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Recommended by dog behaviorists, interactive puzzle toys are designed to help your dog in a myriad of ways—including keeping them busy while they’re alone, staving off boredom, being a calming tool, providing them with exercise, and offering mental stimulation. But with countless options available, how do you know which dog puzzle toys are best for your furry family member?
Finding the right difficulty level to match your pup’s interest and preferred play style is a great place to start, according to Sara Richter, CDBC (Certified Dog Behavior Consultant) with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. “Puzzle toys range in difficulty from easy to hard,” she says. “Starting with a difficult toy can make pets easily frustrated and give up. So start small, let your pet build confidence, and grow their enrichment plan as their skills develop.”
To help you find the right toy for your pup, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite dog puzzle toys and categorized them into three levels of difficulty: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Let the games begin!
Best Intermediate Challenge
Best for Problem Solving
The Best Beginner Dog Puzzle Toys
These beginner-level toys are great for puppies or dogs just learning how to use their problem-solving skills. Stuffable puzzle toys, easy games, and simple slow feeders are all a solid place to start.
Best All-Around: KONG Classic Dog Toy (Verified Review)
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 toy 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, though they’re top-rack dishwasher safe
Best for Chewers: West Paw Qwizl Treat Dispensing Dog Puzzle Toy (Verified Review)
Shaped like a warped tube, the Qwizl puzzle toy offers a simple design that’s made to appeal to enthusiastic chewers. Just pop in one of your pup’s favorite high-value chews to extend the life of the tasty treat—the cylindrical shape makes it an especially popular pick for bully sticks, if that’s your pup’s jam.
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 high-value chews
- Made in the USA
- This doesn’t fit every kind of chew out there, so if there’s a particular one you want to use, it’s worth getting out the measuring tape to make sure yours will fit
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.
A bit more difficult than the KONG Classic or the West Paw Qwizl, this simple treat ball still offers a beginner-friendly option. In particular, 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
- Beginner-friendly but a level up from a KONG Classic
- Some reviewers have found it doesn’t stand up to intense chewing
Best for Small Dogs: OurPets Sushi Interactive Puzzle (Verified Review)
This interactive sushi puzzle by OurPets proved to be great for our testers, including Shirley the Pug, who found the treat slots the perfect depth, quickly picking up on how to move the sushi pieces around to reveal more treats. It’s not super 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 a nice start to training for more difficult treat puzzle boards in the future, 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, great for flat-faced breeds
- 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 Sniffing: Paw5 Wooly Snuffle Mat (Verified Review)
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 in keeping dogs of all sizes and ages busy. As one Rover tester discovered, you can keep your dog occupied for longer by stuffing treats deeper into the fabric folds for a more challenging hunt.
Most mats aren’t large enough to teach true nosework, as some trainers have pointed out—but they are 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 for Hide-and-Seek: Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel (Verified Review)
This plush hide-and-seek squirrel game 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.
Easy on your dog’s teeth and offering mental enrichment without being overly challenging, this toy makes a good choice for seniors with diminished appetites or dogs who aren’t very food-motivated. It’s also available in a variety of shapes to suit pups of all sizes.
- Great for play-motivated dogs
- Cylinder-type shaped log to hide different numbers of squirrels
- Squeaky and plush squirrels can be replaced if originals get worn
- Good choice for seniors or dogs with low appetites
- Plush toys are not ideal for aggressive chewers
- Squeakers may drive you nuts (no pun intended)
Best Budget-Friendly: Frisco Hide-and-Seek Plush Flying Saucer Puzzle Dog Toy (Verified Review)
Frisco Hide-and-Seek Plush Flying Saucer Puzzle Dog Toy
Chewy’s Frisco line makes a range of awesome and affordable hide-and-seek toys that are ideal dog toys for boredom.
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, and they’re a tight fit in the spaceship, making it a little more challenging for dogs to get the squeaky toys out than in the Outward Hound hide-and-seek toy mentioned above.
If aliens aren’t your thing, Chewy’s Frisco line makes a range of awesome and affordable hide-and-seek toys of comparable quality that are ideal dog toys for boredom—so find whatever makes your and your dog’s hearts sing.
- Soft and squeaky aliens
- Saucer-type shape adds challenge for hiding plush aliens
- Option to buy replacement aliens
- Not for heavy chewers
- Not for squeaker-averse dog parents
Best for Skill-Building: OurPets Waffle Puzzle Toy (Verified Review)
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
The Best Intermediate Dog Puzzle Toys
Once your pup has progressed past the simpler options like KONG toys and snuffle mats, it’s time to level up to intermediate puzzles. Look for interactive toys that have buildable levels of difficulty, so you can slowly ease your pup in and boost their confidence as you go.
