Whoever invented food puzzles for dogs deserves a medal, in my humble opinion!
That’s because dog food puzzles keep dogs busy and entertained when I can’t. Food puzzles are one of my favorite mental enrichment accessories.
As a result, I’m currently the proud owner of seven different food puzzles, several of which I’ve had for a few years. I recently added more to my collection because it’s a good idea to rotate the food puzzles to keep my pup interested.
This brings me to today’s blog post where I’ll be telling you all about my different dog food puzzles. Three of my favorites include:
Food puzzles for dogs range in difficulty from easy to more challenging, but before I go into more detail, let’s first take a look at the specific benefits of dog food puzzles in general.
5 enrichment benefits of dog food puzzles
1. Dogs are home alone and in need of mental stimulation. The latter can also help alleviate mild separation anxiety because it keeps dogs busy and less focused on the fact that their human isn’t home with them.
2. We can’t be outside as much due to weather or other reasons. Fun boredom busters are welcome on those days spent inside due to below freezing temperatures, torrential downpours and similar severe weather, the summer heat and humidity.
See our post: Tips for exercising your dog indoors.
3. A dog’s physical activity is restricted due to age or recovery from sickness. Older dogs will benefit from a little entertainment that keeps them alert and thinking in-between their senior naps.
Younger pups who are battling illnesses like heartworm disease or a broken limb are severely restricted in their physical activities. As a result, they’ll need an outlet for their pent-up energy.
4. Entertainment in the crate. Dog food puzzles combine a little playtime with food rewards and mental stimulation, which will be particularly helpful when a dog or puppy is crated.
5. We’re in need of some uninterrupted time. Especially when many of us are working from home these days and might have several calls scheduled.
If you have a high-energy dog, you want to make sure you’re providing plenty of physical AND mental exercise, as we wrote about in this post.
Safety recommendation for dog food puzzles
I do have to add that some supervision might be necessary with strong chewers around certain dog food puzzles. In other words, not all food puzzles are designed to be left home alone with your dog.
I’ll add my safety recommendation to each dog food puzzle, but ultimately you’re the one who knows your dog best and it’ll be up to you to gauge whether or not he’ll need supervision around it.
7 best food puzzles for dogs
These are some of my favorite food puzzles for dogs. Please add your own favorites in the comments for others to try!
1. KONG Treat Toy
- Can be filled with dry, wet, or raw dog food
- Freeze for a longer chewing session
- Made with natural rubber that makes the toy bounce erratically
- Made in the USA
- Comes in 5 sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL)
- Top-rack dishwasher safe
Safety recommendation: We have the black large size Extreme KONG toy that’s made for power chewers and it has withstood Wally’s chewing attacks! I bought it after he destroyed a puppy and a classic (red) KONG toy.
You should be able to leave the Extreme version alone with your strong chewer. (It holds up to Lindsay’s dog Remy as well!)
2. Nylabone Busy-Time Stuffable Dog Toy
Order the Nylabone Busy-Time toy here – just $12.99 on Chewy
- Can be filled with dry, wet, or raw dog food
- Freeze for a longer-lasting chew session
- Made of natural rubber that bounces and rolls for exciting playtime
- Bacon flavored
- Textured nubs to help clean teeth
- Comes in 3 sizes (small, medium, and large)
- Hand wash only
I have the large Nylabone stuffable toy for Wally, and he hasn’t destroyed it yet after using it for months!
Safety recommendation: Made for strong chewers. Your pup should be fine home alone with this stuffable toy. Nylabone also carries stuffable toys for power chewers if your pup falls into that category.
3. Outward Hound Fun Feeder
Order an Outward Hound fun feeder – just $12 on Chewy
- Helps dogs eat up to 10x slower
- Encourages natural foraging skills through fun patterns and mazes
- Non-slip base
- Made from food-safe materials that are BPA, PVC, and Phthalate free
- Works great for dry, wet, and raw dog food diets
- Comes in 3 sizes: small, medium, and large
- Top-rack dishwasher safe
I can even put my dog’s raw dog food in this bowl. It looks gross, but it’s a great puzzle for him!
I have the medium size Fun Feeder, and that one holds 2 cups of dry or wet dog food.
The brand claims that their feeder bowl will slow eating habits down tenfold. Surprisingly enough, it took Wally 5 minutes to eat his 6 ounces of raw dog food out of the fun feeder. It usually takes him a minute only for meals consisting of individual cuts of meat. The brand’s claim was correct in Wally’s case!
It slowed his little doggie friend Lila down some when she ate her dry dog food out of it, but the difference wasn’t as drastic as with Wally.
