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Dogs in a Lords & Labrador dog bed
  • Writer's pictureSmart Bark

Best Puzzle Toys for Dogs : Banish Boredom

Updated: Apr 10

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Looking for ways to keep your dog entertained and stimulated? Investing in a high quality dog puzzle toy could be the answer.


Puzzle or dog enrichment toys as they're otherwise known, have been specifically designed to exercise your dog's brain, provide endless opportunities for learning and amazingly can tire your four-legged friend out as much as a dog walk.


So why not add a cool new interactive dog puzzle toy to your collection ?


Dog with dog puzzle toy

At Smart Bark, we're always searching for new and interesting dog toys.


You can judge for yourself whether you like the look of the dog toy and we'll fill you in as best we can how difficult they are, how durable and how well they'll maintain your dog's interest.

​Not sure if a puzzle toy fits the bill ?

We explore a whole collection of dog toys from chew toys to keep them occupied, to interactive toys to help you strengthen your bond - Best Dog Toys for 2024

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS


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Buying Advice for Dog Puzzle Toys


Puzzle or interactive toys are very different from other dog toys. They're not for chewing, chasing or fetching, they are primarily aimed at learning and concentration.


With this in mind, you need to select a puzzle toy with a suitable challenge level to suit your dog. Let's face it, if the puzzle is too difficult they will become frustrated. Conversely if it's too easy they'll snuffle any treats on offer without getting any enrichment.

dog stimulation toys

Don't worry though, good puzzle toys have a degree of flexibility to make them harder or easier to suit your pup. Ultimately, puzzle toys do need a level of human input especially when your dog is being introduced to the toy.


Our review includes the best interactive dog puzzles sorted into three difficulty categories, to help you provide maximum enrichment for your dog, regardless of their problem solving skills.

You may well need to 'scaffold' the play to get your dog started, but always remember to give your dog plenty of time to attempt to work through problems on their own. This is where the enrichment element comes in.


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Our Picks of the Best Dog Puzzle Toys


If you're looking for something simple, to keep your dog or puppy occupied whilst engaging their brain and making them work harder for their food, here are 3 easy, entry level puzzles.



1. Best for Beginners

KONG Gyro


The Gyro dog toy is a simple but well designed treat dispenser from the internationally renowned canine company KONG.


Puppy with Kong Gyro dog toy

This is a great introduction to dog puzzle toys as it doesn't involve a huge amount of strategy and the results are immediate.


The blue central sphere has a hole to release treats as your dog touches and spins it. The smaller the treats the easier it is to leave a tasty trail as your dog nudges it around the kitchen floor.


There is an opportunity to make the Gyro more of a challenge for your dog by adding chunkier treats. The dispensing hole is approx. 2cm diameter (slightly smaller than a £1 coin).


The red outer ring slows the dispenser, stopping it from spinning out of control and sliding under your cupboards. The inner blue ball is transparent so you can see when it's empty and simply unscrews for easy cleaning.

We can honestly recommend the KONG Gyro as we've tested it regularly over several months. It's simple, durable and we love it's flexibility, suiting all dogs from in-experienced puppies like Phoebe, our miniature Dachshund in the photo to more experienced dogs.

Our one reservation would be Power Chewers ! As it's made from plastic not rubber, we wouldn't recommend this for any serious chewers out there. You may be better with the larger, heavier and more substantial Bob-A-Lot featured later in this review.


Like the Bob-a-Lot featured later, the KONG Gyro could even be used as a slow feeder or to entice fussy eaters if your dog shows some anxiety eating from a more traditional dog bowl.


We've found that the sheer movement element of the GYRO grabs your dogs attention and appears to make the food more interesting. Available in two sizes.

Reasons to Buy

+ Simple puzzle

+ Dispenses treats

+ Two sizes available

+ Easy to clean

+ Great value enrichment toy


Reasons to Avoid

- Limited challenge

- Not suitable for power chewers


Buying Options

 

2. Best for Dog Enrichment

Pet Impact


Simply put, enrichment is anything that stimulates a dog's mind, engages their senses and encourages natural species-specific behaviour.


Enrichment Box for dogs from Pet Impact

Pet Impact have created a collection of 4 different toy types which together provide excellent physical and mental stimulation for your dog.


From snuffle mats to encourage your dog's natural foraging skills to lick mats to reduce stress and release endorphins it's a great toy combination.


Better still, not only is the Enrichment Box full of toys to keep your dog busy but it's created for dog lovers looking to reduce their environmental pawprint.


The box includes :-

⭐️ A Snuffle Mat

⭐️ Lick Mat

⭐️ Treat Dispensing Ball

⭐️ Tug Toy


Reasons to Buy

+ Great value

+ 4 in 1 toy options

+ Environmentally friendly


Reasons to Avoid

- Not suitable for wet treats

 


3. Brilliant Boredom Buster

SodaPup


Durable treat dispensers are a super simple, cheap yet innovative idea to keep your dog entertained. Acting as a boredom buster, they are principally designed to fill with your dog’s favourite treat or food.


