Puppy puzzle toys are a reasonably new product on the market and are brilliant fun. Not only that, but they’re designed to make your puppy’s day to day life far more exciting and enriching.

They do this by creating breed-specific outlets and stimulating your puppy’s brain to make them sharp and keep them entertained – and they’re easy as pie to play.

In this article, we’ll put the pieces of the puzzle and show you what puppy puzzle toys are, and why you should use them. We’ll also go into which puppy puzzle toys are best for your puppy, how and when you should introduce them.

While you’re at it, why not download the Zigzag puppy training app and see what’s inside? What first looks like an impossible puzzle will look much clearer after you look at the programmes. We’ve built it based on your puppy’s breed type and age, tailored to cover the key developmental periods. We also have a fantastic team of Zigzag puppy coaches, ready to lend an ear when you have any problems or a burning puppy related question! 

small puppy on grass playing with lilac tennis ball
Photo by James Lewis on Unsplash

What are puppy puzzle toys?

Puppy puzzles or puppy intelligence toys are toys that you can hide food in for your puppy to work out how to find. Sometimes we refer to them as puppy brain games; where they might have to do all kinds of things like push and pull levers, flaps to lift up, sliders that move across, or fabric to forage and snuffle through. 

So…what are the benefits of puppy puzzle toys?

Puzzle toys are brilliant at slowing down fast or gulping eaters

If you have a puppy who likes to gobble down their food, a puzzle toy will help them slow down and avoid inhaling their meals like hoovers. 

You might want to prevent them from eating too quickly because it can cause problems in some puppies, though it’s always worth checking that you’re feeding your pup enough as they grow older. I know how quickly I eat when I’m hungry….

Puppy puzzle toys help ease your puppy’s boredom

Life with humans alone can get very boring. No more littermates to play fight with or mischief to get up to. But life with humans also includes puzzle toys, which helps keep their brains busy and entertained, so they stay out of trouble.

Puzzle toys help with frustration and stress relief

Some puppy puzzle toys allow your puppy to get really up on their feet, which can help with pent up frustration. Other puppy puzzles can help with mental frustration. These work by making your puppy learn to cope with not getting what they want whenever they want, by helping them delay that immediate gratification. 

They give our puppies an outlet for their natural instincts

Dogs spent thousands of years scavenging and foraging for food and scraps before puppy chow was invented, which means they’ve got the genes to keep doing it today. By using puppy puzzle toys, we can help to satisfy those instincts instead of having them scavenge away at your sofa, or simply handing treats over to them on a plate’. 

Puzzle toys help to improve problem-solving skills

Puppy puzzles get your puppy to work on their brain juices by problem-solving. This means they get to practice thinking about how to earn rewards based on their actions, which is also super helpful for when you’re training them!  

Puzzles can be a great bonding experience

Encouraging your puppy to play with puzzle toys can be great for building your relationship and working on your bonding. It can also help pups who might not be too confident with new toys or novelty approach them with a boost of bravery when you’re there.

Puzzles can help pups be happier about life

We know it sounds a long shot, but novelty and curiosity seeking activities can help dogs be more optimistic about the world. Maybe we should have gotten puzzle toys as young toddlers, perhaps the world would have been a lot different.

puppy on grass playing with yellow pig squish toy
Photo by Justin Veenema on Unsplash

Which puppy puzzle toys are best?

When choosing a puzzle toy for your puppy, we suggest starting with easier ones first. This is because we want our puppies to feel confident playing with them; if we make it too hard for them too quickly, they’ll give up, and all the fun will evaporate. 

Look for puzzles that can be linked together

K9 connectables or the Buster Activity mat are puzzle toys that can be added on to a larger one to pimp them out. They can make them either easier or more difficult, depending on which components you choose for your puppy. 

Use slow feeding bowls if your puppy is a gulper

No, you don’t need to use puzzle toys for every meal. Imagine if you had to do crossword puzzles for every scrap of food you got! That would feel a bit much, wouldn’t it? If you have a gulper puppy, slow feeders and wobble bowls are fun puzzle toys you can use to slow them down without being irritating. Especially if you’re starting to nickname them Dyson, this may work for you. 

