Not many people are aware of the amazing entertainment value that pet puzzles possess. These simple mind games are not only for your pet to play with, but they also mentally and physically exercise your furry companion as well! Unfortunately they are a bit of a “secret” so not many pet owners even realize they exist. Furthermore, they are usually a bit pricey, making it a hesitant investment if you are unsure your pet will enjoy it. Well thanks to the power of the internet, we have a few DIY alternatives that you can put together yourself using common objects you can either find around your house, or at your local thrift/discount store! These ideas are easy and super inexpensive so you HAVE to try them! I guarantee you that your pet will not only have loads of fun (it’s surprising how much pets can enjoy such simplicity), but it will have to WORK for its food/treats, so it’ll be good mental and physical stimulation. Also, it’ll be really adorable for you to watch!
- Muffin Tin Madness – Okay, so a muffin tin has a LOT of possibilities for your pet to be entertained; who knew that such a simple household item could be so much FUN?! The first idea is that you can face the tin downwards, and either sprinkle kibble, treats, or other edible goodies in between the spaces. Your pet then has to snatch the treats/food from in between the crevices using their tongue, nose, paws, or their entire head. It may sound “too easy” to us humans, but you’d be surprised how difficult it can be for a creature without thumbs to get the goods! Your pet will be sliding it around and trying to maneuver the entire tin in order to get the tiny bits of edible goodness. The prep time for this is literally less than 30 seconds so you should try it out! A variation on this idea is to have the muffin tin facing open side upwards, filling the holes with kibble and treats, and then covering the holes with tennis balls. Your dog will be trying to paw the tennis balls off frantically and it will be exciting to see how quickly they can do it! If you don’t have that many tennis balls, you can use some toys as well, and you can even have some holes that are empty to throw your little furbaby off!
- Upcycled Tennis Ball Trap – What to do with those nasty old tennis balls that are so caked with dirt, hair, and saliva that you are almost gagging every time you pick them up? Cut them open and fill them with kibble and treats, of course! It is very easy to cut open a tennis ball and remove the felt part off of the outside a little bit so that you have a nice opening to fill with goodies. Make sure that the opening isn’t gaping wide, otherwise the treats will fall out instantly and it’ll be a mega fail. But also make sure that it isn’t too small, otherwise your dog will literally never be able to get the food out. Good thing you’re using gross old tennis balls that you were going to throw away anyway!
- PVC Pipe Puzzle – This is especially for the dogs that easily rip apart other toys and puzzles – this puzzle will be extremely difficult to destroy! All you need is a piece of PVC piping, that is an appropriate length according to your pet’s size, two end pieces (or something else to cover up the hole on each end), and a drill. Drill holes around the pipe that are big enough for kibble and treats to be stuffed into, but not so big that they will fall out in two seconds. Next, put your selected goodies in the pipe, plug up each end, and let the fun begin! Your pet will roll it, throw it, chew it, paw it, kick it, and nudge it until all the treats fall out, which is a great mental and physical workout! If you want to put a new spin (pun intended) on the game, you can use cut open tennis balls to cover each end of the pipe, and fill those tennis balls with treats also for extra fun. You can even attach other pipes onto that pipe and make it a crazy-looking octopus-esque puzzle that your pet will really have to maneuver to be rewarded! For smaller dogs, you might want to replace the PVC pipes with paper towel and/or toilet paper rolls.
- Empty Plastic Bottle Bonanza – Given that you are going to supervise your pet and that they do not easily rip apart and eat plastic, this is a great idea for a toy! Just find any kind of empty container that you have around the house, whether it’s a plastic water bottle, milk jug, or any such item. Remove the lid and seal so that your pet won’t choke on it! Fill it with treats, drop it on the ground and get ready for the fun. If you find that your pet is having too easy of a time getting the treats out, you can use one of your trusty old cut open tennis balls to plug up one end. You can also connect two bottles together and wrap it in the middle with a towel or cloth so that your little one will have to untie them and then get the treats out. If you want to get extra creative with it, you can connect PVC pipes or toilet/paper towel rolls to the opening of the bottle and create a spider-like puzzle! It’s amazing how easily you can modify these ideas and combine them together to create different levels of difficulty.
- Cardboard Box Chaos – It’s a known fact that cats love boxes, and many other animals love to sit, sleep, and play inside of them. Well, they are also really easy to use as a makeshift puzzle just by putting treats and/or toys inside of it and then closing it. You can punch holes on the sides of it so that the treats can fall out, or just leave it up to your pet to tip the box over, open the top, tear at it, scratch at it, and bite it to get it open enough for the treats to come out. You can even put a treat-filled box within the box, so that your pet has to keep opening box after box to get the treats! As stated previously, you can combine the boxes with all of the other materials on this list to make a super puzzle that is bound to entertain all involved.
- Towel/Blanket Treasure Hunt– Okay so this is so ridiculously easy that you need try it ASAP, because there is absolutely no excuse you could possibly have for not having a towel and/or blanket. There are so many different things you can do with them that it’s absurd! You can simply scatter treats on the ground and cover it with the blanket/towel, or you can pour some treats/kibble on a towel or blanket and tie it up in such a way that it’s enclosed. Then your dog will have to either untie it or rip it up in order to get the sweetness inside. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can tie several towels/blankets together and create little compartments for the treats to go into, or braid some blankets together and stuff the treats/bits of food into the folds and knots. How simple and awesome!
So there’s a few ideas to get you started, and I’m sure your imagination will take off after you see what great results you get from trying these out! Just remember to not overthink what you would consider your dog to find “fun” or “entertaining” because humans are MUCH harder to please than animals. Usually as long as a pet can roll or push something around, it’s going to be a good time – and with treats added, it’s bound to be a GREAT time. Next time before you throw something away, just ask yourself if there is a way for you to upcycle it and make a brand new toy or puzzle for your beloved furchild!