The 15 Best Dog Puzzle Toys to Beat Boredom
Like kids, dogs seem to have a sixth sense for wanting to play when you're at your busiest. While you could chalk it up to the nature of their breed (especially with high-energy breeds like German shepherds, Pembroke Welsh corgis, and Siberian huskies), the behavior stems from a need virtually all dogs have.
"Dogs as a species have deep roots in supporting people in solving problems such as hunting for food and protecting the pack from predators," says Bonnie Bradgon, DVM, MS, and co-founder of the Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association.
Meeting this need is simple: Introduce your dog to puzzle toys. These interactive toys usually use treats as positive reinforcement rewards to engage dogs in challenges like mazes, hide-and-seek tasks, and pattern recognition. The activities are so absorbing, they could help boost your dog's attention span.
How to Introduce Your Dog to Puzzle Toys
When introducing dog puzzle toys, Bragdon recommends playing alongside your pup to get them interested. "Research shows dogs are much more interested in play when their human partner participates," she says. You may have to try a few different kinds of toys before finding a good fit, too.
Some more words of advice: Steer clear of toys with small parts that could become choking hazards, use low-calorie treats as rewards and, if you're in a multi-dog household, be aware that toys and treats could lead to jealousy, so be mindful if the enrichment needs to be in separate rooms. After all, you know your dogs and their behavior best. Start your search for the perfect dog puzzle toy now with these engaging options.
The Best Dog Puzzle Toys for Each Difficulty Level
For puppies or dogs that are just starting to develop problem solving skills, these easier puzzles make a fun addition to your pup's toy box. Ease them in to the enrichment activity instead of giving them the hardest toy right away so they don't get frustrated or give up too quickly.
Intermediate dog puzzle toys are for pups who have progressed past the basic Kong toys and snuffle mats but aren't quite ready for the really difficult puzzles or interactive games. Keep these toys on regular rotation for dogs that enjoy a fun challenge that keeps them mentally stimulated for hours on end.
For the dogs that are all out puzzle masters, these toys are perfect for pups who are already bored of the beginner and intermediate options, and need something more up to their level.
Beginner Dog Puzzle Toys
Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Mazee Puzzle Dog Toy
Introduce a puzzle toy into your dog's routine with a game that takes a familiar sight (a ball) and adds a simple challenge (an inner maze where treats can travel). Both big and small dogs enjoy the simple maze, just note that the soft outer shell isn't built for power-chewers.
Shop now: Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Mazee Puzzle Dog Toy, $17; chewy.com
ZippyPaws Burrow Squeaky Hide and Seek Hedgehog Den Plush Dog Toy
Engage your dog's hunting instincts with hide-and-seek puzzle toys, like this fun hedgehog-themed set. Just hide the squeaky toys inside their "den," then let the hunt begin. The machine-washable set was designed for small- and medium-size dogs but not for aggressive chewers. Good news: Replacement squeaky toys are available in case they get a little too loved.
Shop now: ZippyPaws Burrow Squeaky Hide and Seek Hedgehog Den Plush Dog Toy, $9; chewy.com
ZippyPaws Burrow Interactive Squeaky Hide and Seek Unicorn Toy
This adorable set has the same basic concept as the hedgehog den design—and while it is made for all dogs, this model is one of the best puzzle toys for puppies. It's all due to the petite size of the cute little unicorns, which are easier for small mouths to hold.
Shop now: ZippyPaws Burrow Interactive Squeaky Hide and Seek Unicorn Toy, $13, amazon.com
West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl Small Dog Toy
This simple chew toy is a great introduction to the concept of dog treat puzzle toys, especially for enthusiastic chewers. Available in two sizes, it's made of a durable latex-free material (thermoplastic elastomer) that's also recyclable after those play sessions add up. Just place a treat inside; the slots in the center provide tempting whiffs at the treasure within.
Shop now: West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl Small Dog Toy, $16; walmart.com
Green House Dog Snuffle Mat Pet Puzzle Toy
Though it looks like a decoration you might find in a preschool, this is one of the best food puzzle toys for training curious pups. Just place the mat on the floor, then hide kibble inside the flaps, compartments, and layers made of eco-friendly felt on a durable waterproof oxford cloth mat. Your dog will then follow their nose to "hunt" for the food or treats.
