I’ve been a big fan of interactive dog toys for years. But, since quarantine started a few weeks ago, I’ve been pretty obsessed with them. They’re a great way to keep our pups entertained and mentally stimulated (which really comes in handy when we’re on work-from-home conference calls!). Just like we get tired of the same old thing after a while, though, so do our dogs. So, to keep things fresh, I like to rotate toys. Along with my favorite store-bought games, I’ve been getting creative with things that are just lying around the house. In this post, I’m sharing 8 simple DIY dog puzzles and toys you can make right now. I bet your pups will love you for it!
*Always supervise your dog when playing with interactive dog toys and puzzles.
1. Muffin Tin Puzzle
I love the idea of taking things from around your house and making them into a super fun dog toy! For this puzzle, you’ll need to grab a muffin tin, some treats, and up to 12 balls (no biggie if you don’t have 12 balls, I’ll share swap ideas in just a second).
To make this game, you simply drop a treat into each cup in the muffin tin. Then, cover it with a ball. If you don’t have 12 tennis or rubber balls, you can also use a classic KONG or even a small plush toy. Get creative!
When starting out, I suggest covering half the spaces. That way, your dog can easily see yummy treats in some cups and will be more eager to move the balls out of the way to reveal the other hidden snacks. Each time you play, add more balls until each cup is covered, or change up the pattern!
2. Busy Box
Also called an enrichment box, foraging box, or destruction box, a busy box is a super simple DIY interactive puzzle. You start with a basic cardboard box (like an old Amazon box or, soda can box, LaCroix box, cereal box, etc.) and then fill it with your dog’s favorite toys, balls, and random stuff lying around your home (particularly things you can hide treats in)! You can even sprinkle in a few loose treats to enhance the whole experience. Lightly close it and then give it to your dog to open and forage through. Check out my full tutorial HERE, which shares various stuffing ideas!
3. Towel Roll-Up
In the busy box, I like to add a treat-filled towel. Basically, I grab a clean washcloth or dish towel and roll treats inside. Well, this alone is a great game for your pups! Roll treats inside an old (clean) towel or blanket and let them unravel it to free the treats and eat the yummy snacks!
4. Snuffle Mat
A snuffle mat is a popular nose work, brain game. It consists of fleece fabric strips tied onto a sturdy backing. You hide dog treats inside the fleece — behind the many folds and even deep inside where the fleece meets the backing — for your dog to sniff out, find, and then eat. The idea behind this simple yet genius game is to mimic the foraging and hunting activities our dogs’ wild ancestors engaged in on a regular basis. From developing puppies to aging seniors, this enrichment toy is perfect for all dogs!
To make a snuffle mat, you can either use a sink mat (I used this one) or a piece of cardboard as the backing. Plus, you can use an old fleece blanket (if you need fleece, I love these blankets for this project).
I have a full snuffle mat tutorial HERE. Or, simply check out this video and I show you step-by-step how to make it:
5. Waterbottle Gyro
The idea for this DIY dog toy comes from the popular KONG Gyro. It features a static outer ring and spinning orb in the center that you fill with treats. Your dog uses his paw or snout to push and roll the Gyro, which releases treats along the way. It’s one of my Chihuahua’s favorites.
You can create a similar version using a water bottle! *Note: Since this game is flimsier than the real KONG Gyro, it may not be suited for heavy/disruptive canine players. It’s great for my 5-pound Chihuahua and 7-pound toy Poodle — both gentle players.
To make this game, you will need an empty water bottle, pair of scissors, and some treats.
Start by unscrewing the bottle cap and setting aside. Next, pinch a section of the water bottle and cut several holes around the bottle. Vary the placement of your holes. The more holes you make in the bottle, the easier it will be for your dog to get the treats. I personally cut three holes around my bottle! Place pieces of your dog’s favorite treat inside the bottle and screw the cap back on. Finally, place the bottle on your floor and let your pooch play!
6. Toilet Paper Treat Holder
Since everyone seems to be hoarding toilet paper right now (I still have no idea why!), chances are you’ve got some rolls on hand! Once a roll is done, don’t toss the leftover cardboard. Instead, stuff it with a few dog treats, fold or crinkle down the ends, and give it to your dog to play with. Some dogs will work to open the edges, others will just rip the roll apart! *Note: Like the water bottle toy above, this idea is better suited for small dogs and gentle players. And, as with all of these toys, always supervise your dog while playing.
7. Stuffed Hol-ee Roller Ball
Okay, I’m cheating a bit with this DIY dog puzzle, because we’re starting with a real dog toy that you need to get from the store. But, it’s way too fun not to add to this list. The Hol-ee Roller is a cool ball with holes — it comes in various sizes. It’s made of a super stretchy rubber that makes it easy to stuff with your dog’s favorite goodies.
Aside from using it like a regular ol’ ball or fetch toy (the holes make it easy for dogs to carry), here are some things you can do with it:
- Stuff your dog’s favorite plush toy inside and have him work it out!
- Stuff your dog’s favorite treats inside
- Similar to the snuffle mat, tie fleece strips to the ball and push the excess fabric inside (so the ties are filling up the center). Drop treats inside. Your dog will need to roll and shake the ball to set the treats free!
- Bump up the challenge by rolling treats into fleece strips and stuffing the strips inside the ball. Some treats fall out when the ball rolls. For others, dogs will need to work the fleece strips out to set the treats free.
8. KONG Treat (Recipe)
This is another enrichment toy that calls for a store-bought base: a classic KONG. In case you aren’t familiar, the classic KONG is a durable rubber toy with a hollow center that you stuff with Fido-friendly foods and treats. It’s a cross between a food bowl and a boredom-buster enrichment puzzle that provides dogs with a healthy outlet to chew and lick!
KONG sells highly processed food fillings, but I say ditch those and make your own healthy stuffing recipe! In this video, I share my 3-step method for stuffing the classic KONG. Check it out:
What are your favorite DIY dog puzzles? Share them in the comment section below!