Why should you use puzzle toys with your dog?
Puzzle toys are great for dogs! Dogs really do enjoy having something to do. Puzzle toys give them a problem to solve. This gives them mental stimulation (think tired brain)! Toys come in all shapes, sizes, and challenge levels. Most puzzle toys reward the dog with food for solving the puzzle. That makes puzzle toys a great way to feed your dog a meal too! Puzzle toys are great for cold or hot days when a long walk isn’t safe. They add some run to a boring rainy day inside. They can also provide lots of challenge for very little owner work too!
Different Types of Puzzle Toys
Basic Food Puzzle Toys
Toys that are filled with kibble are great for feeding your dog her meal. All you do is put the kibble inside and let the dog go to work! Some of our favorites are the Kong Wobbler, Treat ball food puzzle, stop bloat food puzzle, slow feeder, and the original Kong.
More Challenging and Elaborate Puzzle Toys
Outward Hound has several more challenging and elaborate food puzzle toys. The Dog Brick Treat Puzzle has compartments that lift and slide, adding more challenges for the dog.
The Dog Twister Dog Puzzle Toy Dog Game is even more challenging for dogs.
If you have a hound or dog who loves to use his nose, check out the Wooly Snuffle Mat. This is a great way to your scent-driven dog to work for his food!
Some dogs need help using food puzzles – especially more challenging ones. If your dog seems stuck or frustrated by the puzzle, help him. You can give him a sneak peak at the reward, help some food to fall out, or just encourage him to not give up! If you make a puzzle too difficult (freezing the Kong, for example), work with him to get to the reward.
Low tech puzzle activities for your dog
Simple, low tech activities can provide enrichment for your dog too. Load up a muffin tin with your dog’s dinner, then put tennis balls over each muffin hole. Then let your dog figure out how to get to his food!
Scatter your dog’s food in your yard or a room in your house. Then tell your dog to “find it!” and let her search around for her food.
How to keep your dog interested in food puzzles
Just like with your dogs other toys, rotate the puzzle toys! Switch up which ones he gets and how often he gets them. If he seems to lose interest in a puzzle toy, put it away for a week or two. The next time your bring it back out he just may love it the most – just because it is new again to him! You also freeze the food in Kong toys. Or you can change up the food reward in the Kong. Things like new treats, baby carrots, blueberries, squeeze cheese, and other yummy food are great to entice dogs to dig into the puzzle toy. The Kong Company website has lots of great info on this!
As with all food training and enrichment for dogs, if your dog growls, snaps or bites when you go near him when he is eating or his food do not do these activities with him. Immediately consult a positive reinforcement trainer. Children should be supervised at all times around dogs.
Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun!
Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Trainer, an AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.
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