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Often recommended by dog behaviorists, interactive dog toys are designed to help keep your dog busy while you’re away, stave off boredom, and provide opportunities to exercise—plus offer mental stimulation to engage a pup’s natural curiosity. That’s why we’re taking a look at the best dog puzzle toys, including everything from lick pads and snuffle mats to challenging chase toys and slow feeders.
The most puzzling (see what we did there?) aspect of choosing puzzle toys is finding the right type of toy for your unique, individual dog. “The first step is to observe your pet’s interactions with objects in general,” says Sara Richter, CDBC (Certified Dog Behavior Consultant) with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.
“Do they use their nose, teeth, or paws? Are they nervous, or do they dive right in to sniffing, licking, chewing or batting it around?” Your dog’s behavior with objects will help steer you in the right direction.
It’s also important to keep in mind that there may be some trial and error involved to find the right difficulty and type of toy. “Puzzle toys range in difficulty from easy to hard, starting with a difficult toy can make pet’s easily frustrated and give up. Start small, let your pet build confidence and grow their enrichment plan as their skills develop,” says Richter.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of our favorite puzzle toys in the slow feeder, skill-building, and hide-and-seek categories to offer valuable mental stimulation for your pup.
The Best Slow Feeder Puzzle Toys for Dogs
Here are our top choices for puzzle toys that also work as slow feeders. Slow-feeder toys are a great introduction to puzzle toys and are especially effective if your dog is treat-motivated. They’re an excellent distraction for pups who get situationally anxious (think storms and car rides), but if you find yourself using them a lot, consider tracking down a low-calorie filler. We’ve sorted these slow-feeder puzzles from simplest to most challenging.
Best All-Purpose: Kong Classic Dog Toy
Whether your dog is pawing it around the house or carefully licking out every last goody, a Kong is a good choice for both mental stimulation and distraction. They’re not complicated, but they’re wildly popular and accessible to a wide range of pups, with multiple sizes and special varieties for puppies, seniors, and extreme chewers.
- Durable non-toxic rubber
- Made in the USA and subject to strict quality control tests
- Can be filled with a variety of dog-safe stuffings and treats
- Freeze for an extra challenge
- Aggressive chewers need the extra-durable model
- Dogs are less interested in them if they are unstuffed
- Can be hard to clean out
Best for Beginners: FurryFido Interactive Treat Dispensing Chew Toy
FurryFido Interactive Treat Dispensing Chew Toy
This interactive toy is two in one: fill it with treats or kibble for mental stimulation or just let them chew on it for fun.
FurryFido’s ball is a straightforward, no-gimmicks option for dogs who might enjoy fetch, light chewing, and getting treats. It’s made of non-toxic, durable rubber and is a nice pick for dry treats or kibble. It lends itself well to interactive play, and its simplicity is perfect for dogs still finding their puzzle-toy sea legs. We also like that a pup can nose it around and get some exercise without any heavy-duty clanking or wear and tear on the baseboards.
While this chew toy is great for play and mental stimulation, it isn’t recommended for tough chewers.
- Durable, non-toxic materials
- Also seconds as a fetch and chew toy
- Not recommended for aggressive chewers
Best for Chasers: Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball
The Tricky Treat Ball levels up the challenge with a smaller treat-dispensing hole and an uneven surface that makes for unpredictable bounces. Load it up with treats or kibble, and as your dog pushes it around the house, their favorite snacks dribble out, piece by piece. It’s a nice choice for chasers and fetch enthusiasts—the pups who love to bat and nose things around the house and sprint after them.
- Unique texture for your dog to grip
- Dispenses treats one-by-one when rolled
- Some reviewers note it doesn’t stand up to intense chewing
Best for Shakers: PetSafe Sportsmen Barnacle Treat Dispenser Dog Toy
The Barnacle Treat dispenser ratchets things up a little with its unpredictable shape. Kibble is sporadically doled out from three inner chambers via the Treat Meter, producing a pleasant surprise for your dog as they bounce the barnacle around. It’s meant to confound the expectations of ball-loving pups, who will find this doesn’t roll like they’d expect. It rewards the chewers, the grippers, and the shakers—the pups who love to grab a toy in their jaws and toss it around.
