A bored puppy is an unhappy puppy, and possibly a destructive puppy. Puzzles are great tools to keep boredom away.
Dogs are intelligent animals. Your dog’s wild cousins such as the dingo and the coyote need to use their cleverness to find and capture food. You’re the alpha of your dog’s pack, and so the heavy lifting of the food gathering would fall to you. Of course, the fact of the matter is that you provide the food in your household, or one of the other humans does. What can your pup do to exercise their mind, if they aren’t involved in the pack’s hunt?
Puzzle toys help to fill that need. Toys which challenge your puppy to figure something out are a great way to stave off boredom, and they help to develop your puppy’s mind. Problem-solving skills are as good for your dog as they are for you, and it’s always a delight to see your canine companion beam with pride when they have “won” their game.
Here are a few of the more popular canine puzzle toys.
When you think of puzzle toys for dogs, the Kong Classic is probably the first one that pops into your mind. The odd shape of this hollow toy makes it bounce in unpredictable patterns. As a result, even games of catch give your puppy more to think about. Of course, if there is food stashed inside, getting at that food is a challenge that almost any dog will set their mind to. If your four-legged friend is a high-energy dog, peanut butter stuffed inside a Kong Classic will keep them amused until every last smear has been licked out.
*Check with your veterinarian to ask whether peanut butter is good for your dog, before using it in a puzzle toy. It’s very high in calories. You’ll probably want to avoid it if your pooch tends to get pudgy, in which case a milk-bone type of treat might be a better choice.
Hide-A-Squirrel Puzzle Plush Toy
Is your pup a squirrel fan? If so, the Hide-A-Squirrel Plush Puzzle Toy is just what you’re looking for. The toy has four components: a sturdy plush tree stump and three sturdy plush squeaky squirrels. The stump is hollow and has several access holes for the squirrel to “peek” through. The idea is for the pup to find and remove the squirrels…and if there happened to be an extra treat tucked in the tree stump, so much the better. The squirrels are not attached to the stump in any way, and so they also function as standard squeaky plushies, which are popular with many puppies. Replacement squirrels are easily available for when your puppy buries or loses them.
Maybe Fido prefers tennis balls to furry critters. The Ball-IN-Ball is a rubbery hollow ball with a couple of access holes. It comes with a tennis ball, but you can also use squeaky toys, a small Kong Classic, treats, and chew toys. Nosing into the ball to pull out whatever is inside can provide hours of fun for your dog. You’ll probably discover that they will enjoy carrying his Ball-IN-Ball around with them, even when it’s empty.
Dog Smart Toy
Reduced to its most basic concept, Dog Smart is a kibble dish. It is divided into several compartments, and each compartment has a cover. The idea here is for your canine companion to figure out how to remove the covers, using her paws, teeth, nose, tail, or whatever. Each time they remove a cover, they are rewarded with some kibble. This toy is especially useful if your dog wolfs down their kibble too fast, because the act of removing each of the covers slows down their snacking. Because of the size of the plastic covers, it’s best to use this toy only when someone is around to supervise the puppy’s game.
Seek-A-Treat Slide N’Play Treat Puzzle
The idea with the Seek-A-Treat is very similar to Dog Smart: your dog needs to figure out how to open the dish to get at their kibble. Seek-A-Treat has sliding compartments instead of removable covers. It’s a cute and colourful plastic bone with three smaller bone-shaped sliders. It isn’t large enough to contain a full meal, but it will certainly entertain your puppy. Because the small pieces are all firmly attached, this toy is safer to leave with an unattended puppy.
Puzzle toys help to develop your puppy’s mind whilst also keeping them entertained. Adding a few of these puzzles to your puppy’s toy-box will give your puppy new things to do, provide new ways for the two of you to play together, and help them develop into an intelligent and well-adjusted member of your family.
What is your dog’s favourite puzzle toy? Tell us in the comments below.
Sebastian Paulin is Director of Operations at Love That Pet. When not learning about the latest trends in pet supplies you will find Sebastian exploring the great outdoors with his Chocolate Labrador “Cadbury”.