What Is A Dog Puzzle?


Cognition is the process of interpreting the world through the use of thought, experience and the senses. It’s something that we do every day all day and so does our dog. Creating a scenario that allows our dog to solve problems in a controlled environment gives us a way to help them create good habits for how they process the wider world. Sure, we give them toys and maybe a bone to chew on occasionally, and that is a great way to help them burn off some mental energy, but what if we want to challenge them more? Here are some examples of how dog puzzles can help you do just that.

Defining a Puzzle

A Dog Puzzle is different in one significant way from a dog toy, in that it involves your input. A kong toy is fun and difficult, demanding the dogs attention for a good period of time, but it can be solved without your presence. In this way, I would argue that the kong toy and toys like it are in a category by themselves. Puzzles should involve the handler setting up the item while the dog sits and watches at a distance, and then is invited in to try and solve it. Once the dog has achieved the goal of solving the puzzle, the handler should immediatly praise the pup. This way, our dog learns that there is value in both waiting for something good and in persisting through something difficult.

DIY Puzzles

Muffin Tins are great!


Getting your dog to find things in difficult-to-reach places is a big part of how this works, and an easy and cheap way to start is with stuff you may already have. Have your dog sit and stay. Take a few steps back, and kneel as you set the muffin tin upside down on the floor. While the dog sits patiently, place some treats between the inverted cups. Wait for your dog to look you in the eye. As soon as they do, push the puzzle halfway to them, stand up and say “Find it!” When your dog does this, reward them with praise.

Scale the difficulty

So maybe your dog has moved past that and you want something more difficult? Try this…


Turn over the muffin tin and put stuff in the cups. Here, you can see some tennis balls and an old sock have been placed in the tin, and underneath are some yummies. Now repeat the routine that I set out in the first level.

Once they have gotten that down, try cutting the tennis balls in half and/or inverting another identical muffin tin on top for more difficulty.


Got an old plastic bowl or piece of tupperware that doesn’t have a top any longer? Give it a shot!

Dog Puzzles You Can Buy, Sure There’s That Too.

This is the Dog Tornado made by Nina Ottosson. It’s a great puzzle and very versatile.


They make a lot of puzzles out of quality materials and my dog Rowdy really likes all of them, except for the Pyramid. That one should probably get a reboot.

If you are able to find something that you like and it works for your dog, please let me know what it is and where to get it.

The Ultimate Dog Toy!


You are your dog’s best challenger and rewarder. Your attention and diligence are what are going to foster your dogs intelligence and talents. Make your dog’s brain work and you will gain trust and confidence from your pooch.

Let me know how it goes!

2 thoughts on “What Is A Dog Puzzle?

  1. Fred Zorn provides more than dog training services – he gives his heart and soul to each and every dog. Being one of the very first clients, Fred and Sarah and Rowdy are now family. I never have to think twice or worry when my Jake is with them. I know he is in the best care possible. We wish you the best of luck with this beautiful website!! I have referred you out by word of mouth but now everyone can see what we have always praised you for!! We love you guys!! People….use Fred for your dog….it is a no-brainer!!!


    • Thanks Geri, and thanks for that picture of Jake at the top of the post. Hey everybody, that’s Geri’s boy at the top of the page! Handsome guy right?!


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