How to Engage Your Dog's Mind With Puzzle Games

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How to Engage Your Dog's Mind With Puzzle Games

When Stay at Home orders were first issued, it was like your dog's dream come true. You and him were home together, all day, every day, to play, cuddle, and spend quality time with each other. Unfortunately, as the weeks drag on, you're both finding it's not as great as advertised.

How to engage your dog's mind is important as cycling through the same activities day after day gets boring. Plus, there’s the fact that you might not be able to safely take him to the dog park or other places where he can socialize.

Your furry friend is getting restless. What he needs is mental stimulation. Here are a few brain teaser games you can play with your dog to keep his boredom at bay.

Hide and Squeak

There are a couple of different versions of this toy available: one from Outward Hound that uses squirrels, and one from ZippyPaws, which uses chipmunks. The concept is the same, though: several stuffed squeaky toys are hidden in a plush tree trunk, and it's your dog's job to get them all out. Squeaky toys always provide great mental stimulation, and the task of recovering them from a hidden place, using their sounds as cues, can keep him busy and happy for hours.

Foraging Mat

The Wooly Snuffle Mat is particularly useful during quarantine, as it simulates outdoor activities in an indoor environment. The mat's jumbled mass of long, thick fibers are designed to have the feel of tall grass or bushes. Hide a treat in that jumbled mass and let your canine companion hunt for it. The search stimulates your dog's senses, particularly smell, and helps hone his natural foraging instincts.


Available from Starmark, this treat dispenser is mounted on a weighted base that sways back and forth and automatically rights itself whenever it's knocked over. Unscrew the top to pour in your dog's favorite treats, then let him bat the toy around to try and recover one of them from a smaller hole on the side. What really makes this toy great is that you can increase the difficulty level for your pal over time. The size of the treat dispensing hole can be adjusted, and the smaller the hole, the greater the challenge. So, if your dog masters the toy and starts to get bored, just move him up to the next level and let him try again!

Dog Tornado

Available from Swedish manufacturer Nina Ottosson, the Dog Tornado is a complex puzzle that will keep your furry friend busy for hours. The toy has three small discs, each with four compartments for treats. As your dog plays with the discs, they rotate, independently of one another, to reveal the treat compartments. As some compartments are revealed, others are concealed. Can he find all twelve, and get the treats inside?

Hide 'N Slide

From Nina Ottosson and Outward Hound, this small wooden puzzle is a lot more challenging than it looks. Like the Dog Tornado, it has a series of hidden compartments. Only for this toy, your dog has to work a series of levers to get the treats inside. The challenge of this game is guaranteed to keep his mind sharp.

Those are just a few of the brain teasers that can provide your dog with some much-needed stimulation. These are difficult times we're living in, but remember, you and your canine companion are both in this together. It's important to have each other's backs. By keeping your furry friend busy and happy, you make it easier for both of you to get through isolation in one piece.

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