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Canine Enrichment: Indoor Puzzle Toys!

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

Canine enrichment with indoor puzzle toys

Help! My dog is hyper and we can't play outside!

Not many people (or dogs) want to play in subzero temps. We're from MN and if anyone knows winter... It's us!

Some pet owners may be at a loss for their pets who have had recent surgery, or don't like to walk in the rain.

So what do you do when your dog is losing his mind, and needs to get ENERGY OUT & RUN?!

What if playtime outside is not an option?

Enter: PUZZLES!!

P.s. these are available for rambunctious cats too!

You might think that the only way to exercise, is physically...


Mental work, is just as much (if not more) exerting than physical.

Ever hear the term MENTALLY EXHAUSTED?!

Yep, it's a thing. Even for dogs and cats.

In fact, many dogs I meet actually could benefit from LESS rough & tumble physical exercise and more mental stimulation.


What Are Puzzle Toys?

Puzzle toys are an enrichment activity that promote mental and physical exercise for pets.

They come in SO many varieties.

  • Plastic balls to roll around

  • Stuffed animals with characters to pull out

  • Slide out drawers with treats

  • Spinners

,..And so much more!


How can puzzle toys help?

Puzzle Toys can help a dog by:

  • Relieving stress and anxiety

  • Reduce boredom

  • Eliminate destructive behaviors

  • Bonding with the family

  • Building trust

  • Promote instinctual behavior

Many times when I see behavioral issues arise in pets, it's because they don't have a 'purpose.' Dogs need jobs, especially herding and working breeds.

(Some cats do, too)!

Many breeds were bred to perform certain tasks like hunting, herding livestock, killing rodents, etc.

Dogs weren't brought up to lay around 24/7 and look cute... Well, except for chihuahuas.

Dogs and cats are also natural born hunters and foragers. As domesticated creatures, they often times don't get to release their instinctual behaviors, unless we help or allow them to.

"Enrichment allows animals to demonstrate their species-typical behavior, gives them opportunity to exercise control or choice over their environment and enhances their well-being."

-DogNostics Enrichment Presentation


What Dogs Can Benefit From Puzzle Toys?

Puzzles are great for dogs who:

  • Are on physical restrictions from injury or surgery

  • Need to lose weight

  • Are stuck inside on a rainy or snowy day

  • Are working breeds who need a job

A Dog DNA Test can give great insight to your dog's breed(s) and help you determine if more enrichment would benefit their individual needs and should be incoporated into their daily routine!

  • Are showing anxious or destructive behaviors

  • Struggle to adapt to new environments

And let's face it, puzzle toys are just fun!!

Puzzle toys are also great to slow down fast eaters and even reduce begging!


What kind of puzzle toy should I use?

It all depends on the dog!

Variables can include:

  • Breed

  • Size

  • Age

  • Ambition

  • Instincts

  • Drive

We have 4 different puzzle toys in our house:

All of these can be found online: Chewy or Amazing, the manufacturer website, or at your local pet store!

This ball has one opening where I put treats. My dog has to roll it all around the house to get the treats to fall out. I actually feed half her food in here per day. She LOVES it.

  • Nina Ottoson:

This toy is a level 3. A bit more complicated than other puzzles. She must pull the bone out to unlock the drawer, then pull the drawer out to get a treat!

puzzle toys for dogs


Puzzle toys are great for SO many reasons

Not only is it fun for your dog, but it's fun for humans too!

Watching your pet's brain click and turn in all different directions as they figure out their puzzle is SO entertaining, rewarding, interesting, and kind of funny!

They may even stop and look to you for guidance because they are having trouble navigating the new task.

You can also get your kids involved and have them fill the toy with treats and gently give the puzzle to the dog. Adult supervision is a MUST when allowing a child to interact with your dog's toys and treats, though. Please be present and aware.

Always look for signs of stress and step in if there are any issues before an incident occurs.

Find the full line of my favorite brand here!

Enrichment is incorporated into all my consultations, per the pet's individual needs, to address the concerns each owner has regarding health and behavior.


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