- Scented rubber to keep your dog interested
- Three chambers for treats, plus grooves for a spreadable treat
- Not all dogs care for the scent
- Dogs used to the motions of treat balls don’t always understand how this toy works
Best Rope-Style Feeder: PetSafe Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug Meal-Dispensing Dog Toy
The unusual Tug-A-Jug by PetSafe combines a rubber chew toy, rope toy, and food dispenser in one. It features a textured rubber nodule, which cleans teeth, a rope to tug on, and a jug you can fill with kibble or treats. The rope element especially a rarity in the world of puzzle toys—if your pup is a fan of rope textures, this is a great entry point.
The jug itself comes in large sizes and holds quite a few treats, making it a nice option for big dogs—though they’re not easy to get out, which also makes this more challenging than the puzzle toys above.
- Textured ball for chewing
- Jar for slow feeding treats or kibble
- Rope tug, which helps release treats and keep teeth clean
- The difficulty level frustrates some dogs (especially those not naturally inclined to play with rope)
Best for Chews: West Paw Qwizl Treat Dispensing Dog Puzzle Toy
Shaped like a warped tube, the Qwizl puzzle toy can be stuffed with kibble, apple slices, dog biscuits, jerky strips, carrot sticks, nut butters—you name it! It’s an especially popular pick for bully sticks; if that’s your pup’s jam, this puzzle offers both mental stimulation and a high-value distraction.
West Paw claims this is one of its strongest toys, so even if your pup is a heavy chewer, this durable puzzle is worth a shot.
- Designed to stand up to tough chewers
- Takes more work to get out treats
- Made in the USA
- This doesn’t fit every kind of chew out there, so if there’s one in particular you want to use, it’s worth getting out the measuring tape to make sure yours will fit
Most Challenging Ball: Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball Interactive Dog Toy
There are more complicated feeders out there, but there aren’t a lot of more challenging ball-style puzzles than the IQ Treat Ball. An adjustable opening lets you increase or decrease the difficulty level, which makes it more trainable than your basic feeder ball while still offering all of the perks: it keeps your dog physically active, slows their eating, and offers more mental stimulation.
It isn’t, however, quite as durable as some of the rubber slow-feeder balls on the market; if your pup’s heart is set on roughhousing or tossing their toy across the yard, a simpler feeder might be the way to go.
- Dispensing treat ball that allows opening adjustment for different difficulty levels
- Easily disassembles for cleaning
- Transparent so dog can see treats
- Made with plastic, which some dogs may break apart and other dogs may not be as interested in
Best for Wet Food: West Paw Zogoflex Toppl Interactive Puzzle Toy
Dogs have to work to knock their reward loose from this wobbling toy, which traps treats in its ridges. To make the puzzle even more dynamic for precocious pups, you can interlock the small and large sizes. Because of its design, this toy has a greater degree of difficulty than some of the others, especially if you use wet food or treats that don’t easily dislodge.
- Zogoflex is tough, bouncy, and stretchy
- Added challenge of treats in ridges
- Recyclable toy made from non-toxic, BPA-and-phthalate-free materials
- Made and sourced in the USA
- Can interlock different sizes for more challenge
- Not for extremely aggressive chewers
- Have to buy more than one to get the interlocking feature—which is where the real challenge is
Best Bobble-Style Dispenser: Bob-A-Lot Interactive Pet Toy
You know those blow-up bop bags you’d punch as a kid? This treat-dispensing toy by Starmark is kind of like that, only much smaller and filled with tasty snacks. It’s a dog puzzle to be solved with face and feet, so expect some loud and ecstatic playtime.
Fill the toy with your dog’s favorite treat, or even their entire dinner, then customize the opening to make it easier or harder for your dog to knock those treats out. As your pup works for it, the toy bobs and tilts on an anti-slip, weighted base. It’s like dinner and a show.
