraction from their teething discomfort, help them push new teeth through, and give them a reward as they go. Smaller dogs and puppies will benefit from the smaller versions of these toys, as they will fit in their mouths the best, compared to the larger versions.
What Are the Best Dog Puzzle Toys for Small Dogs?
There are dozens of companies and types of dog puzzle toys available, so it can become a bit confusing which one to choose for you dogs. When making the choice, consider these 5 things:
- What is the age and size of your dog that will primarily be using this puzzle toy? Make sure to keep in mind that the age and size of your pet will determine what they can successfully play with, eat, accomplish, and enjoy. You don’t want to get a large puzzle toy for a puppy and tiny dog, if they can’t play with one like this, just like you don’t want to get something hard for chewing on when you have an elder dog with bad teeth.
- What is the main purpose of purchasing this toy for your animal(s)? Do they need help with eating, exercise, stimulation, teething, or more than one thing? Consider what your dog needs and then focus on your options, or consider one that has multiple aspects, such as this.
- What type of puzzle toy would most benefit your dog’s needs? If your dog is eating too much or too fast, for instance, you will want to decide if you want a feeding mat, a hollow puzzle toy, or something different. There are multiple choices when it come to each type of puzzle toy, so take your time to decide which will work best for your individual dog’s needs.
- Where will your canine use this puzzle toy the most? If your pet will be outside most often with their toy, you will likely want to avoid one with fabric or stuffing, like this. The same can be said with particularly messy puzzle toys being kept outside instead of being used mainly indoors. You will also want to consider the size of the space, such as a kennel, when choosing the size of the puzzle toy.
- What is your budget for the puzzle toy and rewards? You can find puzzle toys anywhere from $1 to over $100. Know your budget before you set out to purchase one for your animal, particularly if you aren’t sure how your animal will take to it. You can also test out the cheaper options before buying more expensive and sometimes more durable and reliable options in the future.
Our top puzzle toys include 2 each of the feeding puzzle toys, treat puzzle toys, and puzzle toys which have more toys as the prize:
- Feeding Puzzle Toys: The Tarvos Dog & Cat Food Puzzle Toy Slow Feeder has a spinning, circular contraption which drops food into a maze-like mat on the bottom. The Outward Hound puzzle feeder mat is another popular, fun option with its maze design for slowing down your dog’s eating.
- Treat Puzzle Toys: The Outward Hound Ottosson Puzzle Brick Dog Toy has multiple compartments for your dog to find its way to for their treats, and is similar to our other choice, the Nina Ottosson puzzle treat toy.
- Toy Puzzle Toys: This Hide and Seek Plush Dog Toy has a soft log full of little squirrel toys for your dog to work out of their burrows and play with. Similarly, this popcorn puzzle toy include stuffed popcorn kernels which you dog must figure out how to free from their stuffed bucket.
Dog puzzle toys can offer your animal a reward for all their efforts and they can also give them the stimulation they need when you aren’t able to give it to them. Not every canine will enjoy each type of puzzle toy, so take the time to try out different types that will suit your pet’s needs.
They can give health benefits in many forms, particularly in weight control, mental and intellectual stimulation, and teething support for the dogs who need it. If you still aren’t sure which puzzle toy to try with your animal, talk to your vet or even someone who works with animals at a groomer or qualified pet store.