As a dog trainer and behavior consultant, I am constantly recommending that my clients introduce more work-to-eat enrichment into their dog’s lives. But just how do you do that? Which are the best puzzle feeders and canine enrichment toys?
That’s what I’m here to answer today.
I am ranking my all-time favorite enrichment toys, puzzle toys, and treat dispensers! But first:
What are enrichment toys?
If you don’t know what they are, they are durable, hollow chew toys that you can fill with your dog’s food or treats. Working to unpack their food from these toys is great fun for most dogs. And, it provides an outlet for their natural desire to work for their food.
Types of enrichment toys:
Stuffable Toys (think: Kongs)
Best for dogs who eat soft food for their main diet. These usually have a large opening for ease of filling with a combination of wet and dry foods, and they tend to be easy to clean. Can be frozen to give experienced puzzlers an added challenge.
Treat balls, dispensers, and puzzles
Best for dry foods like kibble pieces or treats. Great way to feed your dog’s meals if they eat kibble. For soft-diet dogs, you can still give dispenser toys and food puzzles filled with treats throughout the day.
Best enrichment toys and puzzle feeders for dogs
As ranked by a professional dog trainer
I am kind of a fanatic about dog gear and dog enrichment. So suffice to say that I have some opinions about enrichment toys!
I’ve created this list to help you find enrichment toys that are:
- Easy to fill
- Easy to clean
- Fun and a good difficulty level for most dogs
A note on puzzle toys:
Puzzle toys can be lots of fun! However, they are not my personal favorite enrichment toys for a couple reasons. I prefer enrichment toys (both that I use and for my clients) that require less of your time to fill, and that will occupy your dog’s time for longer. More bang-for-your-enrichment-buck if you will. The other reason is that puzzles are designed to be challenging. Solving a tricky puzzle can be very entertaining for some dogs, while others will get frustrated and give up very quickly.
In this list, I want to focus on the enrichment toys that will appeal to the greatest number of dogs without causing frustration. Plus, I find that puzzle toys are not as practical or versatile for feeding full meals efficiently and their uses are more limited.
So although they don’t make an appearance on this list, know that puzzle toys can be another excellent enrichment activity if you have a real worker-bee type dog.