Shop now: Green House Dog Snuffle Mat Pet Puzzle Toy, $22; amazon.com
Intermediate Dog Puzzle Toys
SPOT Seek-a-Treat Flip 'N Slide Treat Dispenser
Though the true difficulty level for this toy will vary depending on your dog and how experienced they are with these kinds of toys. The multiple interaction methods (sliders and flippers move to reveal treats) puts this in the "intermediate" effort range of dog puzzle toys.
Shop now: SPOT Seek-a-Treat Flip 'N Slide Treat Dispenser, $21; amazon.com
iFetch iDig Stay Dog Toy, Blue
One of the best puzzle toys for dogs who like to dig, the iFetch iDig makes this activity possible indoors. (Your carpet, pillows, and couch cushions will thank you.) It works with a few flaps that have pockets hiding treats and toys. Your dog will then paw, nudge, and dig until they find the different treasures. The flaps are sturdy and machine washable.
Shop now: iFetch iDig Stay Dog Toy, Blue, $60; chewy.com
Trixie Mad Scientist Turn Around Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy, Level 2
This creative dog food puzzle toy has a whimsical design that lets your pup play Bill Nye. You place food or treats inside one of the dishwasher-safe beakers, then cover each with a dispenser lid. Your dog will figure out how to flip and balance the beakers to get the treat. You can mix and match the different lids (or go without lids) to keep it interesting.
Shop now: Trixie Mad Scientist Turn Around Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy, Level 2, $18; chewy.com
PupPod Rocker & Feeder Enrichment Puzzle Toy
One of the best options for households where pet parents are often away at work, this system includes a play unit and a combo treat dispenser/HD camera that streams live video of play sessions. The play unit is controlled by an app that can create pattern-recognition-style puzzles with different cues (like sounds or lights) that range from easy to difficult.
Shop now: PupPod Rocker & Feeder Enrichment Puzzle Toy, $200; amazon.com
AWOOF Pet Snuffle Mat for Dogs
If your pup enjoys snuffle mats but has outgrown the easier flat mat styles, the more compact design of this mat offers a bigger challenge. It looks a bit like an artsy interpretation of a flower, with lots of flat, tightly-packed "petals." Here, pups have to work a little harder to find the treats you'll hide inside the layers.
Shop now: AWOOF Pet Snuffle Mat for Dogs, $21; amazon.com
Advanced Dog Puzzle Toys
Trixie Flower Tower Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy
This versatile dog puzzle toy is made up of a tower with spinning levels with slots, sliders, and cones that all require different techniques to get to the treats but can be modified based on your pup's skill level. Non-skid feet keep the base steady as your dog explores.
Shop now: Trixie Flower Tower Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy, $32; chewy.com
Sniffiz SmellyMatty Snuffle Mat for Dogs
This snuffle mat keeps things novel with a variety of elements that build on nose work training. In addition to the main mat (which includes hidden pockets and grass-style hiding spots for treats), there's a "handkerchief" (roll it to hide a treat), "puzzle board" with wide pockets, a small "wallet," a "book" with slim compartments, and a nesting-doll-like "ball pocket."
Shop now: Sniffiz SmellyMatty Snuffle Mat for Dogs, $45; amazon.com
My Intelligent Dogs Sudoku Advanced Wooden Dog Toy
Here's a dog puzzle toy that's truly a puzzle: Sudoku. While this isn't the numbers-driven game you may have used to pass time at meetings or appointments, the concept is somewhat similar in spirit in that your pup has to order these squares into the right position to "win" (revealing a treat). The brand also has bigger puzzles for dogs who develop a love for the game.
Shop now: My Intelligent Dogs Sudoku Advance Wooden Dog Toy, $18; amazon.com
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Worker Composite Puzzle
This advanced dog treat puzzle toy is really a game of hide-and-seek. Just add treats inside the compartments and blocks, then close the flippers and slide the blocks to hide the treats. (You may have to show your dog how to reveal treats a few times.) Good to know: Dogs of differing abilities who may not have use of their paws can still play using their snouts.
Shop now: Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Worker Composite Puzzle, $24; chewy.com
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Level 4 Interactive Puzzle Game Dog Toy
If your dog is already super smart, this hide-and-seek game turns the difficulty level up a notch. Here, it's not just about sliding the flat squares one at a time around the outer tray to find treats. There's also an inner wheel that dispenses treats—but it has to be positioned just so for the treat covers to move.
Shop now: Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Level 4 Interactive Puzzle Game Dog Toy, $30; amazon.com