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Top 10 Puzzle Toys for Dogs : Interactive Fun

Updated: Jun 15

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


Some dog toys are designed to be mind stimulating and can not only prevent dog boredom, but also promotes your dog’s personality and can really help to reduce canine stress levels and anxiety.

Dog with dog puzzle toy

Puzzles 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.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

How to Choose the Best Puzzle Toy for your Dog

The Best Dog Puzzles you can Buy Today

Tips for Using Dog Toys



How to Choose the Best Puzzle Toy for your Dog


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


At Smart Bark we're always on the look out for new and interesting dog toys. This TOP 10 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. -


Easy - Kong Giro, Dog Snuffle Mat, Lick Mats for Dogs


Intermediate - Bob-A-Lot Dog Puzzle, Hide a Squirrel, Nina Ottosson 'Dog Smart'


Difficult - Nina Ottosson 'Worker' , 'Twister', Treat & Train Remote Reward, Trixie Dog Memory Trainer


As you will see we're testing and analysing each puzzle toy for difficulty level, ability to maintain interest and durability.


Here’s our roundup of the Best Puzzle Toys for Dogs the UK has to offer in 2022.



The Best Dog Puzzle Toys you can Buy Today


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. Kong Gyro

Simple treat dispenser


The Gyro dog toy is a simple but well designed treat dispenser from the internationally renowned canine company KONG. This is a great introduction to dog puzzle toys as it doesn't involve a huge amount of strategy and the results are immediate.

Dachshund puppy with Kong Gyro dog toy

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 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 and more durable 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. Dog Snuffle Mat

Best for scent training


Hunting for food provides excellent physical and mental stimulation for your dog. Snuffle mats are a fairly new phenomenon and use strips of fabric to encourage your dog's natural foraging skills.


Simply hiding their kibble or dry treats in a snuffle mat provides an ideal opportunity for your pooch to use their brain during their dinner time.

dog with a snuffle mat looking for hidden treats

There are several snuffle mats on the market which offer an opportunity for your pup to hone their sense of smell, keep them occupied and slow down their eating at the same time.


We recommend the great value IFOYO snuffle mat because we've tested it, putting it through its paces over a six month period.


Not only is it surprisingly durable, it's bright and interesting. This well designed mat, has multiple layers of fabric to make hiding the treats easy.


What's more, it has two straps to attach to a chair or stool leg which stops it from sliding around your kitchen floor (a simple addition but works really well).


As you can see, Freddie adores his snuffle mat and it can be thrown in the washing machine every now and then to keep it clean.


As with all puzzle toys, we would suggest that the snuffle mat is removed once all the treats have been found so it doesn't get chewed!


Reasons to Buy

+ Great value

+ Simple puzzle

+ Machine washable


Reasons to Avoid

- Quick to solve

- Not suitable for wet treats

 


3. Lick Mats for Dogs

Ultimate boredom buster


Dog lick mats are a simple, cheap yet innovative idea to keep your dog entertained.


Acting as a boredom buster, they are principally a patterned rubber mat designed to spread your dog’s favourite treat or food on.

cockapoo with a lickimat topped with yoghurt and strawberries

Lick mats provide a tasty and fun game for your dog as they work around the mat to seek out every last titbit with their tongue.


But their benefits don't stop there!


These mats were originally designed by Vets in Australia to promote calm behaviour especially in stressful times such as being left on their own or during fireworks.


We've tested lots of lick mat designs and found that they can really help if you are working on separation anxiety. They offer the perfect distraction for young dogs and puppies.


There are lots of different brands available but we recommend the first and original Lickimats.


Designed by vets, their range includes tough styles for chewers, dishwasher proof versions and soothers for anxious dogs.


Reasons to Buy

+ Simple puzzle

+ Promotes calm behaviour

+ Simple distraction

+ Tough versions now available


Reasons to Avoid

- Only works with food


Buying Options


You might be interested .......


We've tested Lickimats and analysed them for attention, speed of eating, durability and cleanliness. Checkout our article on the different styles of LickiMats available to you, and some tasty topper ideas. Best Lick Mats for Dogs Guide

 

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. Bob-A-Lot Dog Puzzle

Best for treat based rewards


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 Bob-A-Lot interactive dog puzzle toy to see what all the fuss was about.


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


Adjust the openings to make it easier or more difficult to release the food and you're all set.


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

Cockapoo with Bob-A-Lot dog puzzle

It bobbles and wobbles around the floor on it's weighted base and as your dog nudges with their nose and paws, it releases treats


Great for 'chewers', it's super durable.


