Food Puzzles for Dogs: A Guide for Pet Owners

As pet owners, we all want to give our dogs the best possible life, right? Along with proper nutrition and exercise, food puzzles for dogs can be incorporated into their daily routine, and are a fun and effective way to mentally stimulate and engage your dog.

In this guide, we’ll be looking at 

  • What are food puzzles for dogs?
  • What are the benefits of using food puzzles for dogs?
  • Choosing the right food puzzle for your dog
  • How to use dog puzzle feeders
  • Recommended dog puzzle toys

What are Food Puzzles for dogs?

Dog puzzle toys are interactive feeding devices that challenge your dog to work for their food. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and levels of difficulty, and are designed to mimic the hunting and foraging instincts that dogs have in the wild. By making them work for their food, dogs not only get a mental workout, but also feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Benefits of Using Dog Puzzle Feeders

  1. Mental Stimulation: 

Food puzzles help to keep your dog's mind active and sharp. By solving the puzzle, they are forced to use their problem-solving skills and memory, which can reduce boredom and prevent destructive behavior.

  1. Physical Exercise 

Many food puzzles require movement and physical activity, which can help keep your dog in shape and improve their coordination.

  1. Slows Down Eating 

Dogs that eat too quickly are at risk for digestive issues, including bloat. Food puzzles can help slow down eating and make mealtime a more enjoyable experience for your pet.

  1. Bonding Time: 

Spending time working on a food puzzle together can strengthen the bond between you and your dog. You become a team and form a great relationship by having fun together.

Choosing the Right Food Puzzle For your Dog

When selecting a dog food puzzle toy, it's important to consider your dog's size, breed, and personality. For example, a small toy breed may not have the strength to handle a heavy-duty puzzle, while a large breed may quickly become bored with a basic puzzle. 

Additionally, some dogs may be more interested in the challenge of the puzzle, while others may be more motivated by the food reward.

How to Use Food Puzzles For Dogs

  • Introduce gradually: Start with an easy dog puzzle toy and gradually increase the difficulty level as your dog becomes more skilled.
  • Offer as a treat: Use food puzzles as a special treat or as part of your dog's regular mealtime routine, you can decide!
  • Supervise: Always supervise your dog when using a food puzzle to ensure their safety.
  • Rotate regularly: Keep your dog interested and motivated by rotating the puzzles regularly.

Here’s my top 5 dog puzzle toys for puppies to large breeds of dogs as road tested by my thug of a French Bulldog – all you have to do is pick the right one for your dog and what food you want to put in!

West Paw Toppl

Green West Paw Toppl

The Toppl is a firm favorite with us. It has a wide opening, which means dogs can get to the food easily and won’t find it so frustrating as other puzzle toys. Due to the wide opening it also suits flat faced breeds like Pugs, Frenchies and Bostons too. My French Bulldog Sunday absolutely loves her Toppl.

Now available in 3 sizes from Small up to XL, the Toppl is suitable as a puppy puzzle feeder or as a Large dog puzzle feeder, it’s durable, and it goes in the dishwasher too!

Buy the West Paw Toppl Dog Puzzle Feeder on Amazon 

Lickimat Tuff, Playdate

Playdate dog enrichment mat in grey and turquoise

The Lickimat playdate is in their tuff range of food puzzle lickmats, so you can expect a sturdier and more hard wearing lickmat. Licking is a nice soothing activity for your dog, great for brachiocephalic as it’s nice and flat. This puzzle toy is suitable for puppies and adult dogs.

It has non-slip feet so won’t scoot around your floors, and is dishwasher friendly. 

Buy the Lickimat Playmate Dog Puzzle Feeder on Amazon  

Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Challenge Slider

orange and blue dog slider enrichement toy

I’ve been a Nina Ottoson dog puzzle toy fan since they first came out, and I love the quirk of this puzzle feeder, as it reminds of those jigsaw slide puzzles we had as kids. This is quite a challenging toy and is rated as a ‘Level 3 – Advanced’ dog puzzle toy, so probably not for a first timer. My Frenchie enjoys playing with this one, and it gives her quite the workout. 

Top tip, there is a draw underneath that you slide out to put the treats or dog kibble in, I filled it a few times, sliding each piece of the puzzle toy around before I realized! 

Buy the Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Challenge Slider puzzle toy on Amazon

KONG Wobbler – Interactive Dog Toy

Pointer pushing a kong wobbler around with their paws

Are you old enough to remember Weebles? Well, reader, I am.

The Kong Wobbler is built like a Weeble with a weighted based that wobbles, but yep, won’t fall down! You unscrew the top, place kibble, dog biscuits or treats inside, screw the top back in and then give to your dog to smack around the floor, with the treats coming out of a hole on the side. 

This puzzle toy is great for a ‘handy’ dog like a Boxer, or other breeds who like to use their paws in play. But less hands-on dogs can also nudge it around with their nose, and scoot it around the floor. 

Buy the KONG Wobbler – Interactive Dog Toy on Amazon

Snuffle Mat for Dogs

Border collie performing a bow on a grey snuffle mat with a treat in a persons hand

Our final favorite dog puzzle toy is the snuffle mat. These come in all shapes and sizes, but this classic one is good as it’s easy to machine wash and keep clean (just remove the bumper). 

Snuffle mats are a wonderful puzzle toy, because they really harness your dog’s foraging instincts and their most powerful sense, their sense of smell.

Snuffle mats can be used with puppies or adult dogs, and all sizes of dogs will enjoy them

Buy this Snuffle Mat Puzzle Toy on Amazon

Incorporating food puzzles into your dog's daily routine can be a fun and effective way to mentally stimulate and enrich their life, helping to prevent boredom, and reduce the chances of your dog making their own fun! Choose the right puzzle for your dog, introduce it gradually, and have fun watching them problem solve!

Want to read more? Check out our article on Kong stuffing ideas or how about choosing the right size kong for your dog?

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