7 Best Interactive Dog Puzzle Toys in 2020

Toys are an excellent way to help entertain your pup, keeping them excited about playtime and capturing their attention. While there’s nothing wrong with a ball for a game of fetch, some dogs like to have a bit of an extra challenge.

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Interactive dog toys rise to the occasion in these moments. In general, these toys will have some form of a game for your pup to enjoy, like pulling smaller toys out of their spots or solving puzzles to get to a treat. The mental challenge provides a fun game for your dog, and treat dispensers can also help curb heavy eaters’ intake of food.

Aside from giving your furry family member something new to enjoy, interactive puzzle dog toys can give you a breather from their attention to get something else done for a moment. Since interactive toys also come in different difficulty levels, they can also help mentally train your dog.

While interactive dog puzzle toys aren’t going to be the most exciting thing to play with for all breeds, they are worth investing in to have another source of entertainment around in the home.

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve gathered together a complete guide to the best interactive dog puzzle toys in 2020—including reviews, a buyer’s guide, frequently asked questions, and more!

What to Look for in a Good Interactive Dog Puzzle Toy

First, let’s make it clear that any toy that can “respond” to your pet is interactive. In this vein, even squeaky toys are interactive—but this guide focuses much more on the puzzle-oriented variety. Often, you’ll find these in two distinct types: those that give treats and those that don’t.

Treat-oriented puzzle toys give your dog a clear incentive to finding a solution. Often, these toys will have multiple compartments in them that you can hide treats in to find. It then becomes your dog’s challenge to determine where the snacks are and how to get to them. These often come in a variety of difficulty levels for differing mental challenges.

Other puzzle toys can have the reward be a toy hidden inside of a broader base. Your dog then has the challenge of finding the hidden spots and pulling out the “prize” toy. While there isn’t a treat inside, the reward is often exciting for your pup.

A high-quality puzzle toy will often have multiple treat compartments or configurations available to give your dog some variety. After all, using the same setup can easily make your pup bored. Some interactive puzzle toys even have expansions available, which can increase the difficulty level.

Like all dog toys, you’ll also want any puzzle options to be durable. Any pieces that break off can create a health hazard for your pup. Being able to order replacement “prize” toys is also an excellent feature, as you won’t have to spend extra money on a base that you already have. It’s also essential to check the manufacturing items, so your dog isn’t putting any harmful substances in their mouth.

Overall Best Interactive Dog Puzzle Toys

With that covered, let’s get into our list of the best interactive dog puzzle toys!

Trixie Mini Mover Activity Strategy Game Dog Toy – Best Overall

If basic puzzles are too dull for your dog, then the level three Trixie Mini Mover board has a variety of options for hiding treats and providing a challenge. On this toy, you’ll find sliders with hidden compartments, cups to place treats under, and a lever or rope that opens a drawer with a gift inside. These different options allow for some variety and challenge.

This toy uses a dishwasher-safe plastic, so you can put it on the top shelf whenever you need a clean. Trixie also includes a booklet with training and game explanations so you can make the most of the toy with your pup for extra enjoyment. The non-slip rubber feet help the game stay stable while your dog plays with the pieces.

Ethical Pet Seek-A-Treat Shuffle Puzzle

This puzzle is overall simple, but it has plenty of different compartments and configurations to help entertain your dog. To play with this toy, your dog simply needs to push around the disks covering the compartments until they open up the ones with treats. With ten different compartments, it’s simple to make the game different each time to keep your pet’s interest.

As with other puzzle toys, this shuffle puzzle provides some fun mental stimulation while also providing your pup with treats for rewards. To clean this toy, you can use a damp cloth across the wooden surface to clean up the mess. Though the bottom weights to keep it from moving around, it can slide a bit when used. It also won’t stand up to chewing, so it’s not suitable for heavy chewers.

Trixie Mad Scientist Turn Around Activity Strategy Game

Another treat dispensing option comes in the form of the Trixie Mad Scientist activity game. This toy’s design resembles science beakers on a stand. Whenever your dog flips the beaker upside down, the treats inside will fall out. While you can set up the beakers without lids, the extra level of the challenge comes when you put on the included tops.

The beaker lids have holes in them, which require your dog to figure out how to correctly balance the toy to get the treat to come out. There are two types of lids, with one set having larger openings, and the other smaller, letting you add some variety to the challenge. This toy comes with rubber feet to prevent it from slipping, and the beakers are dishwasher safe.

While many dogs can enjoy this toy, it’s height will make it too tall for smaller breeds.

Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Smart Puzzle Game

For a more entry-level puzzle toy, then this puzzle from Nina Ottosson gets our vote. The design is a central base with several compartments for food and treats. You can then place the dog bone shaped covers over the chambers, requiring your dog to pick up or push them out of place to get to the reward underneath.

With the size of these compartments, you can easily use this toy to help moderate your dog’s eating pace. The bone covers can also sit either flat against the board or elevated to make your dog need to remove them in different ways. Since it’s an entry-level puzzle, though, your pup may quickly master the trick and take no time to complete it later.