- Can hold an entire meal for slow feeding
- Not transparent for extra challenge
- Requires a lot of physical engagement to knock loose treats
- Contains two adjustable openings to increase challenge
- Hard to clean; best for tidy kibble and treats
- A heavy toy makes for loud play—not great for second-floor apartment dwellers
Most Challenging Slow Feeder: Trixie Mad Scientist Turn Around Interactive Dog Toy
Let the experiments begin! Challenge your dog to flip the canisters upside down and keep them balanced until the treats fall out. This toy comes with several lids with varying hole sizes to increase or decrease difficulty and mental stimulation. This toy is a good bridge between easier ball-style slow feeders and the more advanced skill-based puzzle toys below.
- Adjust challenge with no lids or two different sets of patterned lids
- Requires pup to flip and balance beakers to access treats
- Beakers are dishwasher-safe
- Non-slip base
- Not for aggressive chewers
- Some dog parents noted they needed to weigh down the base
Best Skill-Building Puzzle Toys
Here are our top choices for puzzle toys that rely on your dog to use some paw and nose skills to find the treats. These are great for mental stimulation, but some of them can be frustrating for doggos who haven’t yet developed the dexterity to operate them—which is why we recommend starting slow.
Different pups find different skills easier to master, so difficulty can be a little variable, but we’ve done our best to organize these from simplest to most complicated.
Best for Beginners: OurPets Waffle Puzzle Toy
We love a food-themed toy, and so do our dogs, including tester Olive the Boston Terrier. Because the syrup top doesn’t cover all the treat holes, this waffle puzzle toy is great for dogs who need a relatively simple place to start their journey—or some easy wins.
It also helps your pup get comfortable using their nose to nudge obstacles out of the way—a foundational skill for future puzzles—and a little delicacy is required for some of the harder-to-reach areas. We’ve even known some cats who got into this one.
- Simple yet engaging puzzle toy
- Two spinning levels
- Can build challenge
- Hand-wash only
Best for Small Dogs: OurPets Sushi Interactive Puzzle
This interactive sushi puzzle by OurPets proved to be great for our tester, Shirley the Pug, who found the treat slots the perfect depth and quickly picked up on how to move the sushi pieces around to reveal more treats.
It’s not challenging for most pups, but it does add a layer of difficulty by hiding the treats from sight. Some pet parents like to put wet food or spreadable treats in the holes for a longer-lasting play session. It’s also nice training for more difficult puzzle toys, where some pieces will have to be fully removed in order to slide others out of the way.
- Slide “sushi” to access treats
- Shallow cups for easy treat access
- Popular with small to medium pups (and cats!)
- Too easy for some pups; doesn’t have a buildable challenge
- Some reviewers found it too small for extra-large dogs
Best for Easy Nosework: Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat
Perhaps one of the most classic puzzle toys, snuffle mats are a fun way to work your dog’s brain while they sniff out treats or kibble in the strands of fabric. This popular version gets great reviews and works well for dogs of all sizes and ages. It’s machine washable for easy clean-up.
Most mats aren’t large enough to teach true nosework, as some trainers have pointed out—but they’re an excellent way to introduce the concept to a beginner and season dinner with some mental stimulation.
- Uses foraging skills
- Also works as slow feeder
- Sustainable, non-toxic, durable materials
- Machine washable
- Pricier than your average puzzle toy
- Some large dogs can pick up the mat and shake out the treats
Best Swivel Toy: Nina Ottosson Outward Hound Puzzle Toy for Dogs
Now we’re getting somewhere: this wooden toy requires your pup to master a new kind of movement in a more intricate layout, where some pieces move and others don’t. The flippers on this puzzle toy swivel with a dextrous push of the nose or paw, and your pup has to differentiate between fins and pegs.
Made by the well-regarded Swedish puzzle toy company Nina Ottosson, it’s a great first step on the road to more complicated toys in the line.