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.



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

- Very small treats only


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 Top 5 Puppy Training Treats article. All 5 nutritional dog treats featured are suitable for dogs of all ages as well as puppies.



5. Hide a Squirrel Dog Puzzle

Great intermediate challenge toy


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.

Dog with a 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.


All in all, it's a beautifully designed and well made soft enrichment toy 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 ( see photo).


It's difficult to find well-designed dog toys that look nice around your home as well as make your dog happy. These are perfect and offer a great alternative to a treat based puzzle.


We found with some added human interaction the hide-a-squirrel toy provides just the right engagement without losing your dogs interest.


Reasons to Buy

+ Different sizes available

+ Well designed

+ Not treat dispensing

Reasons to Avoid

- Squirrels squeak!


Buying Options

 


6. Nina Ottosson Dog Smart

Interactive hide and seek game


The last intermediate level dog puzzle to feature is from Nina Ottosson. The first thing to say is that Nina Ottosson puzzles are extremely popular and well constructed, ranging from easy to 'Einstein' level.

Nina Ottosson dog smart puzzle toy level 1

The Dog Smart is an entry level 'Hide & Seek' style dog challenge.


As a Level 1 dog puzzle it's useful for introducing your dog to the puzzle toy concept without them becoming frustrated.


It's recently been updated and the treat covers are now more durable.


You simply cover the treats and your pup learns to paw and nuzzle the covers to release the treats hidden beneath.


We chose to feature this particular Nina Ottosson toy as it can hold wet food as well as kibble. A perfect option if your picky pooch isn't enticed or rewarded by dry kibble.


The only flaw we could find is that it includes loose parts which can get chewed or lost under the sofa, so you'll definitely need to be on hand to monitor your dog's play.


Reasons to Buy

+ Works with wet food too

+ Well designed

Reasons to Avoid

- Loose parts


Buying Options

 

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


7. Nina Ottosson Worker Puzzle

Best challenging dog puzzle for most dogs


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 and enriching 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

 

8. Nina Ottosson Dog Twister

Best for canine Einsteins


The third and final dog puzzle toy from the Nina Ottosson stable.

Nina ottosson dog twister activity toy level 3

This particular design, the Dog Twister, is a level 3 game so is recommended for more challenging play.


The idea behind the Dog Twister is for your dog to slide the top covers to access the treats hidden inside.


If your dog is good at solving puzzles, you can further challenge them by simply pushing in the white handles to lock some bricks on top.

The Dog Twister is made from tough plastic so not only can you use it for wet or even frozen treats, it's dishwasher proof too.


Reasons to Buy

+ Well designed

+ Provides a challenge

Reasons to Avoid

- Difficult to master

- Loose pieces

 


9. Treat & Train Remote Reward

Perfect for solo training


If you love a bit of tech to help with your training, then this is definitely the dog interactive gadget for you.

Treat & Train Remote Reward

The PetSafe Treat and Train rewards your dog for repeating the behaviour you are looking to encourage.


You are in control of remotely releasing a snack as a reward.


It's a great tool for more advanced 'send away' commands if you're training on your own, but can equally add some real fun to simpler training sessions.

The pack includes an helpful DVD, handheld remote, target wand and training guide to help you master using the Treat and Train.


There are great reviews and ratings by dog owners and a video to watch so you can see the concept in action.


Reasons to Buy

+ If you love gadgets

+ Useful for solo training sessions

Reasons to Avoid

- Expensive puzzle toy

 


10. Trixie Dog Memory Trainer

Best for gadget lovers


If you think your pooch is Einstein, then this is definitely the dog puzzle toy for them!

Trixie memory trainer game for dogs

The Trixie Dog Memory Trainer works by rewarding your dog when they press the release button.

The treat dispenser has an adjustable opening for changing the release of treats and increasing levels of difficulty.


Better still, the release button can be moved to add greater distances between the button and the food dispenser.


If your dog really masters the idea, why not place the release button and dispenser in different rooms.


Trixie include an additional holder for the release button to help keep it stable. If you're interested, it has a range up to 40 m.


Reasons to Buy

+ If you love gadgets

+ Adjustable difficulty levels

Reasons to Avoid

- Pricier puzzle toy

 

Tips for using Puzzle Dog Toys


There's such a range of difficulty levels available, try to chose one 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.


RECOMMENDED READ Best Indestructible Dog Toys

None of the toys featured are 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!


Thanks for dropping by and taking a look at our review of the Best Puzzle Toys for Dogs.

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