SodaPup Honey Pot treat dispenser for dogs

Winnie the Pooh would love this honey pot from SodaPup and we think your dog will too. But don't be fooled by it's simplicity!


This honey pot will provide a tasty and fun game for your dog as they work around the pot to seek out every last titbit with their tongue.


The benefits don't stop there. If you have a greedy guzzler that can inhale their food, you could serve their whole meal from the honey pot to provide more of a challenge and to ultimately slow them down.


We love the Honey Pot design because it is incredibly easy to clean (much easier than a Kong), so you can fill it with kibble, wet or raw dog food and add a whole range of treats and supplements.


We've found for best results, mix some wet and dry foods. Peanut butter, Pure Paté and yoghurt act as excellent glues for dried foods and supplements.


SodaPup Honey Pot filled with dog foods

We think that this Honey Pot Treat Dispenser offers a great puzzle for older dogs and the perfect distraction for young dogs and puppies.


We are firm fans of the SodaPup range, including their amazing HoneyComb eBowl which we feature in the Best Dog Bowls for 2024.


Reasons to Buy

+ Simple puzzle

+ Promotes calm behaviour

+ Simple distraction

+ Tough


Reasons to Avoid

- Only works with food


Buying Options

You might be interested in .......

Best Lick Mats for Dogs - If you're not convinced by the Honey Pot Treat Dispenser, why not consider a lick mat ? We test different styles of Lick mats and analyse them for attention span, eating speed, durability and cleanliness. We also include some super tasty topper ideas.

 

If you searching for something to stretch your dog further, an intermediate dog puzzle will be perfect. There are often ways you can make these puzzles simpler or more complicated to suit your dog and of course you can adapt them as they learn and improve.



4. Best for Dry Treat Rewards

Bob-A-Lot


Starmark has been the world leader in pet education for over a decade, with award-winning training and behaviour tools developed by experts.

Filling the Bob-A-Lot dog toy with treats

We bought and tested the Starmark Bob-A-Lot interactive dog puzzle toy to see what all the fuss was about.


The Bob-A-Lot was surprisingly heavy and sturdy.It wobbles around the floor on it's weighted base and as your dog nudges with their nose and paws, it releases treats


Firstly you simply fill the top with your dog’s favourite treat, or if they have a kibble diet, you could put their whole meal inside.


Adjust the two openings to alter the difficulty to release the food and you're all set.


We loved that you have some flexibility to make your dog work harder an after some trial and error we were able to open the slots just enough to keep Freddie interested but make it challenging.


Dog with Bob-A-Lot dog puzzle

Great for 'chewers', it's a substantial toy and super durable.


Our one reservation when testing, is that it doesn't come apart for cleaning so we would recommend using hard, crunchy style treats that won't leave crumbs inside the toy.


It's worth noting that it's a great option for greedy guzzlers as it works as a slow feeder by increasing the time it takes your dog to consume their food.


Just be aware that it would only work with a kibble diet.


It's easy-to-fill and available in two sizes to suit puppies to large breed dogs.


Reasons to Buy

+ Durable and not easy to chew

+ Flexible difficulty level

+ Could act as a slow feeder


Reasons to Avoid

- Moves around floor

- Doesn't come apart for cleaning


Buying Options

 

You might also be interested in .....

If you're looking for some healthy training treats to use with these puzzle toys, take a look at our Best Dog Treats article. The Pooch & Mutt Meaty Treats we feature are the perfect size for the Kong Gyro and Bob-A-Lot.


5. Best No-Treat Dog Puzzle

Outward Hound


Dogs love to chase a squirrel although I'm not sure they'd know what to do if they managed to catch one! Here's a soft toy version of your dog's favourite pastime.


Hide-a-Squirrel dog puzzle toy

Simply stuff the squeaky squirrels in the tree trunk tube, and watch as your dog pull them out one by one.


It’s challenging as your dog needs to learn to nuzzle into each hole and pull their prized stuffed squirrel out.


It's difficult to find well-designed dog toys that look nice around your home as well as make your dog happy.


The Hide-a-Squirrel toy from Outward Hound is perfect, plus it offers a great alternative to a treat based puzzle.


Available in four different sizes to suit a range of dogs, we tested the medium size toy which measures approx. 17 x 15 cm and includes 3 squirrels.


Whilst we admit our cockapoo isn't a big chewer, the hide-a-squirrel dog toy has lasted extremely well with the log base and all three squirrels still in tact after a year.


We found with some added human interaction the Hide-a-Squirrel toy provides just the right engagement without losing your dog's interest.