- Locked-in pieces (safer for pups who might swallow removable pieces)
- Two different sliding mechanisms for accessing treats
- Elevated components, good for short-nosed dogs
- Some dog parents find the pieces slide too easily, making the toy too simple
Best Intermediate Toy: Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado
This puzzle toy marks the beginning of the intermediate level for a lot of pups. It requires that your dog spin the alternating blue and yellow layers to access the treat cavities. One cavity being open means another is closed, making some treats inaccessible, while removable bone-shaped covers put another obstacle between your pup and their reward.
- Four spinning layers
- Bone blocks increase difficulty
- Good for dogs of different sizes
- Especially chew-happy pups might go after the plastic bone blocks, which means close supervision is required
Best for Variety: Ethical Pet Seek-a-Treat Flip ‘N Slide
Designed with hues from your dog’s visual color range to activate natural behavior, this fun puzzle encourages your dog to flip and slide their way to hidden treats with their nose, tongue, and paws, and more.
Pieces with different kinds of motion encourage your pup to use all the tools at their disposal (which makes a no-slip bottom is a real lifesaver).
- Two types of components: sliding and flipping
- Made in a dog’s visual color range
- Some pet parents find the pieces a little too easy to open, which can decrease the difficulty
Most Advanced: Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Toy
You might have noticed by now that we’ve featured several toys in the Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound collection. They’re high quality, get great reviews by dog parents, and are an all-around puzzle toy go-to. We’ve found this the hardest puzzle yet: the white bone tiles have to be removed before your pup can slide the red compartments out of the way to reach a treat in the cavity beneath, a logical leap that not all pups can master right away.
The good news is that you can skip the bone blocks as your dog learns the ropes, then incorporate them slowly to increase difficulty once your pup has mastered the first level.
- Options to level up the challenge
- Requires dog to flip lids, remove bone blocks, and slide compartments to reveal treats
- May be too challenging for some dogs
- Some dogs chewed up the lids and bone blocks (though we found them surprisingly sturdy ourselves)
Best Hide-and-Seek Puzzle Toys
Here are two excellent puzzle toy choices for pups that are more prey-driven and motivated by toys rather than treats. The level of difficulty among hide-and-seek toys is usually about the same, and they’re not typically too hard—but they’re a great way to encourage a dog who isn’t food- or fetch-motivated to get some play and brainwork in.
This plush puzzle game from Outward Hound is simple and fun: Stuff the adorable squeaky squirrels into the soft tree trunk and watch your dog pull them out one by one. Then stuff ’em back in and do it again. It might sound repetitive to humans, but we’ve found that to pups who like squeak toys, there’s no higher form of entertainment.
Available in four sizes, it’s a good choice for plush fans of all breeds. Certified dog trainer Shoshi Parks recommends this toy in her article, “How to Buy a Quality Dog Toy (and Avoid a Dangerous Fake).”
- Comes in four different sizes
- Cylinder-type shaped log to hide different numbers of squirrels
- Squeaky and plush
- Can buy replacement squirrels if originals get worn out
- Plush toys are not ideal for aggressive chewers
- Squeakers may drive you nuts (no pun intended)
Frisco Hide and Seek Plush Flying Saucer Puzzle Dog Toy
An especially great solution if you’re trying to keep your dog busy without the use of treats or kibble. Hide the martians in the saucer and let them seek.
How cute is this? You can stuff six little aliens into this plush spaceship for your inquisitive dog to find and remove. Each alien is equipped with a squeaker, making this toy more like seven toys in one: Toss the miniature Martians across the room for your doggo to find and retrieve when they’ve been flushed out of the ship.
This one’s not recommended for heavy chewers (who will quickly decapitate the adorable aliens); also know that squeaky toys can be fun for your dog but may not always be fun for you.
If aliens aren’t your thing, Chewy’s Frisco line makes a range of awesome and affordable hide-and-seek toys of comparable quality—so find whatever makes your and your dog’s hearts sing.
- Soft and squeaky aliens
- Saucer-type shape for hiding plush aliens
- Option to buy replacement aliens
- Not for heavy chewers
- Not for squeaker-averse dog parents