Purchasing a new dog puzzle toy for your pet can be quite challenging because there are so many kinds. A puzzle can improve your pet’s mental awareness, slow down their eating, and help keep them from feeling bored when their masters are away. Determining why you need a puzzle will help narrow down which kind you want.
We picked 10 popular dog puzzles in several varieties to review for you to help you learn the difference between them, as well as how to spot a lemon or a potentially dangerous toy. We have also included a short buyer’s guide to review exactly what a puzzle is and what it should do.
Keep reading for our detailed reviews of each brand of dog puzzle toy, where we compare construction material, difficulty level, clean up, and safety, to help you make an educated purchase.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites (2022 Update)
The 10 Best Dog Puzzle Toys
1. Trixie Pet Products Mini Mover — Best Overall
The Trixie Pet Products Mini Mover is our pick for the best overall dog puzzle toy. This brand has a Level 3 difficulty and includes four games in one package. Your pet will lift cones, move sliders, move knobs, and open doors to get their favorite treats. This brand is dishwasher safe and uses non-slip rubber feet to help keep it in place while your pet is playing. It’s lightweight and extremely durable.
We liked that they included the instruction book so many other brands leave out, and the only downside we experienced while using this dog puzzle was that our larger pets would pick it up and shake it to get the treats.
2. Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle Toy — Best Value
The Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle Toy is our choice for the best value, which means we believe these are the best dog puzzle toys for the money. This low-cost brand features a durable, yet soft, tree trunk with six plush squirrels that hide inside. The objective is for your dog to find and pull out all of the squirrels.
We found that our dog enjoyed this toy and spent quite a bit of time pulling out the small squirrels. It was a lot more durable than we thought it would be at first, and it outlasted several other toys. The biggest problem we had with this puzzle was that the dogs would lose the squirrels, and one of our dogs did finally chew it up without much trouble.
3. PAW5 Wooly Puzzle Mat — Premium Choice
The PAW5 Wooly Snuffle Puzzle Mat is our premium choice dog puzzle toy. This puzzle toy is a hybrid between a mat and a mop. The idea is that you place the mat on the floor, put some treats on top, and fluff the mat to hide them. Your pet must use its sense of smell to detect and retrieve the treats, improving their foraging skills. It’s made from a cotton-polyester blend and is machine washable.
We found that the puzzle mat worked great to slow down our dog’s eating. We were also surprised to find that foraging for treats was more fun for our dogs than eating the cloth fingers that hide them. On the downside, it takes a lot of time and effort to hide all of the treats, because you have to work each kibble into the mat. When you wash this mat, it gets extremely heavy as the cloth fingers hold a lot of water that is hard to wring out.
4. SPOT Shuffle Bone Toy Puzzle
The SPOT Shuffle Bone Toy Puzzle uses an eco-friendly wood construction that’s non-toxic and safe for the environment. This type of puzzle uses sliding doors that your pet needs to move to get at the treats below, which helps strengthen their cognitive abilities.
We liked that this puzzle uses environmentally safe materials, but the wood is a type of compressed particleboard that chips and flakes off a little too easily. It’s also porous and will soak up slobber, and unrelated spills, and humidity in the air. In fact, it starts to swell and warp, and pieces chip off as it collects more water. One other complaint that we have is that some of the edges were very sharp out of the box and required some sanding to avoid injuring our dog.
5. Pet Zone Dog Puzzle Toy
The Pet Zone Dog Puzzle Toy is a brand that comes in two sizes to accommodate different sized dogs. It also features an adjustable difficulty level that you can adjust as your dog learns how to solve it. This puzzle helps to slow down over aggressive eaters, and it’s easy to clean in the sink or the dishwasher.
Awe liked the idea of this puzzle, which is a ball you fill with treats, but it’s has a hard plastic shell that makes a lot of noise as your pet struggles to get the treats out. Some small holes can catch your dog’s nails and even their teeth if they insist on picking it up. We also found that with the treats, it becomes top-heavy and doesn’t roll correctly, making it extremely difficult for the dog to retrieve treats.
6. Outward Hound Puzzle Brick Dog Toy
The Outward Hound Puzzle Brick Dog Toy features a level two difficulty. It has three challenges your pet needs to overcome to retrieve the treats. Pieces slide, open and close, and come out to solve the puzzle. This brand is easy to clean up and is dishwasher safe.
Our dogs had a hard time grabbing the white bones, and we wished they had a piece of rope on them to make it a little easier. Two of our dogs would only attempt the puzzle for a second before flipping over the whole game. Once they get chewing on it, the parts come off easily and are lost.
7. Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle Toy
The Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle Toy is a Level 1 difficulty puzzle that contains nine removable plastic dogbones that cover the hidden treats. The puzzle is not very challenging, but it’s fun for many dogs, and it will also slow down their eating. It’s easy to clean with soap and water.
