The best dog puzzles: Mental stimulation for your pup

The next time your dog is pestering you for a belly rub, or just seems plain ol’ bored, pass him one of the best dog puzzles below—Fido will be entertained in no time!

In an ideal world, you and your dog would be running around the park and chasing squirrels all day long. But let’s be real, life happens…work happens…and sometimes you just don’t have enough time in the day to give your pooch that 24/7 attention he so desires. When your dog is jonesin’ for some play and you’re not around, he may engage in some troubling recreation (think: chewing up the couch pillow or your favorite pair of socks) to combat boredom. The best dog puzzles are a great source of mental stimulation that not only will solve this potential behavioral issue, but will also train him to have some independent fun while you focus on your own daily tasks.  

How to choose the best dog puzzles for your pup 

If you’re a dog lover, chances are you already know that, like humans, dogs are intelligent creatures. They want to be challenged. The best dog puzzles provide a healthy opportunity for your pet to exert their physical and mental energies on a safe and fun toy. Plus, they can help with other important matters like decreasing anxiety and improving problem-solving skills. That said, all dogs are unique, and not all dogs will appreciate the same type of toy. That’s why it’s vital to contemplate your dog’s age, temperament, and curiosity level when considering which design is most appropriate for him or her. 

There are tons of dog games to choose from, so check out this whittled-down list to help you find the best dog puzzle toys that will keep your pooch challenged, stimulated, and entertained.

The best dog puzzles for age-appropriate fun

The best dog puzzles for a senior Chow Chow may not be appropriate for an energetic Dachshund. For instance, materials matter a lot when considering differences in dogs’ mouths: teething puppies will need something soft and gentle in order to keep their gums and teeth safe, whereas older, more aggressive chewers will require something that is super durable so that the toy doesn’t fall apart after a few quick chomps.

The following puzzles for dogs reflect some favorite finds based on age. Keep this in mind for your growing pooch—as they grow, their dog puzzles should too!   

Best puppy puzzle: KONG Puppy Toy

A Gentle Classic

The stuffable, long-lasting KONG Puppy Toy’s rubber formula is extra soft on your new pal’s developing teeth and gums, so he can develop top-notch chewing habits. Amazon

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You can’t go wrong with this classic puzzle toy. Stuff it, freeze it, and hand it over to your food-motivated pup for hours of mental fun. It comes recommended by both dog trainers and veterinarians. 

Best adolescent dog puzzle: Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel 

Plush Squeaker

With multiple sizes, styles, and animal refills available, the Hide-A-Squirrel (or bee, or hedgehog) will keep your pooch’s *stuffed* animal hunting skills in check. Amazon

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The versatility of this puzzle is great for your adolescent dog. Stuff the toy with the squeaky squirrels, and let them have at it. Once they retrieve the animals from the trunk, you can either restuff it, or use them to play a nice ol’ game of fetch to truly tire them out! 

Best senior dog toy: Playology Silver Dental Rope 

Scented and Sturdy

The dental rope is designed specifically for senior dogs in mind, with all-natural scents (peanut butter, anyone?) and soft materials for comfortable chewing. Amazon

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This toy’s embedded scent is designed to grab your senior pal’s attention, even if he may not be able to see so well anymore. As your dog chews, the scent is released for greater engagement. Plus, the soft yet durable material is extra gentle on aging teeth. 

How difficult do you want the dog puzzle to be?

Next up, it’s important to consider the difficulty level when buying a dog puzzle for your furry friend. It’s always a good idea to start off easy and work your way up as their tolerance levels build organically. Patience is key—once your dog has mastered an easier game and no longer finds it challenging or fun, you’ll know it’s time to level up.

Check out the following puzzles categorized by easy, medium, hard, and adaptable difficulty levels.  

Best easy dog puzzle: PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Mat 

Sustainably Made

The machine-washable Wooly Snuffle Mat is made from up-cycled materials like old t-shirts and has a modern strand design that will look great in your living room. Amazon

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The idea is simple: spaghetti-like strands stand up and move around like a shag rug. The result is an interactive sniffing extravaganza that mimics a field or forest. Toss some food in and your dog will forage like he was born to do! 