Frisco Hide and Seek Plush Volcano Puzzle Toy

For a toy that doesn’t require any treats to be usable but still provides plenty of fun, Frisco’s Hide and Seek Volcano provides a reliable option. This toy comes with a volcano-shaped base and six plush dinosaur toys that fit inside hidden slots. To play with this puzzle, your dog must first find where the dinos are hiding and then successfully pull them out.

Each dinosaur plush has a squeaker inside to encourage your pup to play and hunt for them, and they’re soft enough to be cuddle toys whenever your dog has wound down to rest. Since there are more dinos than holes in the volcanos, you’ll have backups whenever one wears out. You can also purchase new dinosaurs without needing a whole new volcano base.

Overall Best Interactive Dog Puzzle Toys for Puppies

Frisco Hide and Seek Plush Chewy Box Puzzle Toy

Another hide and seek toy option is Frisco’s Plush Chewy Box offering. The design matches a delivery box, and there are two slots to place the included toys in. This toy comes with a plush ball, a plush bone, and a braided rope. The ball and the bone have squeakers inside to add an extra level of interest when your dog plays with them.

While the hide and seek game may seem simple, but it can provide hours of entertainment for your pup. The design of the plush box is also suitable for hiding other toys and even treats inside. The three included toys are also ideal for playtime on their own, and the plush components are soft enough for cuddle time. However, these pieces won’t stand up to heavy chewing, so monitor your dog when they play.

Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Tornado Puzzle Game Toy

Similar to the previous toy from Nina Ottosson we recommended, this puzzle provides a great snack and food hiding game but at a higher difficulty. You’ll still find bone-shaped compartments and covers to hide snacks and food under, but the challenge comes in the design. Rather than being a single layer puzzle, the Tornado offering has different levels that your dog will need to figure out how to spin.

Between the rotating pieces and the covers, you can further adjust the difficulty level to your dog’s ability. This toy uses a food-safe plastic free of lead, BPA, PVC, and phthalate, making it safe for your dog to eat from and pick up with their mouth. Even so, the pieces do not stand up to heavy chewing, so you should take care to observe your dog when they play. This toy is suitable for pups of all sizes.

Tips for Playing with Interactive Puzzle Toys with Your Dog

These interactive puzzle toys make for an excellent option to add to your dog’s toy roster. If you’re new to the game and you’re not sure how to make the best use of them, we have some tips for you!

  1. Take your time introducing them to the puzzle – Sometimes, it can take a bit of time before your dog begins to associate the puzzle with playtime. In the case of treat puzzles, you can start by leaving the toy open to the compartment where the snack is, and, later, setting up the covers. With “prize toy” options, help direct them to the hiding hole the first time.
  2. Rotate out your puzzle toys – Whenever a dog has any toy available to them all the time, it can lose its allure. This issue can also arise with puzzle toys, as once your dog has figured out the toy, they may not feel like playing with it again. By making the toy available only some of the time or switching out puzzle types, you can add more variety to their playtime.
  3. Trust your dog’s instincts – You may worry that your dog isn’t going to have much luck with figuring out a puzzle. And while some interactive toys can have higher levels of difficulty, your dog will likely figure out what to do in time. Especially with toys that have treats inside, your pup’s “hunting” instincts will kick in and help them figure out the answer.
  4. Give them a reason to complete the puzzle – Even when a treat or food is a reward, some dogs just won’t see it as worth the effort to go through a problem to get. You can further incentivize them by making a “high value” treat as the prize. As they get used to the toy, you can make the high value treats the award for completing higher level difficulty puzzles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about interactive puzzle toys? We’ve gathered together some of the most frequently asked and provided the answers.

Can I leave my dog alone with puzzle toys?

Interactive puzzle toys do make for an excellent distraction to catch your dog’s attention. Even so, it’s best to keep an eye on your dog whenever they play with any toy. This precaution is mostly for safety purposes.

Puzzle toys don’t always have the durability to stand up to use as chew toys, and you don’t want pieces to break off and become a choking hazard.

How can I tell the difficulty level of a puzzle toy?

Having a puzzle that’s too challenging for your dog to figure out means that they may give up and not get much enjoyment out of the toy. Thankfully, manufacturers understand this, and so they often include a difficulty level in the item description. Level one is suited for beginning puzzle pups, and the difficulty increases as the numbers go up.

When should I replace my dog’s puzzle toys?

As with any other dog toy, you should remove them once pieces begin to break off, creating a choking hazard. With some interactive puzzle toys, you may be able to take away pieces while leaving the rest intact. Even so, you should always check your dog’s toys before and after playtime to ensure they’re still good enough to use.

Is there a way to check if a toy is safe for my dog to use?

A general rule of thumb is to start with the size of the toy. Items that are small enough can create a choking hazard. From there, you should check that there are no potentially harmful components used in the manufacturing of the toy. Your vet can also offer advice.

Conclusion

Interactive dog toys can provide hours of fun and mental stimulus for your pup. With our top picks, you can rest assured that you’re getting a top-rated puzzle to bring home, giving your pup lots of entertainment and mental stimulus!

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