Look for puzzle toys that stimulate their natural instincts

Snuffle Mats are excellent for pretty much all dogs as they work on their sniffing abilities. All  dogs can forage; from French Bulldogs to Flatcoated Retrievers, so they’ll find them rather fascinating. They are currently available in classic snuffle mat designs; or would your puppy prefer a snuffle mat flower? There’s quite an array of choices when it comes to snuffle mats.

Other breeds such as Boxers really like using their paws to do things, so games like the Nina Ottosson Tornado sit just right.

Look for washable puppy puzzles

Most of the Nina Ottosson puzzle toys are now made of dog-friendly plastic and can be washed. Isn’t that amazing? Yes, we loved the original wood ones too, but our dogs also liked to chew them, which couldn’t be cleaned so easily. 

Some soft puzzle toys can also be washed or wiped down. We like the look of this foraging worm or a garden foraging mat – either way, they’ll be busy with something else rather than your shoes. 

Choose a robust puzzle toy if your puppy is a ‘ruff’ player

If you own a giant dog breed like a Great Dane or Mastiff, they’ll love a more robust toy like the Lickimat Tuff series or the Lewondr indestructible dog treat dispenser.

Some breeds need to have that feeling of destroying and dissecting toys to feel satisfied, so a DIY option like we’ve suggested below can sometimes be cheaper in the long run! 

Make your own puppy puzzles

Good for the environment and the bank balance, DIY enrichment or puzzle toys are all the rage these days! It’s incredible how much fun a puppy can have with some toilet roll inners in a cardboard box with some treats thrown in. Check out our article on 50+ puppy training games for ideas of puzzle toys you can make at home. Easy peasy.

puppy playing with a puzzle toy
Photo by Brandon Cormier on Unsplash

When do I introduce puzzle toys to my puppy?

You can introduce puzzle toys to your puppy once they are happily settled into their new home. We suggest you choose super easy ones at first. After all, getting food shouldn’t be like solving today’s wordle puzzle every day, should it?

Let’s not always make it hard to solve puzzles. It can be too frustrating and confidence crushing for a young puppy. Before fun and games, we want them to eat plenty and get the correct nutrition for puppies, right?

How to introduce puzzle toys to puppies

Introduce the puzzle toy to your puppy with you sitting near

Puppies should learn to explore novelty with the support of you around. Doing it this way means they won’t get spooked by any moving parts or noises the puzzle might make. You can also help them by showing them that there are treats inside.

Use puppy treats strategically

If you’re using a new toy, you can sprinkle some treats or pieces of dry food on top, just to show your puppy that the puzzle is worth investigating and to increase its value to your puppy straight away. 

Let your puppy use the puzzle toy by themselves

Once your puppy has got used to using the puzzle toy over a few sessions, you can then start to let them use the puzzle on their own. They master things pretty quickly, the clever little things, so you probably won’t have to wait very long.

Make your puppy work for it while keeping it fun

Many puppy puzzle toys can be made more difficult by freezing the contents so that your puppy has to lick more to get the food out. You can also use less food so that your puppy has to work through more secret compartments to find the goodies. Don’t forget, if it’s too hard, your puppy can easily give up. Puppy puzzles are meant to be fun!

So there you have it, an excellent introduction to puppy puzzle toys and how you can use them! Hope you’ve managed to learn a bit about which ones your puppy might enjoy. Beware! Your puppy will become addicted to it, so they will forever be thankful.

While you’re here, you may as well start teaching your puppy some tricks. They’re another great way to stretch the brain cells and problem solve, and yet another way to show off at the park.

If you’re looking for more puzzle ideas and perhaps a training programme based on your puppy’s age and breed type, look no further than the Zigzag puppy training app. You’ll find everything you need there. We also have a team of puppy training coaches ready to help you with whatever puzzles about your puppy you find yourself trying to solve!