How to Use Food Puzzle Toys for Dogs

Food puzzle toys are a great way to challenge your dog mentally while also providing a reward for their effort. Dogs naturally love to chew and lick, so give your pet a healthy outlet for that desire.

What Is a Food Puzzle Toy?

A food puzzle toy is usually made of thick rubber or plastic and contains holes on each end of the sides. Food and treats go inside the toy so your dog can “work” for a reward. Dogs have to maneuver the toy to fully access the treats or food by licking, pawing, tossing, and rolling the toys around. 

You can find dog food puzzle toys at major retailers and pet stores in your community. They come in all shapes and sizes for dogs, from puppies to seniors, and small dogs to large breeds. When you’re shopping, read the labels to make sure you choose a food puzzle toy that’s appropriate for your dog’s breed, size, and age. 

Why Give Your Dog a Food Puzzle Toy?

While dogs are domesticated to live in our homes as pets, their nature deep down is to hunt for food independently – not to eat kibbles out of a bowl. 

Do you ever notice behavior problems in your dog? Boredom may be a contributing factor. If you work all day and your dog is at home alone for a large portion of time, it’s only natural they get bored. As a result, they may act out upon your return home in an effort to get more of your attention. 

Going for walks and playing fetch in the yard are both great ways to keep your dog healthy and active, but they also need a mental challenge to keep their mind sharp. Food puzzle toys safely give your dog a challenge they have to solve, knowing there’s a reward at the end.

How to Use a Food Puzzle Toy

The possibilities for stuffing your dog’s food puzzle toy are endless. Use their every-day dog food, wet food, treats, and even homemade mixes to supplement their diet and give them a taste of something different. 


Food puzzle toys are reusable, so once your dog finishes, you can clean out the toy and have it ready for the next day. Keep in mind that the premise behind food puzzle toys is to provide your dog with a challenge. 

Using the same toy every day will eventually lead to boredom as your dog learns what tactics to use to retrieve their treats and food. Consider having several different food puzzle toys in rotation to keep your dog from getting their food or treats too easily. 

What to Put in a Food Puzzle Toy

It is important to consider your dog’s diet needs. If you use a food puzzle toy daily, monitor the intake of snacks, food, and treats to ensure your dog maintains a balanced diet. 

Just as you should rotate the toys you offer, surprise your dog with new treats and recipes, so they have the challenge of how to get different sizes and consistencies of food out. Stir your dog’s kibble in with peanut butter, cottage cheese, or pureed fruits and veggies for the added challenge of getting treats out of the mixture. 

In addition to prepackaged treats and canned dog food, you can try food puzzle recipes of your own.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on June 30, 2021



American Kennel Club: “Best toys and games for senior dogs,” “Brain games for dogs: When can a puzzle be the solution?" "Homemade dog treats: Recipes, tips, & tricks for delicious DIY treats," “Play brain games with your dog.”

ASPCA: “At-home tips for keeping your pets busy and engaged.”

Best Friends: “Food puzzles for pets.”

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