Best for Wet Food: West Paw Zogoflex Toppl Puzzle Toy (Verified Review)
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 the stuffable puzzle toys mentioned in our beginner section. We especially like to add wet food or spreads to this puzzle, even freezing them at times, for added mental stimulation.
- Tough, bouncy, and wobbly
- Added challenge of treats in ridges
- Recyclable toy made from non-toxic, BPA-and-phthalate-free materials
- Ideal for wet food and frozen spreads
- Can interlock different sizes for more challenge
- Not for extremely aggressive chewers
- Have to buy more than one to get the interlocking feature
Best for Enrichment: Bob-A-Lot Interactive Pet Toy (Verified Review)
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 the food 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
Best for Shaking: PetSafe Sportsmen Barnacle Treat Dispenser Dog Toy
The Barnacle Treat dispenser ratchets things up 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 for Leveling Up: Outward Hound Nina Ottosson Dog Tornado Puzzle Toy
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.
Rated as level two, it’s a great first step on the road to more complicated toys in the line.
- 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 Swivel Puzzle Toy: Nina Ottosson Hide N’ Slide 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.
It’s another good advancement on the way to more complicated toys.
- 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 Challenge: Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Toy (Verified Review)
You might have noticed by now that we’ve featured multiple 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 to be one of the hardest puzzles yet in the intermediate category: 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. It’s a puzzle we find our pups going back to time and again.
- 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 Advanced Dog Puzzle Toys
Calling all puppy Einsteins! These advanced puzzle toys are perfect for dogs who have moved past the beginner and intermediate options and need the ultimate challenge. Puzzles with several levels of difficulty are good here, so as to avoid frustration, even if your pup is a genius.
Best Treat-Dispensing 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 doubles as a dog toy for 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 Multi-Sensory: 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 reviewers note that they’re not easy to get out!
- 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 Puzzle-Solving: Trixie Mad Scientist Turn Around Interactive Dog Toy (Verified Review)
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.
Designed for the intermediate to advanced canine gamer, this toy is a good bridge between the treat-dispensing toys/slow feeders and the more skill-based puzzle toys on our advanced list.
- 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 for Complex Nose Work: SNiFFiz SmellyMatty Large Nose Work Sniff Mat
SNiFFiz SmellyMatty Large Nose Work Sniff Mat
Ideal for nose work, this snuffle station has five different hiding spots that add complexity to a standard snuffle mat.
Once your pup has mastered a standard snuffle mat, elevate their nose work skills with this complex snuffle station. Measuring 31 inches in diameter, the main mat has 11 layers of grass and petal-style hiding spots. The best part? It also comes with five different puzzle pockets that vary in difficulty and style, so you can build your nose work station as your dog becomes a snuffling pro.
- Large snuffle station that measures 31 inches
- Includes nose work pockets for five different hides
- Each hide ranges in difficulty with an assigned level of one to five
- Slowly build the difficulty level to avoid frustration
Best for Pawing: Nina Ottosson Dog Twister Interactive Treat Puzzle
Exercise your pup’s mind with this advanced puzzle from Nina Ottosson. Nine treat drawers can be pulled out, filled with treats, slid back into place, and then locked up tight. As your dog works to get the treats out, they’ll be using natural behaviors like sniffing, pawing, and nudging to lift the tabs and unlock the blocks for their tasty snack.
This puzzle is made with built-in play pieces that don’t come apart and are best filled with small treats or kibble.
- Nine treat drawers for your pup to unlock
- Encourages natural behaviors like sniffing and pawing
- No removable parts for reduced choking risk
- Best used with small treats or kibble
- Built-in pieces may be harder to clean
Best Brain Buster: Nina Ottosson MultiPuzzle Dog Puzzle Toy, Expert Level
Rounding out our list with Nina Ottoson’s most difficult puzzle and the only one listed as “expert level,” this interactive toy is ideal for puzzling pros who need something more intricate to challenge their problem-solving skills.
Turning things up a notch, this puzzle can only be solved when your pup completes a series of steps in the correct order. Not only do they have to slide the flat squares one at a time, but they have to position the inner wheel perfectly for the treat covers to move and reveal the treats—how’s that for a game of hide-and-seek?
- Most advanced puzzle by Nina Ottoson (and our list)
- Four levels let you build the difficulty
- Recommended for dogs with some serious problem-solving skills
- May be too challenging for many dogs
- Build the challenge slowly to avoid frustration
How We Chose
The dog puzzle toys featured here were selected based on a combination of our own hands-on testing and a comprehensive look at customer reviews across a wide variety of retail platforms. We weighed difficulty level, breed compatibility, safety risks, and cleaning instructions in our selections. We’re also guided by the experience of living and playing alongside our own much-loved and strongly opinionated pups, who are never stingy with their feedback.