The trouble we had with this brand was with the white bones. These bones use a thin plastic construction that your dog can chew and destroy. Another problem with the white bones is that they get lost easily.
8. West Paw Design Puzzle Treat Toy
The West Paw Design Puzzle Treat Toy is a brand made from high-quality, BPA-free rubber. This puzzle bounces and floats to provide plenty of hours of fun and mental stimulation for your pet. It’s easily cleaned by running it through the dishwasher or wiping it out with soap and water.
We found it to be quite durable and able to withstand quite a bit of use before showing signs of wear. However, it is quite expensive, and we had a hard time not considering it half a toy since a smaller half must be purchased separately and works with the larger half to hold the treats. As it is, it’s challenging to find treats that you can wedge in the puzzle that don’t fall out.
9. LC-dolida Dog Puzzle Toys
The LC-dolida Dog Puzzle Toys brand features a colorful and attractive design. It’s constructed from non-toxic, BPA-free PVC plastic that s easy to clean in cold water. This model is a Level 2 puzzle, which means it should give your pet some mental stimulation, but not be too hard to figure out.
We didn’t like that this puzzle is so small. It’s not much bigger than a standard Frisbee and is composed of two thin pieces of plastic that are very flimsy. It’s also extremely lightweight and scoots across the floor, or lifts, while your pet is solving the puzzle.
10. Tarvos Dog Treat Puzzle Toy
The Tarvos Interactive Dog Treat Puzzle Toy is the last dog puzzle toy on our list of reviews. This brand works by holding some treats in a tube suspended over a maze. When your pet rolls the tube, treats fall into the maze, and your dog must dig them out. This puzzle helps slow feeding considerably, and the broad base helps catch all of the crumbs and the slobber, so you have less mess.
One of the biggest complaints we had while using this puzzle was that it was difficult to refill. The tiny opening can only accommodate small treats, and you must insert them close to one at a time. The treat holes are tiny as well, so this puzzle won’t be good for larger dogs. When the roll is full of treats, the puzzle can fall over, and it slides a lot while your dog is attempting to get the treats. There are also a lot of tight spots that food and dirt can collect in that are difficult to clean.
Related Read: 10 Best Dog Toys – Reviews & Top Picks
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Dog Puzzle Toy
Let’s go over some of the most important things to consider when choosing a dog puzzle. Even though these dog puzzles are just toys, there are elements to them that can improve your dog’s well-being and happiness. Some dogs eat too quickly, while others spend a lot of time by themselves and might get into mischief. Some dogs are smart, and a puzzle is a great way to show off their intelligence.
Dog puzzles generally come in three difficulty levels from one to three.
Difficulty Level 1
One is the easiest difficulty, and these puzzles are usually just treated holders that your pet needs to knock around a little to get a reward. These can be an excellent way to slow down your pets eating but are usually more of an interactive toy. A plastic bone stuffed with peanut butter is an example of this type of toy
Difficulty Level 2
Level two difficulty toys are a little harder than level one and typically require removing pieces to get at treats below. These puzzles are excellent for slowing down your pet’s eating and often have enough compartments to use it for that purpose. The downside to level two puzzles is that the pieces can often get lost, or your dog might chew them, so these puzzles often require a lot of supervision.
Difficulty Level 3
Puzzles that have a difficulty level of three contain sliding doors as well as opening doors and can also have removable parts as well. These puzzles can be much harder for your pet to figure out and are god for showing off your dog’s intelligence. These puzzles can also be suitable remedies for boredom and loneliness if your dog is the type that will stick with it. These puzzles are not great for hungry dogs that eat too fast. These dogs may grow frustrated and chew or flip the puzzle to get at the treats.
Safety is a significant concern because many of these puzzles have removable parts, either by design or through chewing. We recommend always checking that the construction material is non-toxic and does not contain harmful BPA. If your dog is a chewer, stay away from puzzles with removable parts and watch them while they play to prevent destruction.
Another thing to look out for concerning safety is sharp edges. We have purchased far too many brands that have sharp or pointy edges that can injure your pet if they get to laying rough.
Another big issue to worry about before you make a purchase is the durability of the puzzle. Puzzles in each difficulty level have parts that can wear out or get chewed. We recommend inspecting each brand before you make a purchase, if it seems flimsy to you, it probably won’t last long when your pet gets it.
One thing every puzzle is going to have in common is that it will need cleaning. We recommend avoiding puzzles that have a lot of nooks and crannies that will capture and hold food and dirt or have any compartments that might be hard to clean.
We recommend level 3 puzzles for all dogs if you have the time to supervise them while they play. The Trixie Pet Products Mini Mover is our pick for the best overall and is a perfect example of a puzzle that can stimulate the mind while slowing down eating habits and reducing boredom. If level 3 is too frustrating for your dog, we recommend going down one level at a time until your pet is comfortable yet challenged. The Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle Toy is an excellent example of a level two puzzle and is our choice for the best value.