Updated: Mar 6
In order to add enrichment to my two standard poodles’ lives, I use puzzle feeders. Below are the ones I’ve tried and my thoughts about them. Disclaimer: I paid regular retail prices for these puzzle feeders and am not affiliated with the manufacturers or stores in any way.
Starmark Treat Dispensing Bob-a-Lot
The Bob-a-lot is a great way to give a dinner of dry kibble. Once filled with kibble or treats the dog has to hit it to make it “bob” and dispense the food through a tiny hole. It has a very low learning curve; I just showed my dogs that if you hit it, food came out and they were happy to take over getting their dinner. It can be “bobbed” with either a foot or a nose.
It’s a great way to dispense an entire meal to a dog, with two different sizes to ensure enough room for an entire meal. However it is obnoxious and time consuming to fill up.
Tornado Puzzle Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound
The Tornado puzzle toy is great. It can be used to deliver a little bit of a high value reward like freeze dried beef liver, or an entire dinner (I was able to get it to hold a cup of kibble).
The difficulty can be adjusted by adding the white bones it comes with to the puzzle, or leaving them off. If the white bones are there they must be removed to turn the puzzle or get the treat underneath them, which adds a whole layer of complexity. If your dog is a short-nosed breed, Outward Hound recommends tying a string to the bone to make it easier to manipulate, and there is a convenient hole to tie a string through.
Without the added bones the puzzle is fairly simple for my dogs (who, being poodles, are smarter than average), although it does entertain them. Adding the white bones makes it much more difficult.
I like that you can control the difficulty level, and that it is easy to fill with an entire dinner, depending on the size of your dog’s dinner.
Hide N’ Slide Puzzle Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound
The Hide N’ Slide only works with small amounts of treats. My poodles can solve it fairly quickly, and I think it is too easy for them. I am impressed by how sturdy it is though. The manufacturer recommends it for short-nosed breeds in particular, as the pegs are supposed to be easier for them to move. I can’t vouch for the veracity of this though.
I think this would be great for a dog that doesn’t solve problems quite as fast as mine, or a dog that has a shorter attention span.
Brick Puzzle Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound
The Brick Puzzle toy I really like. Like the Tornado, it comes with white bones that can be added to increase difficulty level (the bones are the same for each, meaning you don’t have to keep track of which belongs to which puzzle). Treats can be hidden inside the red boxes and under them.
Without the bones it is already fairly difficult. To get the treats from under the box, the dog must slide the box along its track, to get the treats from inside the box he has to flip it open with his nose. Once the box is opened, it is harder to get the treats out from under it, as then the lid is in the way.
If the white bones are added, they must first be removed before the red boxes can be slid along the track. I haven’t experimented with adding the bones yet, but I like that the difficulty level can be increased.
While one cup of kibble won’t fit in and under the boxes, I was able to get a full cup of kibble into the toy using the spaces where the white bones would go if they were used (since I wasn’t using them this just amounted to free kibble). Thus this toy may or may not be suitable for feeding dinner, depending on the size of your dog’s meal.
I was also impressed, even though the lids to the boxes keep coming off, they are easy to pop back on. They appear made to come off easily and be reattachable rather than be destroyed, making this toy fairly sturdy.