Food dispensing toys for dogs are growing in popularity. Dog owners and trainers continue to witness behavioral benefits and are spreading the word of the simple yet powerful impact a food puzzle toy can have on your dog.
If you’re new to food dispensing toys, you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about. Read on to learn about the behavioral benefits of puzzle food toys for dogs!
If you already know the benefits and want to see the best food puzzle toys on the market, skip to the best food dispensing toys for dogs section.
Behavioral & Physical Benefits of Food Dispensing Toys for Dogs
At first glance you might wonder how a food puzzle toy can impact a dog’s behavior or physical well being. I was skeptical when I first heard about it too.
After trying them on my dogs and foster dogs, I’ve seen the benefits and am now a big advocate of food dispensing toys for dogs.
- Reduces vomiting and indigestion.
When dogs eat their food too fast, it can cause tummy distress. Some dogs will vomit the food back up (and yes, subsequently eat it again – so gross). Food puzzle toys slow down your dog’s eating rate, which is easier on their system and lessens the chance of an upset stomach.
- Prevents bloat (also known as GDV – Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus).
Bloat is a horrible (and many times fatal) condition in which the dog’s stomach rapidly fills with gas then flips, trapping the gas inside.
- Reduces stress and anxiety.
Dogs can be stressed or anxious for many reasons: genetics, home environment, loneliness, and more. A food dispensing toy for dogs will mentally stimulate their brain, which has been proven to have a calming effect.
- Supports weight loss.
If your dog needs to lose weight, a food puzzle toy can help. When your overweight dog spends more time eating their smaller meal they will be less frustrated vs. if they eat it up in a few gulps.
- Keeps puppies occupied and out of trouble!
Puppies are busy busy BUSY. And when they get bored, things get destroyed. A food dispensing toy can keep your puppy entertained for hours in a day. Instead of feeding two meals a day, divide their food up into multiple meals and use a variety of food puzzle toys to keep your puppy busy and give it mental exercise as well.
- Keeps dogs busy when crated.
If you need to crate your dog when you leave the house, a food dispensing toy helps occupy the dog’s time so they are less stressed or worried.
- Give working dogs a “job” to keep them mentally healthy.
A working breed dog is a dog bred to perform practical tasks. Working breeds such as border collies or jack russell terriers need to have tasks to perform to keep them mentally and physically exercised. If they don’t, pent up energy builds and misbehavior can result. A food dispensing toy will keep your dog busy trying to extract the food inside, and mentally gives them the satisfaction of having performed a “job.”
- Reduces and slows the effects of dementia in senior dogs.
Studies such as this study in Neurobiology of Aging show that enrichment reduces neuron loss in dogs. The mental stimulation of a food puzzle toy provides enrichment and activity for your senior dog’s brain.
- Encourages exercise.
Some food toys are constantly moving around the room while the dog bats at them to get the food out. Think of it as adding a quarter mile of walking and joint movement to your dog’s daily exercise regimen!
- They are fun!
Food dispensing toys for dogs are something that your dog will look forward to and have a blast playing with! Think of how you or your kids are in a better mood after you do something fun, same goes for dogs.
23 Best Food Dispensing Toys For Dogs
**Note: this post contains affiliate links. No one paid me to recommend these products, I recommend them because I like them! By using the link to buy the products you are helping support happyynaturaldog.com**
I researched high and low to find the best puzzle food toys for dogs. Some are new innovative toys, others are tried and true, but all of them are great options for you to consider for your dog.
I haven’t tried each of these toys. I own a fair amount of them, and others have been added to my birthday and holiday wish list!
Snuffle mats aren’t a new food dispensing toy idea, but some of these snuffle mat designs are!
I have used a standard snuffle mat for years and continued to be amazed at how helpful it is for anxious or over-the-top energy dogs.
I used this with a foster dog who was severely underweight. He would attack his food with so much panic he would send the bowl flying, and then he would inhale it without chewing. This made bloat a real risk for him, so I used the snuffle mat to slow him down.
Not only did he eat more slowly, but he had to learn to sit and wait while I put the food in the mat, so we got some training in at the same time!
This is the original snuffle mat design. To use it, sprinkle your dog’s kibble on the top, then rub back and forth with your hand to work the food down into the mat.
This video shows how to load it with food to make the dog work harder (sniff). It also shows how the dog has to use his nose to find food pieces. If you listen carefully you will hear my dog snuffling trying to find food!
Fancy Snuffle Mats
When writing this article I discovered the dog equivalent of an activity mat for babies! Check out these creative mats and the variety of areas you can hide your dog’s kibble:
Slow Feeder Bowls
Important detail: If you’re looking at these on Amazon, you have to choose a different color selection on the main listing to see a different bowl design. It took me forever to figure that out so thought I’d save you some time!
If your dog has medical issues that make lowering their head painful, this raised dish lifts the food up higher.