Reasons to Buy

+ Different sizes available

+ Well designed

+ Not treat dispensing

Reasons to Avoid

- Squirrels squeak!


Buying Options

 

6. Best Flexible Puzzle

K9 Connectables


K9 Connectables offer an innovative range of enrichment dog toys designed to encourage your dog to explore and use their natural instincts.


Dog with K9 Connectables dog toys

These brightly coloured, award-winning puzzle toys offer some unique play opportunities to enjoy with your dog.


Each element can slot and stack together offering different combinations to suit your dog and more importantly keep the toy new and interesting.


They offer two ranges to choose from - the original Gentle and newer Pro range which is designed for enthusiastic chewers. It's worth noting that both ranges are interchangeable.


The perfect boredom buster to keep your dog entertained whilst you're busy, they can have a really positive effect on some of their more challenging canine behaviour seen in younger dogs and puppies.


K9 Connectable dog toy range

Along with custom bone-shaped dog treats, you can stuff the elements with dog-friendly peanut butter or even yoghurt to extend play as you would a KONG.


We love these puzzles because they offer you so much flexibility on just how difficult you want to make them.


This means they are suitable for a wide range of dogs and abilities from puppies to experienced older dogs. Ultimately it's this flexibility which will keep the puzzle stimulating and enriching.


If you would like more information, read our deep-dive test and review of K9 Connectables.


Reasons to Buy

+ Well designed

+ Lots of flexibility

+ Extensive range

+ Tough options for chewers


Reasons to Avoid

- Pricier than some


Smart Bark can offer readers 10% OFF K9 Connectables.

Simply use discount code SMARTBARK at checkout

 


7. Best for On-the-Go Fun

Nava & Me


A NEW addition to our review is this fabric dog puzzle from Nava & Me - ideal for using on-the-go.


All the other dog puzzle toys featured in this article are ideal for using around your home, but what if you are looking for something to keep your dog occupied elsewhere ?

Fabric snuffle toy

We were really impressed by this gorgeous looking fabric puzzle from small UK company - Nava & Me.


The Squares + Crosses Enrichment Toy, is essentially a fabric pouch which unzips to reveal a series of fabric treat holders.


Nicely designed and well built, we tested the larger of the two sizes, measuring 22 x 18cm and found it was light and small enough to fold into a large pocket or slot in your bag before leaving the house.

Nava & Me Squares + Crosses Enrichment Toy for dogs

With 18 treat slots available on 6 different strips, you simply pop a treat or piece of kibble in each hole. Push the strips back inside and you're ready to go.


We loved that you can hide treats in it before you leave the house and once you reach your destination whether that's the office, cafe or down the local, you simply grab it from your bag and lay it on the ground.

Loobani dog puzzle feeder

Working a bit like a snuffle mat, your dog needs to sniff out the treats and nose them out of the various holes.


In testing we found it kept Freddie interested for nearly 15 minutes. As your dog gets more confident with the concept, you could choose smaller treats to make them work harder.


Better still, the Squares + Crosses enrichment toy comes with two strong attachment loops so you could slip one under a chair leg. Ideal to use in small spaces, this puzzle won't slide around the floor.


Uniquely designed, it's an eco-friendly option, as the fabric is made from recycled plastic bottles. If it needs freshening up, simply machine wash on cold.


Reasons to Buy

+ For On-the-Go enrichment

+ Well designed

+ Available in two sizes

+ Easy to clean

+ Supports a small UK company

Reasons to Avoid

- Can only use with dry treats

Pro tip: Whatever your on-the-go dog toy ends up being, reserve it for trips so that they retain their new-toy allure.

 

Now for something aimed at more experienced dogs or those who need a real challenge!


8. Best for Canine Einsteins

Nina Ottosson


The first of two trickier dog puzzle toys from the Nina Ottosson collection.


Nina Ottosson dog twister activity toy level 3

This particular design, the Dog Casino, is a level 3 game so is recommended for more challenging play, although we found it can easily be adapted to suit your dog.


The idea behind the Dog Casino is for your dog to slide the drawers open to access the treats hidden inside.


If your dog is good at solving puzzles, you can further challenge them by simply twisting the bone shaped white handles to lock the drawers in place.

We introduced the puzzle with a couple of drawers slightly ajar to entice Freddie. Once he was able to pull the drawers open to reveal the treats inside, we shut the drawers completely.


Lastly, we began to turn the bones to lock the handles in place and with some guidance Freddie was able to start unlocking them - this stage is very tricky!


Made from tough plastic so not only can you use it for wet or even frozen treats, its dishwasher proof too.

We recommend the Dog Casino Puzzle as a really flexible dog puzzle. Ultimately it's a difficult puzzle but you can adjust the sequence to make it easier for your dog to reach those tasty treats.

