Homemade puzzle toys

Has anyone else noticed that most commercial puzzle toys for dogs are painfully easy? I don’t know who designs them but either the test subject dogs that try out the products are not all that bright, or the toy designers don’t have test subject dogs at all, or maybe my own dog is some super-genius, but I somehow doubt that.

So I am on a quest to make really tough (but not so tough that the dog gives up) puzzle toys.

It’s actually pretty tricky to do. Here’s some stuff I have tried:

Knotted Sock

I like this one. It’s not extremely mentally challenging but I think it is better than a lot of the commercial toys. All you need is an old ratty sock that you’ll never wear again. Put some kibble in it and then tie it in a bunch of knots, with the kibble in the middle. The dog has to rip through the sock and all of its knots to get to the kibble.

Not advisable for dogs that might actually eat the sock 😉 My own dog luckily has the common sense to pull the sock apart without actually consuming it.

I imagine dogs like this one too because it satisfies that instinctive urge to pull things apart with their mouth (aka why those dog shaming photos always feature dogs that rip the stuffing out of couch pillows 😱)


I did this one the other day thinking it was a great idea: Put a stuffed kong inside of a shoebox; dog has to figure out how to get the lid off the shoebox.

Sadly, it only took Betsy about 20 seconds to figure out. Back to the drawing board.

Hiding food around the house, dog has to hunt it down with her nose

Always a go-to, and I’ll keep using it because it’s easy to set up and Betsy really likes doing it ….buuuuut it doesn’t take her very long.

Back to the drawing board again!

This evening I was trying to cook up another puzzle toy idea but nothing came to me, so I ended up working on teaching Betsy a new trick. I figure it’s a skill that we could add in to the “hiding food around the house” puzzle – detecting food in drawers and then opening them to get the food out.

I may regret this when she raids the kitchen…

What about you?

Anybody have any suggestions? Something that really makes your dog think but isn’t so hard that they lose interest?

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