DIY Food Puzzle Toys
by Lindsey Hazlett
Whether it be full meals or just for treats, providing puzzle opportunities for your dog to complete keeps their mind occupied and their brain enriched, enabling them to use their instincts and feed their senses. There are dozens and dozens of food puzzles available for purchase, but there are also endless DIY on-a-whim options made from everyday items. Give one of these a try this week (and be sure to supervise)!
Toilet Paper Tubes
Collect all of your empty toilet paper rolls instead of just tossing them into the trash! There are several ways to turn these into a game. Depending on your dog’s familiarity with food puzzles, you can just set treats or kibble inside the tubes, and let your dog knock the food out. If they catch on quickly, put the toilet paper tubes upright in a small box, and place kibble in each one. This will challenge your dog to either stick his snout in each tube, or remove each one from the box in order to get a treat. For an expert level, or for the excitable destroyer, push in the ends of each tube, giving the dog an opportunity to rip open the tubes in order to find the food.
This is another easy idea for enrichment! Place a treat or piece of kibble into each divot of the carton. If your dog finds this too easy, you can place items on top of the divots so she must move each item before getting the food reward. As she gets the hang of the puzzle, you can also close the carton and allow her to either open it with her snout or tear it open. This is another great outlet for the destroyers! If you don’t eat eggs or don’t have a carton handy, substitute a muffin tin and place tennis balls on each space for added difficulty.
Plastic Water Bottle
With this puzzle, place a handful of kibble or treats into an empty plastic water bottle. Leave the cap off and let your dog roll it around until all the treats fall out. Easy peasy fun with plenty of fun crinkling!
Peanut Butter Jar
Have you gotten as much as you can from the jar? Let your pup get it ready for the recycling bin by letting him lick it clean. Added bonus if you toss in some treats or kibble to stick to the peanut butter on the sides! As with all enrichment, make sure to supervise, and consider taking this messy treat outdoors!
Similar to the peanut butter jar, these are ideal for the dogs with shorter snouts. For added difficulty, think about lining them up on a string, so they spin and rotate while your dog licks out the leftover goodies!
Do you have a towel you’re about to throw in the wash? Take a moment to roll it up with some treats and give your dog a chance to dig, sniff, snuffle, and unroll it! The ways to wrap up the treats are endless! Switch it up each time!
This one is a free-for-all! Toss in some treats, toys, bags, and anything else you can find. Let your dog go nuts with the box and snuffle out treats, remove items from the box, and perhaps even rip apart the box. For the star puzzlers, add smaller boxes within the box with treats in those as well!
There are so many ways to let your dog play with an envelope and treats! For the novice, add a couple of treats to an envelope and place it, unsealed, on the floor. For the experienced puzzle-solver, seal the envelopes partially or fully and place them on the ground. For an Extreme Advanced Challenge, hole punch the top of a treat-stuffed sealed envelope, and line a few on a string. Suspend the stringed envelopes to make a mini clothesline! Your dog gets to tear the envelope off the string, rip the envelope open, and then sniff out and grab the treats!
Take a few identical cups and sit with them and your dog. Place a piece of kibble under one cup, and move them all around. Let your dog sniff out the cup with the treat underneath, and play again! This game provides an opportunity for you to participate in the food puzzle.
When the weather is nice, scatter some treats or kibble across the lawn. Provide time for your dog to search, sniff, and snuffle out the food while also enjoying some time outside. This is a great game for hounds and dogs who love to use their nose!