Problem solving games are excellent activities that satisfy our dog’s need for mental exercise.

What are problem solving games?

Problem solving games are dog activities where our friend needs to solve a puzzle in order to get some food or a toy. This is something very satisfying for our dogs: many animals love to work for their food rather than getting it for free, a phenomenon that scientists call “contrafreeloading”. 

How to get problems solving toys?

It is possible to find problem solving toys in any good pet store. We can recognise them as toys where the dog should pull a cord, open a drawer and so on in order to get a piece of food. These toys are convenient because we can buy them ready to use and do not require any skill from us. However, exactly like we would not do a sudoku game twice, once our furry friend has solved the puzzle, there is not much mental exercise involved. 

Problem solving for dogs

One simple way to have new problem solving toys every time is to make them at home. We do not need special handyman skills or material. We can just hide a few treats in a cardboard box and let our dog find them. Once our dog has learnt how to solve this puzzle, we can then add some crunched paper; next step could be to close the box, and so on. Another simple toy can be made by punching a few holes in a plastic bottle and place some kibbles in it, so that your dog will need to roll it around to get the food. These are just a couple of ideas, if you like them you can find many more on pinterest or youtube!

Federica Pirrone, Mariangela Albertini, Patrizia Piotti researchers at UNIMI Veterinaria