Best medium difficulty puzzle: Nina Ottosson Dog Brick Interactive Puzzle 

An Innovative Challenge

The Dog Brick is certainly the most popular intermediate puzzle offered in Nina Ottosson’s puzzle line, offering a variety of obstacles and flip-lid compartments for hours of mental stimulation. Amazon

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This toy puzzle will test your dog’s olfactory and coordination skills while also building up confidence. With multiple hiding spots for dry dog food or frozen treats, your dog will be kept busy for quite a long time. As an added plus, the puzzle is super easy to clean—some warm water and soap is all you need in between uses.  

Best hard pet puzzle: Nina Ottosson MultiPuzzle Toy for Experts 

Designed for Puzzle Masters

The challenging MultiPuzzle is BPA, PVC, and phthalate-free, and it’s built-in, non-removable play pieces ensure that your dog will have an incredibly safe experience. Amazon

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The hardest of Nina Ottosson’s puzzle products, expert dogs must methodically complete a series of steps in the correct order to win treats. With 28 hidden treat compartments, it’s ideal for dogs who have already mastered easier versions and are ready to be stumped. Your dog will thank you for getting those mental wheels spinning!

Best adaptable pet game: Fable Pets’ The Game 

Sleek & Unique

This weighted dog toy—which is dishwasher safe and holds 1.5 cups of dry food—has been specifically designed to move unpredictably, activating your dog’s natural prey drive.
Fable

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Created to up your pup’s mealtime in a stimulating way, this puzzle will keep pets entertained for approximately 30 minutes. Instead of the routine bowl of food, this is an excellent alternative that will allow for safer and slower feeding. Plus, it has multiple complexities—once your dog masters dry food, level up by adding in some peanut butter!

Best dog puzzles on a budget: What you can get for under $10

It’s no secret that dogs (and dog supplies) can be expensive. If you love your pet but don’t want to dig deep in your wallet after that annual veterinarian visit, rest assured that plenty of the best dog puzzles ring in at a fairly low price point. For an awesome puzzle toy that won’t break the bank, look no further than the Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball, coming in at under six dollars. 

Best budget-friendly option: Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball 

Straightforward Dispenser

This toy—which comes in 3 sizes—has a soft, pliable vinyl surface which is great for gripping. Amazon

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Pop some treats in the slots of this dog puzzle feeder, and let your dog have at it. As the ball rolls around, treats will inevitably dispense from the different-sized holes, encouraging your dog to use its nose and paws. You can also use it as an alternative to regular meals to foster slower eating habits.

FAQ: people also ask

Do dog puzzles work?

The short answer to if dog puzzles work is yes. They serve different purposes, from providing entertainment and reducing boredom to encouraging better eating habits and improving behavioral issues like separation anxiety or destruction. While one design might not be able to guarantee a 180-degree behavior change, it certainly will aid the process along by providing great mental stimulation for your dog. Make sure you choose durable, well-made products like those listed above in order to maximize the toy’s use. 

What are the best puzzle toys for dogs?

When looking for puzzle toys for dogs, you want to keep a number of things in mind. The best puzzle toys will be made of safe materials that won’t harm your pet, will be specified for age and size, and will clearly state the level of difficulty required. The goal is for your dog to gain confidence and have fun!

Are food puzzles good for dogs?

Absolutely! While some dogs are motivated by play or cuddles, most (if not all) dogs will have varying degrees of food-motivation. By placing kibble or frozen treats (think: peanut butter with mashed banana) in a food-friendly puzzle, your pup will not only be putting his mind to great use, but will be immediately rewarded by eating a delicious snack. 

Our final thoughts on picking the best dog puzzles

The best dog puzzles are the ones that make your pooch feel safely challenged, cheerful, and amused. While you may not be able to cuddle and play with your pet all hours of the day, you now have the knowledge of the tools needed to provide your dog with the puzzle toys that will keep boredom and poor behaviors at bay. Toss your pup a new puzzle and let the entertainment begin!