During lockdown, you aren’t the only one going stir crazy.
Dogs may also have a little bit of cabin fever, as some people can’t walk their pups for walks, are unable to go to parks or play with other four-legged friends.
To help keep your dog entertained during self-quarantine, puzzles are a great way to engage them.
“If you think about it, for dogs in the wild, the majority of their time is spent looking for food, hunting for it or eating it,” says Dr. Andrea Tu, a veterinarian and medical director at Behavior Vets in New York City. “Our dogs are not able to hunt, so puzzles gives them an outlet for mental and physical energy.”
Dog puzzles allow our best friends to work for their food, which they often like the challenge-reward dynamic of it, while also alleviating boredom.
There are a number of dog puzzles on the market, but you can make your very own DIY dog puzzle with a few, simple household supplies.
Here are a few DIY dog puzzles you make:
1. The Beginner
Dr. Tu states that all dogs may not be ready for a puzzle. Perhaps, you rescued a dog who was neglected, abused or just wasn’t around any sort of toy and doesn’t know how to play. For those dogs, Dr. Tu suggests starting out simple.
“Smear some peanut butter on a plate, and let your dog lick it clean,” she says. This in itself is a form of a puzzle.”
Then you can move onto more advanced options, like Kongs or other toys, until your dog gets the hang of it.
2. Tennis Ball Pocket
Take a tennis ball and using a knife or box cutter (do so with caution), slice the rubber white line in the shape of smile, so it is like a little pocket. Then squeeze the side of the tennis ball to open it up. Stuff some treats in there, toss to your dog and for a simple dog puzzle.
3. The Cupcake Tin Cover Up
Have some tennis balls and a cupcake tin? Then you have a DIY dog puzzle! Put some treats in a few of the cupcake spots, and then cover with the tennis balls. Your pup has to use her nose to push the tennis balls off to find the treats.
4. The Twist and Treat
You can take a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll and put some treats in it. Add a few holes to the roll and twist the ends, Dr. Tu suggests. Your dog can bat it around, chew it open (similar to tearing a carcass in the wild) or shake it to get the treats out.
5. The Great Amazon Box
For those who are getting a ton of deliveries during the pandemic, you can turn your Amazon (or any other shipping box) into a fun DIY dog puzzle for your dog.
All you need to do is tape up the box and cut small little holes in it. Then throw in some treats or kibble and give it to your dog. Your pup will spend time tossing it around, pawing at it to get some treats loose or even tearing it up (that’s okay!).
6. The Soda Bottle Delight
The plastic soda or water bottle can be used to make a DIY dog puzzle, too. You can cut some holes in the bottle and insert some treats. Dr. Tu does suggest, though, that in order to take away the sharp, plastic edges, you may want to use a lighter on the holes to make them rounder (be careful!). She also says we should remove the cap and plastic ring, as they can be choking hazards.
Another option is that you can string up the bottles between two wooden pegs (or something similar), put some treats in the bottles and see if your dog can spin them to force the treats out.
7. Turn your environment into a puzzle
Play hide-and-seek with treats in your home. Put your dog in a room for a minute, hide treats or kibble in another room — “okay spots” for your dog, like under a couch pillow, next to a chair and even in the toy basket. Then let your pup out for the scavenger hunt.
You can also tweak the game with a specific scent. For instance, Dr. Tu says, if your dog loves a certain spot at the park, cut off some of the grass and bring it back to your place for your pup to find.