Reasons to Buy

+ Well designed

+ Provides a challenge

+ Flexible

+ Easy to Clean

+ No Loose pieces

Reasons to Avoid

- Difficult to master completely

- More challenging starting level

 

9. Best Dog Feeder Toy

Loobani


This dog puzzle from Loobani is ideal for dogs on a kibble or dry food diet. It will require some patience on your part as it was deceptively difficult to train to use, but can keep your dog occupied for a long time.


Loobani treat dispenser

Initially, all the dogs which tested this puzzle tried to get to the treats by attempting to remove the canister lids with their teeth.


To start with you may need to spin the three canisters to help your dog understand how to release the kibble or treats from the 3 holes in the top.


Your dog will slowly learn to paw the canisters to spin and release the treats.


Made from bamboo, it's sturdy and the H-shaped base held it in place whilst the canisters spun.


We found that once filled this feeder can hold your dogs attention for a really long time so great for distraction purposes and perfect if you have a greedy guzzler as it will slow their eating down.


The canisters can be fixed at one of 3 different heights so it's suitable for all sizes of dog. All you need is 5 minutes and a screwdriver to put it together.


Dog playing with Loobani dog toy

There are four non-slip pads which fit under the base so it won't scratch wooden floors and should stay in one place. Cleverly there are three different sized holes on each lid to release a range of the treats or kibble.


The only flaw we could find is that to spin the canisters easily, they need to be fairly full. In testing, we found that the less they weigh, the harder they are to spin.


We'd suggest when you introduce this toy to your four-legged friend for the first time, fill it up for maximum reward v minimum effort. As your dog gets confident with the concept, you could half fill the canisters to make them work harder.


Also, bear in mind that whilst the canisters are dishwasher safe, you would first need to unscrew the rod holding them in place to remove them (which is a bit of a faff).


We found other, spinning dog feeders on the market, but they were all constructed from plastic, so they won't be as durable as the Loobani bamboo puzzle feeder.


Reasons to Buy

+ Well designed

+ Doesn't slide on the floor

+ Easy to fill

+ Ideal slow feeder

+ Hours of entertainment

Reasons to Avoid

- Will need initial training

- Not suitable for wet or raw food

- Pricier option

- Not easy to clean


Buying Options

 

10. Best Challenging Puzzle

Nina Ottosson


Many of Nina Ottosson's puzzles can be can be set to differing levels of complexity to satisfy all ages and several dog ability levels.


Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle, difficulty level 3

This 'Worker' dog puzzle has sliding mechanisms and requires your dog to work through a series of sequential steps to release the hidden treats.


Clearly this is a level 3 (difficult) puzzle, so you may need to initially break it down into smaller steps.


We love this puzzle because it offers you a degree of flexibility on just how difficult you want to make it.


Ultimately it's this flexibility which will keep the puzzle stimulating as your dog improves.


Better still, as all the working components slide, they stay attached to the puzzle so there are no parts to misplace.


We loved that the new updated Dog Worker puzzle is made to look like real wood, but it's actually a composite material with all the benefits of both wood and plastic. So it’s more durable than wood, easy to clean and will not splinter or snap.


Reasons to Buy

+ Well designed

+ Lots of flexibility

+ No loose pieces


Reasons to Avoid

- Could frustrate beginners


Buying Options



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Our Verdict


If you're looking for a basic entry level puzzle toy then take a look at the KONG Gyro. It's a simple but well designed treat dispenser which is available in two sizes to suit a wide range of dog breeds.


We love it because it's a great introduction to dog puzzle toys but it doesn't involve a huge amount of strategy and the results are fairly immediate. Also crucially, it's designed to be taken apart for easy cleaning.


For something a bit more testing, we'd recommend K9Connectables. Their innovative range of brightly coloured enrichment toys offers some unique play opportunities and is incredibly flexible. It really is this flexibility that we love, as the toys can become more difficult as your dog's puzzle solving skills improve.


Lastly, if you are searching for a difficult puzzle for more challenging play, then take a look at the best-selling range of Level 3 Nina Ottosson puzzles. We found the Dog Casino and the Worker puzzles are definitely at the harder end of the dog puzzle spectrum.



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Tips for using Puzzle Toys with Dogs


There's such a range of difficulty levels available, try to choose a puzzle that you think your dog will be able to master with some initial help. Ultimately, if your dog becomes frustrated they will lose interest.


No matter which puzzle you decide to try, your presence will make them a fun and rewarding experience for your dog and hopefully you.


And remember, to get the most out of these toys, rotate them with your other toys to retain your dog's interest.

You might be interested in ...

None of the toys featured here are particularly suitable for aggressive chewers unless you monitor their play. Take a look at our Indestructible dog toys article, if your dog can chew through these toys, they probably deserve some sort of prize!


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🧩 Thanks for dropping by and we hope you've found the perfect puzzle toy for your dog in our review of the Best Puzzle Toys for Dogs 🧩

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