I love the idea of puzzle toys for dogs. Dog toys that exercise the brain and give the dog a challenge to work through can be beneficial in many ways:
- Help dogs learn to focus on a task for extended periods
- Teach targeting to specific objects
- Provide interactive playtime for dog and owner
- Occupy a dog for a while when you are busy
- Build self confidence for succeeding in a task
I’m sure others can add to this list. One of the first puzzle toys I can remember was the Buster Cube… remember that one? It was a hard plastic cube with an adjustable hole that dispensed treats when the dog moved it, dropped it, rolled it. I think we still have it here, somewhere. My dog Seamus loved it. It was a noisy toy, unless used outside on the grass on in a carpeted room. But of course, Seamus loved to carry it into the kitchen and drop it on the hard wood floor to make it bounce and release more treats. It drove me crazy after a while!
Lately, some interesting puzzle toys have hit the market and we are hoping to try out a few of them. Our first puzzle toy is the Kyjen Hide-A-Squirrel, which is a plush toy “tree trunk” with holes and three little squeakered squirrels (that look more like chipmunks to me) that you can “hide” in the trunk. The dog is supposed to figure out how to get the squirrels out of the holes.
Cassie and Moxie had no trouble at all pulling the squirrels out of the trunk… it took them just a few seconds to empty the tree, but they enjoyed squeaking the chipmunks and immediately tried to “kill” them. I kept taking the little chipmunks away from them and re-inserting them into the tree. Then we’d repeat… The holes on the tree are large enough that the squirrels are really easy to get out. There simply wasn’t much of a challenge here. They did however enjoy playing keep away and tug with the little squirrels and the tree trunk!
This being a “puzzle” toy, I tried putting the toy away before leaving the dogs to their own devices. So, unlike some other toys that are always available, this toy has lasted longer. But by now the chipmunks resemble road kill and are missing their squeakers and stuffing. Also, since the dogs weren’t challenged by the puzzle part of the toy, I finally left it out for them to play with at will. They still like the road kill.
Because this toy isn’t considered a “durable” toy, I’m not putting in a durability rating… however I don’t think this toy is particularly interesting as a puzzle, and we’ll keep looking for a more challenging and rewarding toy for the dogs to help get us through this long winter with way too much snow.
Do you have suggestions for a puzzle toy we should try next? If so, leave us a comment and we’ll look into it. Meanwhile, if you want to buy this toy, here’s a link: Kyjen PP01056 Hide-A-Squirrel Pet Toy, Large