Dog toys aren’t just for play. The best dog puzzle toys help pique curiosity, stimulate your dog mentally and help them improve their problem-solving skills. Because these toys can keep your pup busy for hours, they’ll also help burn out really energetic dogs, which can lead to better sleep for both of you.
But just like there are different dog breeds suited best to different humans, there’s also no one-size-fits-all answer to the best dog toy—it really depends on your dog and how much they like to chew. When choosing a dog puzzle toy, you’ll want to consider durability, how much interaction it requires, and what size dog it’s made for.
We researched and tested a wide selection of dog puzzles with real dogs to help you piece together which puzzle is suited for you and your dog. From heavy chewers to new pups, here are the best dog puzzle toys for all types of dogs.
Outward Hound Hide N Slide Puzzle Dog Toy
Made of durable composite
No removable parts
Whether your dog is big or small, old or young, this Outward Hound Hide N Slide Puzzle Dog Toy is a good all-around choice. It’s categorized as a level 2, which means it’s a little more difficult than other dog puzzles and will take longer to solve. It looks like real wood, but it’s made of durable composite material that won’t splinter or break, no matter how aggressively your dog likes to chew. In addition to its durability, another plus for this puzzle toy is that there are no removable parts so you don’t have to worry about choking hazards for any size dog—although it’s still a good idea to make sure you’re always supervising play.
Price at time of publish: $20
Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound Brick Puzzle Game Dog Toy
Keeps even smart dogs entertained
Some pieces are removable
Another pick from Outward Hound, this budget-friendly option is one of the most popular dog puzzle toy designs. It has a series of steps—flip, lift, and slide—and three different types of treat compartments to test your dog’s skill and help keep him mentally stimulated. Like our best overall pick, it’s categorized as level 2 difficulty, so it should take your pup a while to figure it out. One thing to note, though, is that this dog puzzle toy does have removable parts, so if your dog likes to chew, you’ll have to make sure you’re watching extra closely. It’s also made of plastic, rather than composite, so it’s not as durable as some of the other options on the list.
Price at time of publish: $15
LOOBANI Dogs Food Puzzle Feeder
Takes a while to get all of the food out
Made of durable bamboo
Doesn’t tip over
This puzzle feeder toy from LOOBANI is a little more expensive than the other options, but it also has a unique design that makes it worth the extra cash. An excellent pick for both puppies and senior dogs (and all the ages in between), it helps with early brain development and mental stimulation to reduce the risk of decline over the years. This toy has three tubes connected to a heavy-duty base that won’t tip over as your dog tries to access the treats. It’s also an excellent option for daily feeding for dogs who like to inhale their food rather than properly eat and chew it.
Price at time of publish: $32
Best for Treats
Outward Hound Tornado Puzzle Dog Toy
Large treat compartments for dogs of all sizes
Easy to clean
May not be durable enough for heavy chewers
Many of the options on this list offer treats as a reward for your dog successfully completing the puzzle, but thanks to its stacked design and fairly large compartments, this one is a top pick. There are four layers with hidden treat compartments, and your dog has to spin them to gain access. This spinning movement holds onto your dog’s attention and enhances their problem solving skills while stimulating them mentally. You’ll likely have to show your dog how it works a few times, but once they get the hang of it, you’ll be surprised at how quickly they can solve the puzzle.
Price at time of publish: $15
Best for Large Dogs
Outward Hound Hide a Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy
Satisfies your dog’s hunting instinct
Comes in four sizes
May not keep attention like treat-based toys
Some dog puzzle toys are too small for larger breeds, but this Hide A Squirrel toy from Outward Hound is just the right size. The plush toy features a tree trunk with six holes where you hide squirrel stuffies for a game of hide and seek. Once the squirrels are hidden, your dog gets to search around and pull them out. Different from the other options on this list, there are no treats or food involved—your dog gets rewarded by the sheer pleasure of sniffing out the squirrels. It’s more interactive too, since you have to put the squirrels back in the tree trunk when it’s time to try again. This makes it an even better bonding experience.