Wally’s raw meal above includes:
2 duck wings, duck tenders, duck gizzards, a secreting organ blend, kefir, and homemade pumpkin purée.
Safety recommendation: This feeder is made of hard plastic and not intended to be a chew toy. I wouldn’t leave your dog alone with it if he’s a happy-go-lucky chewer!
Simply pick it up after your dog has eaten, and that will do the trick. As it is, I recommend washing dog bowls after each use to prevent bacteria buildup and to prevent any insects like flies, ants or roaches from getting attracted by it.
4. Paw 5 Wooly Snuffle Mat for Dogs
- Encourages natural foraging skills
- Easy to fill
- Machine washable
- Sustainably handmade in Thailand and Ghana from a combination of virgin & upcycled materials
- Rubber mat on bottom
- Great for all size dogs
- Available in one size 12″ x 18″
Safety recommendation: Not for aggressive chewers. If your dog is known to chew up blankets and doggie bedding, I probably wouldn’t leave him alone with the snuffle mat. I can see it being an invitation to rip out the individual pieces of gray “grass.”
My pup Wally and my roommate’s dog Lila don’t chew up their bedding, so they’re fine when left alone with the mat, and so were my previous dogs Missy & Buzz.
I also found that the Snuffle Mat has been great at teaching Wally and Lila to politely share treats within a confined space. What I would do is have each pup “sit-stay” on one end of the mat with me sitting in the middle while putting some treats on their respective side of the mat. Then I released them one after the other with an “ok” to sniff out their treats.
They’ve made a lot of progress, but note that I’ve been supervising all dog treat interaction on the mat with the pups, and that I wouldn’t leave any treats out on it when they’re home alone, unsupervised. I shake it out after each use to make sure there’s no treats left in it, and then put it back on the floor in the living room.
5. KONG Wobbler Treat Dispensing Toy
- Great for dry dog food & treats
- Unscrews easily for filling
- Wobbles, spins, and rolls
- Available in small (5″) and large (8″)
- Made in the USA
- Top-shelf dishwasher safe
Wally has the 8″ Wobbler which holds up to 1 cup of dry food or treats. Out of all the treat dispensing toys, this one is his favorite!
Safety recommendation: Made for medium chewers. Power chewers shouldn’t be left alone with the Wobbler. As a matter of fact, the KONG packaging also recommends supervised use only.
Check out our post on the most durable dog toys if you have a power chewer!
6. West Paw Zogoflex Qwizl Interactive Treat Dispensing Dog Puzzle Toy
- Floats in water
- Available in 2 sizes, small and large
- 3 color choices: Aqua blue, granny smith, tangerine
- Dishwasher safe
- BPA and Phthalate free
- Made in USA
- Durable and built for tough chewers – 100% guaranteed against dog damage by manufacturer
Safety recommendation: Made for tough chewers. This puzzle toy is designed with strong chewers in mind and consists of thick bendable rubber, therefore it should be fairly safe to leave your dog (home) alone with it.
7. Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball
Order a Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball here
- Interactive dog toy ball
- Difficulty level can be adjusted with the ball’s interior adjustable disc
- Ball disassembles for easy cleaning with hot, soapy water
- Available in 2 sizes, small (3″) and large (4″)
- Durable and made of non-toxic materials (made in China)
Safety recommendation: Not for aggressive chewers. The walls of the ball aren’t made of thick plastic or rubber, so they would be a quick victim for tough chewers. I recommend using the Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball only under supervision if your dog has strong chewing tendencies.
Health benefits of dog food puzzles
Besides providing the obvious mental enrichment, dog food puzzles can also have a positive impact on our dog’s physical health. For instance, they can help decrease the risk of bloat. That’s a potentially fatal condition where the stomach twists on itself and cuts off the dog’s airways.
Dogs who inhale their meals have a higher risk of suffering from bloat, and gulpers who need to be slowed down can eat their food out of manipulated bowls shaped like a maze or out of hollow dog toys.
There are a few puzzles that can indeed be filled with a decent amount of your dog’s dry, wet, or raw food. You’ll add at least a few minutes to his dinner time if you’re feeding him the puzzle route. Go ahead and freeze it for an even longer lasting session!
Now, I’d like to hear from you!
If your dog has a favorite puzzle toy or if you think she’d like one of these puzzles, let me know in the comments!
As a recap, here are three of our favorite puzzle toys:
If you have any questions about puzzle toys, let me know in the comments!
Barbara Rivers writes regularly for That Mutt. She is certified in raw dog food nutrition from Dogs Naturally Magazine and the author of three ebooks about balanced raw dog food. She is a blogger at K9s Over Coffee.