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Which dog puzzle toy is best?

A healthy and happy dog doesn’t just require physical activity but mental stimulation as well. Dog puzzles can improve problem-solving skills and cognitive ability, eliminating boredom and providing much needed mental excitement. They are made for dogs of all ages, interests and mental acuity.

This Nina Ottoson by Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle offers a rewarding challenge for savvier dogs, but the best dog puzzle toys vary in complexity and use, catering to your dog’s exact needs. 

What to know before you buy a dog puzzle toy

What is a dog puzzle toy?

A dog puzzle is a type of interactive dog toy that requires some degree of mental work on behalf of the dog. They are required to solve a task in order to gain the reward, which in most cases is a high-value treat. The task may be simple or complex and involve any number of moving parts or adjustable pieces.


Puzzles offer a range of benefits to dogs young and old. As puzzles can tire a dog out, they may be particularly useful for puppies as well as those dogs who have a bit of separation anxiety. When a dog has been sufficiently stimulated, they are less likely to be rambunctious or focus on being left alone and instead relax contently. For older dogs, puzzles can help keep them sharpening their cognitive abilities in their later years.

Puzzles are a terrific way to avoid boredom, which can lead to destructive, unwanted behaviors. They can also help establish a bond between the owner and the dog.


Dog puzzles generally fall into one of two categories. Hide and seek puzzles are popular options that involve small toys hidden within larger compartments that dogs are tasked with retrieving. Hide and seek toys are generally plush in nature and typically come with two or three small toys that can be enjoyed independently as well.

The second type of toy involves treat finding. A reward is hidden behind a compartment within the toy, whether it’s a simple ball or a complex board, and dogs are required to figure out how to remove it. They may have to push or pull certain components with their mouth or paw to obtain the treat. While hide and seek toys are fairly straightforward, these treat-finding puzzles vary in difficulty depending on how the treat can be found.

What to look for in a quality dog puzzle toy

Challenge level

Some companies offer puzzles of different skill levels. It’s important that the toy isn’t too difficult so the dog doesn’t get discouraged but also not too easy so that the reward is wasted and the dog moves on. For owners investing in their first puzzle, they may be able to determine their dog’s puzzle-solving ability by creating a similar task at home, like hiding a toy or treat under a box or blanket and monitoring the reaction.


It’s important to buy dog puzzles and toys from trusted brands that make safe, reputable products. It’s also helpful to experiment with a few different companies to find out which products your dog enjoys the most. Some specialize in durable options for more aggressive dogs, while offers make items that appeal to a dog’s sensory interests.

Texture and sound

While puzzles provide mental stimulation, they are at their heart, dog toys, so they should appeal to the senses. Some options feature squeaky sounds while others may be textured in an enticing way. The puzzles that will get the most engagement are those that engage the senses as well as the mind.

How much you can expect to spend on a dog puzzle toy

You can find a quality dog puzzle for $10-$20. The cost will be influenced by size and complexity.

Dog puzzle toy FAQ

How should you introduce a puzzle toy to your dog?

A. Dog puzzles are a terrific way for an owner and dog to bond, as the dog puzzle is often interactive. Dogs may need guidance or assistance or may need owners to reset the toy. As dogs may move around the toy, owners may need to help in corralling it. Generally, puzzle engagement should be part of a set playtime where the puzzle is removed when playtime is over. Owners may want to get into a routine as well as dogs respond positively to consistency.

Are dog puzzle toys safe?

A. Just like any toy, dog puzzles are safe to enjoy, provided some basic cautions are exercised by the owner. They should be attuned to their pets habits when it comes to toys, including whether they like to chew, destroy or ingest toys. Generally, toys should be removed when owners are not around, particularly since some dogs may be determined to find a treat or toy; a puzzle that gets lodged under a piece of furniture can lead to potentially dangerous situations.

Owners may want to exercise caution if they have more than one dog in the house, as some dogs may become possessive over treat-dispensing toys.

What’s the best dog puzzle toy to buy?

Top dog puzzle toy

Nina Ottoson by Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle

Nina Ottoson by Outward Hound Interactive Puzzle

What you need to know: A challenging, high-quality puzzle from a trusted source, it will stimulate active and engaged dogs.

What you’ll love: This intermediate dog puzzle requires dexterity and problem-solving skills. It is durable, safe and easy to clean. You can adjust the difficulty.

What you should consider: The puzzle is pricey and still may be too difficult for some dogs.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy and Amazon

Top dog puzzle toy for the money

Zippy Paws Hide and Seek Plush Toy

Zippy Paws Hide and Seek Plush Toy

What you need to know: Cute and fun, this hide-and-seek plush set is designed for thoughtful, gentle dogs.

What you’ll love: This puzzle features three plush squirrels and a large plush log with two holes. It is ideal for medium and large dogs and is machine washable.

What you should consider: It is not for aggressive chewers or smaller dogs.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy and Amazon

Worth checking out

Nina Ottoson by Outward Hound Treat Tumble

Nina Ottoson by Outward Hound Treat Tumble

What you need to know: This straightforward puzzle provides endless entertainment for most dogs and requires little assistance from owners.

What you’ll love:  A good value, the treat-dispensing ball is from a popular puzzle brand. It’s a terrific introduction to puzzles with its appealing, textured exterior.

What you should consider: This toy is not challenging for savvier dogs.

Where to buy: Sold by Chewy and Amazon


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Anthony Marcusa writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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