For dog owners who don’t like to feed their dog in a plastic vessel, this bowl is a great option. The circular interior makes the dog “chase” the kibble around the bowl and slows down their eating rate.
Other Puzzle Food Toys For Dogs
I absolutely love this toy. We used it for my dog Tico when he was a puppy, and for many foster dogs since then. The dog has to bat the container and as it awkwardly tips and rolls it releases one or more pieces of food.
This is another clever toy invention, I included a video for you to see it in action.
This spinning toy is a double-puzzle toy. The dog has to spin the toy to get food to drop, then has to get the food out of the puzzle toy dish at the bottom.
West Paw Toppl (** must purchase 2 sizes for this toy **)
You have to buy each piece of this toy separately (one small size and one large size). Each piece can be used by itself for treats, bully sticks, raw food, and more, but if you combine a large size and small size into one toy (see picture) the kibble falls out as it rolls around. I had a foster who ate too fast and he loved this toy, rolled it and threw it up in the air as he ate his dinner!
This is a great toy to keep your dog busy in a crate in addition to using for feeding meals. They are about the size of a tennis ball and the rubber is very flexible, just pull open the “jaws” and slide in the kibble.
I gave this to my foster to make him enjoy getting in a crate, it took him 5+ minutes to empty it and he never noticed when I left the house because he was busy with the food ball.
This cool new toy is a great combination of food puzzle toys for dogs. It wobbles, has a maze the food has to work through, and holes the food falls out.
Raw Puzzle Food Toys For Dogs
If you are like me and primarily feed your dogs a raw diet, you might worry you can’t use puzzle toys for your dog.
Wrong! The toys below are great for putting your dog’s raw meal in so they can get the benefits that food puzzle toys offer.
Fill the toy with your dog’s raw meal. For a bigger challenge, freeze it before giving it to your dog.
This toy is latex-free and food safe rubber. West Paw offers a great “Love It Guarantee:” If you are unhappy with the performance of a West Paw product, the Love It Guarantee entitles you to a one-time refund or replacement, per toy design.
Lickimats are used to reduce anxiety, boredom, and destructive behavior. The idea behind the mat is that it helps calm and soothe your pet from the release endorphins generated by licking the food off the mat.
In addition to calming, the licking action generates saliva, helping protect your pet’s teeth and gums. By scraping food particles and odor-causing bacteria off your pet’s tongue the mat promotes healthier teeth, gums and fresher breath.
They are made with food grade rubber, no silicone, no BPA, no PVC, and no phthalates, so they get a thumbs up for responsible manufacturing.
If your dog is a chewer, the Lickimat tough is more durable and worth the extra $$.
The Splash is a bowl-shaped variation of the Lickimat with a big suction cup on the bottom to hold it in a tub (to distract from bath time) or on a hard surface to keep the bowl in place.
Another genius idea is to use the Splash for grooming, nail clipping, etc, by attaching it to a vertical surface:
The Wobble is the another bowl variation that rocks and wobbles while the dog eats.
The Kong is a nice way to make your dog’s raw meal last for an hour. You can put the food in right when you prepare it, or for longer mental distraction freeze the Kong with your dog’s dinner in it.
The Kong Extreme works the same way, just holds up better if your dog is a big chewer.
The Dog Tornado adapts easily to raw food, just be sure to wash with hot water and soap after each use.
These bowls are also great for raw food meals. Check out the video below to watch how I use them with my dog’s raw dinner.
As I said above, if you’re looking at these on Amazon you have to choose a different color selection on the main listing to see a different bowl design.
DIY Food Dispensing Toys For Dogs
If buying puzzle food toys for dogs is not in your budget, make your own! Here are my favorite DIY food dispensing toys for dogs:
Toilet Roll Tubes Puzzle Food Toy
For this quick and easy puzzle toy, put some treats inside a toilet paper tube and squash the ends of the tube shut.
Rolled Up Towel Food Dispenser
Hide treats or kibble in a rolled-up towel and let your dog figure out how to unroll it to get them out.
My dog Rose figured this toy out pretty quickly, once she knew to sniff for food she went to town!
PVC food toy
I would drill one hole, put food in, and roll it to see how easily the food comes out, then adjust the rest of your hole sizes if necessary.
Spinning PVC toy
This idea is genius! Tracy Donaldson of the_bryis_dog_trainer posted this video on her Instagram. You can look at the video and easily come up with an list of the supplies needed:
More DIY Puzzle Toys for Dogs
Want more ideas? Homemade food puzzles for dogs can save you a ton of money and your dog is just as happy! This book has some clever ideas, look at the picture on the cover:
Brain Teaser For Dogs Quick and Easy Homemade Puzzle Games by Christina Sondermann
Try Some Puzzle Food Toys For Dogs!
If you liked reading this article, read my articles about mentally stimulating activities for dogs and DIY dog enrichment ideas. The more you know, the more ideas you have to keep your dog calm and mentally stimulated!
Until next time-