Puzzle toys, also known as interactive toys, are an increasingly popular addition to pet toy boxes. These toys which usually incorporate food that a dog can access by solving a “puzzle” are fantastic for curbing boredom, reducing anxiety, and slowing down ravenous eaters, among other benefits.
One of the most common interactive dog toys on the market is the Kong, a hollow chew toy you can fill with your pup’s favourite food or treats. But this is just one of many examples of puzzle toys for dogs. There are also grid toys with sliding pieces and trapdoors that reveal hidden treat compartments, puzzle balls you can fill with treats, and many more!
They offer mental stimulation
Mental stimulation is essential for your dog’s overall wellbeing as it reduces stress, builds confidence, and relieves anxiety. When dogs don’t get enough mental stimulation they may fall into bad habits such as barking or chewing things they shouldn’t.
Puzzle toys are a fantastic way to engage your dog’s mind when you don’t have as much time to walk or play with them.
Your pup will eat slower
Eating too quickly may cause your dog to vomit or experience physical discomfort. In extreme cases it can even cause a dangerous medical condition known as Bloat (though this is rare).
If your pup is a ravenous eater, a puzzle toy is a great way to help slow them down. Rather than stuffing puzzle toys with treats, use them as a delivery method for your dog’s regular meals. Whether your dog eats kibble, wet food, or a combination, there are toys out there that will accommodate any food.
Another alternative is a slow-feed dog bowl. These bowls are similar to interactive toys, but instead of ” solving” a puzzle by moving pieces around, these bowls have built-in ridges that prevent dogs from gobbling up huge mouthfuls of food quickly.
They reduce anxiety
Anxiety can be common in dogs and can have many possible causes; including being left alone and fear of an unfamiliar setting. Fortunately, giving your dog a job to focus on is a powerful way to reduce anxiety, if only temporarily. Puzzle toys are a great way to do this!
When your dog is focused on uncovering the delicious snacks hidden inside the puzzle toy they’ll likely be less focused on whatever is causing their anxiety.
If you’re traveling and need to help your dog adjust to spending time in the car, hoping to keep them occupied in a hotel room, or need to leave your pup home alone for a few hours, set them up with a puzzle to solve!
Note: If you’re leaving your dog unsupervised with the puzzle toy, make sure it doesn’t have little parts that could break off and be swallowed.
They provide a distraction
Whether you need to take a phone call, cook supper, or complete some household chores, providing a puzzle toy is a great way to distract your dog while you get things done. This is especially helpful if your dog needs a lot of supervision (say, a young puppy) or tends to bark when left alone.
When your dog is focused on the puzzle toy, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to steal a few minutes for yourself without having to worry about undesirable behaviours.
Finding the right puzzle toy for your dog
You may have to try out a few different puzzle toys before finding one that is perfect for your dog. If you’re unsure where to begin, ask your local pet store professional for recommendations based on your dog’s size, personality, and chewing tendencies.
Some puzzle toys have many moving pieces which could break off and pose a potential choking hazard for some dogs. It’s best to choose the right size and level of difficulty puzzle for your pup.
Other interactive toys (such as the Kong) are made from one solid piece and can be designed for heavy chewers. If you wish to leave your dog completely unsupervised with a puzzle toy, something like this is a wonderful option.
Puzzle toys offer many benefits including mental stimulation, stress and anxiety reduction, and many more. If you haven’t already added an interactive toy to your pup’s collection, now is the time!