Price at time of publish: $20
Best for Small Dogs
Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball
Comes in two sizes
Only dispenses a one piece at a time
Difficult to roll on hard floors
If you have a smaller dog, you may want to opt for this Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball instead. Similar in look to a hamster exercise ball, this food- or treat-dispensing dog toy drops one piece at a time as your dog pushes it and rolls it around. The 3-inch size is perfect for smaller dogs (although it’s not recommended for toy breeds under 10 pounds). Keep in mind that it doesn’t roll as well on hard floors as it does on carpet or rugs, but it can provide hours of entertainment for energetic pups.
Price at time of publish: $15
Best for Puppies
Trixie Gambling Tower
Stimulates a new puppy’s mind
Has three tiers to play
Non-slip rubber feet
Doesn’t break down for easy storage
Designed for beginners (AKA puppies), this puzzle tower from Trixie can help sharpen your new family member’s mental skills. It has three tiers that let you vary the placement and the amount of treats. When your puppy pulls on one of the rope loops, it releases treats down to the next level until eventually, it falls out of the bottom, and your puppy gets to claim his reward. As for design, it has non-slip rubber feet and evenly placed weight to prevent it from sliding and tipping over as your puppy plays.
Price at time of publish: $23
Best for Heavy Chewers
KONG Classic Dog Toy
Can be filled with favorite treats
Durable to stand up to destructive dogs
Not as mentally stimulating as other options
It’s hard to find a good dog toy for heavy chewers who can pretty much rip through anything. While it doesn’t look like much, the KONG Classic Dog Toy is a tried-and-true option. It’s made from an ultra-durable rubber that’s next to impossible to pierce and has a bubbled design that makes it bounce erratically for the most mental stimulation possible. You can stuff the toy with treats, kibble, or your dog’s favorite snacks and watch as he tries to get every last bite out. Our tester and their dog found the toy's versatility to be highly appealing. "There are lots of different ways to stuff a KONG, and a few of my favorites include smearing some peanut butter along the inner walls with a knife, using a KONG-brand treat inside, or putting fruit and yogurt inside the cavity and then freezing the whole thing to make it last longer." In addition to sharpening your dog’s mental skills, it’s also ideal for chewing, teething, and boredom.
Price at time of publish: $14
Our top puzzle toy pick is the Outward Hound Hide N Slide, with no removable parts to worry about. If you’re looking for a cheaper option, check out the Outward House Brick Puzzle Game.
What To Look For In a Dog Puzzle Toy
Durability is vital for any dog toy. This is subjective based on how much your dog likes to chew and how strong his jaw is, but you want to make sure you’re choosing toys that can hold up to your dog. If you have a heavy chewer, you want something made of strong composite or ultra-strong rubber. For dogs that don’t chew as much or have smaller jaws that don’t crush things as easily, plastic toys should be durable enough.
It’s always best to supervise your dog’s playtime, but some toys let you—and your pup—be more interactive than others. The best dog puzzle toys pique your dog’s interest and are difficult enough that they won’t solve the puzzle right away. The more time your dog needs to spend interacting with the toy, the better. If you can get involved, like having to refill the treats or place the plush squirrels back into the holes, it will help solidify the bond you have with your furry best friend.
Lastly, you have to make sure the toy is size-appropriate. If a dog puzzle toy has tiny treat compartments, it may not be suitable for a large breed. Most dog puzzle toys indicate which size dog they’re best for, and some even come in different sizes for all types of dogs, so double check before you buy.
Are puzzle toys good for dogs?
Yes, puzzle toys are an excellent source of engagement and entertainment for dogs. Puzzles can keep your dog mentally and physically active while they work towards unlocking a treat or pinpointing the source of a squeak. They can also help dogs that tend to eat too quickly to slow down at mealtime.
Do puzzle toys make dogs smarter?
Yes, puzzle toys stimulate a dog's brain and can help improve their cognitive skills. After a while of playing with a puzzle toy, many dogs will start to figure out how it works and then apply that knowledge the next time the puzzle toy is introduced to them.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
At The Spruce Pets, we thoroughly research the market and test top products with our own pets to find the best dog toys available. This roundup was written by Lindsay Boyers, author of eleven published books, and a longtime writer for The Spruce and The Spruce Pets. She specializes in health and wellness topics. One of her favorite pastimes is finding the best products to improve your pet's health and home life at the best prices (and yes, she is a pet owner).