Puzzle toys, foraging toys, slow feeders… there are as many names as there are styles of these creatively designed pet toys that make food fun again.

Not only do these toys occupy your pet’s time and energy, they also occupy their mind, which can be just as calming as physical exercise for those busy-bee dogs and cats.

There are puzzle toys that work best with dry food or treats, and others that can be used with wet foods and treats. Creative fillings combined with freezing make them extra challenging.

Licking is a self-calming behavior. You can take advantage of this by preparing a puzzle toy with soft foods and treats that will result in a lot of licking. You can increase this benefit by mixing in calming herbal formulas (both with and without CBD).

It’s a good idea to make it easy the first time, so your pet doesn’t get frustrated and stop playing. For example, using dry treats or food while just covering the opening with something soft, so after licking off the first part the rest will tumble out. You can then go on with experimenting, layering, and freezing.

You should stick around to watch sometimes so that you can have an idea of what really works for them. Layering in different formats and flavors can create more variety in their experience, keeping it fresh and fun every time.

One of the best ways to use puzzle toys is to put all of your pet’s meals in them. Not only will they get nutrition out of the meal, but they will also get mental and physical stimulation, resulting in a much more satisfied pet. If you have a puppy or kitten it’s also invaluable as a way to keep them occupied – putting meals in a regular bowl is almost like giving away money when you could be getting a good return on your investment instead.

Always ask about durability when purchasing a puzzle toy for your dog, so you can match the toy to your dog’s chewing habits. Puzzle Toys are not chew toys, but some are tougher than others. This is one reason we recommend supervising their interactions until you know how it’s going to go.

The Classic Kong is always a good choice for some real time-consuming play

West Paw makes several different puzzle toys that can be filled with soft food, and their Qwizl can hold bully stix as well. The Toppl works the best as a slow-feeder for meals.

If you really only want to use dry food or treats, the  Wobbler, Bob-A-Lot, and Rumbl are your best choices for play-type toys, with the Green Feeder as a great stay-put grazing dish, with Slim Cat & Wobbler for cats (dry fed cats often need the extra exercise these toys provide).

Lick Pads work great for dogs and cats of all ages, Anything soft can be spread on these, and the prepared mat can even be frozen.