Brain games

Mental activation is an important factor in keeping dogs happy. In one experiment a group of dogs were given tasks to complete in order to get rewards. There was also a control group of dogs that were given the same rewards, but they didn’t have a chance to work for them. Shortly, the experiment showed that the dogs that completed the tasks in order to get the rewards were much happier than the control group that got the rewards without any efforts.

The experimental animals in our study were excited not only by the expectation of a reward, but also about realizing that they themselves could control their access to the reward. These results support the idea that opportunities to solve problems, make decisions, and exercise cognitive skills are important to an animal’s emotional experiences and ultimately, its welfare.

You can read more about the study in here.

Nose work

Any type of nose work games and searching games are good ways to drain dogs’ energy. You could say that dogs are using their brains when they are using their nose.

If your dog hasn’t searched for anything before, you should start by throwing a couple of treats to the floor in front of your dog so that he can see them and give a cue: search (when he goes and eat the treats). Only after this you can make the searching games harder. You can then throw treats on the ground or into short grass. Later on you can throw treats into long grass on even into a snowdrift.

When you are outside with your dog you should always be very careful, because you can’t always be sure if there aren’t any broken glass or other dangerous things in the thick, long grass. Or there could be something hidden, that you may not like your dog to eat, like used paper tissues or chewing gums.

Here you can find various nose work and searching game ideas for your dog.

Brain games and puzzles

You can arrange various of problem solving tasks and brain games for your dog, and these are good ways to drain your dogs energy. When the dog really needs to work something out in order to get his food, he will get tired. Here you can find multiple problem solving tasks and brain games as well.

You should never help your dog with the tasks you’ve given to him, because when the dog figures something out by itself, it drains the energy and boosts the dog’s self-confidence. Always start with something easy enough, so your dog can complete the task without any help.

You should always supervise your dog when you give him these assignments to prevent any injuries. And you shouldn’t give him any toxic materials or anything with small loose parts that he could swallow by accident.

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Yoghurt bottles

You can use any small yoghurt bottles for this game. If you don’t have any carton bottles, you can use plastic bottles like Actimel bottles.

Yarn box

This yarn box is one diy version of a slow feeding food bowl.

Walking on different surfaces

Walking on different surfaces can be count as socializing, but always when there is a chance to try something new, I address Miki to try it.


Waiting can be so hard for some dogs.

Valentine's heart

I gave Miki two of these cardboard hearts as a valentine’s day gift.

Under the dome

The dog is supposed to pull the towel out so he can get the treats.


For this one you only need an umbrella and any treats.

Two wash basins

This game forces your dog to think, because separating two wash basins isn’t easy.

Twelve cup puzzle

This game has six cups hidden inside larger cups. The number of the cups depends on the tray you are using - my tray had six holes.


It takes tome effort to craft the game, but the end result is worth it.

Tunnels or crawling under

You may know the tunnel from dog agility sport. We made a tunnel from a side table and a towel and Miki has to crawl under the table and the towel.

Tug of war

The idea of this game is to pull a treat on a rope through a lid.

Tug a fleece

This is a two-part game. First the dog needs to pull the knotted fleece out of the toy and then he needs to dig the treats out of the knots.

Tubes in the box

Just a few tubes and a box and you can make these fun games for your dog.


Trivets work well as slow feeding bowls.

Treat wrap

For treat wrap you need a piece of cardboard, some textile yarn and some thin and sticky treats like pieces of duck fillet or chicken fillet.

Treat tube

For this you only need a tube, a towel or a newspaper and any kind of treats. I used pieces of dried chicken fillet.

Treat rope

You can use old and worn out rope toys for this game. I cut a chicken fillet to thin strips and then I pushed the strips into the holes of the rope.

Treat necklace

We were about to visit my fiancés parents who have an own yard with trees. So I came up with an idea of these treat necklaces which I could hang from a tree ...

Treat cube

This is so cheap and easy to make and it’s as good as any food dispenser toy or even better.

Toys on a stick

Pulling toys away from the stick gives a new kind of challenge for your dog.

Toy hunt

You can make a similar game as the Easter egg hunt by hiding some food puzzle toys for your dog.


You may wanna use a towel, that you are about to throw away.

Towels in the box

You can make lots of fun games for your dog with just a few towels and a box.

Towel rockets

Towel rockets are made with towels and cookie cutters.

Towel lasagna

Dogs love to search because it allows them to really work with their nose. This towel lasagna is one of Miki’s favourite games.

Textile ball

If you are about to throw away any old clothes, sheets or towels - don’t.

Task boxes

Task boxes are great for dogs that like to dig or search for their food. Also you don’t need any specific packages on items for these games.

Stuffed panda

When this panda toy reached the end of his life it was still usable in Miki’s daily activation.

Step stool

Ikea’s step stool can be used with medium size or large dogs. The stool has perfect grid to hide some treats when you turn it upside down.


You can use any crate, drawer, table, chair or a cardboard box as a stand.

Spray bottles

Spray bottles are outdated tools in dog training. Nevertheless they are excellent as food dispensing toys.

Spin the disk

You can craft amazing things out of garbage if you just use a bit of imagination.

Something else -game

This game is suitable for dogs that already know multiple tricks/cues and who are already familiar with clicker training.

Soda bottle

Soda bottles are great food dispensing toys because they are always available.

Snuffle mat

You might need to spend a few hours in making a snuffle mat for your dog. But I recommend doing it, because using the mat calms your dog and allows him to wo...

Snuffle box

A snuffle box is a hardened version of a snuffle mat.

Sniffing course

Sniffing is one of the most efficient way to drain your dog’s energy. If your dog hasn’t searched much before, you need to start with only three items/obstac...

Smoothie cans

Froosh’s new smoothie cans look like they were designed as dogs’ food puzzle toys.

Small games

In this post you can find various small games.

Searching under the cups

Get few cups from the kitchen or if you have small cardboard boxes or paper cups, you can use them too.

Scent trace

Dogs naturally follow scent traces and you can make these at your home too.


Searching kibble from a crocheted rose brings fun alteration to the nose work games.

Rope in a box

Miki absolutely loves to search for his food so I always try new obstacles with different boxes.

Reversed muffin tray

As I was shopping, I drooled over some muffin trays and came up with an idea for this game.

Puzzle mat

I made several fun games for Miki from these puzzle mat pieces.

Pulling cart

In this game Miki is pulling a cart but in a slightly different way than normal sled dogs do.

Pill jars

You can use any plastic pill jars in this game.

Phone book fan

You need a phone book or a mail order catalog and some kibble for this one.

Peek a hole

This is like a giant version of a slow feeding food bowl.


For this one you only need two or three pages from the magazine (staples taken out), masking tape and some dry treats or kibble.

Paper balls in cups

To make paper balls, take one page from a magazine. Then put some treats or just kibble on the top of the paper and then scrunch it into a ball.

Paper bags

You can give paper bags to your dog to play with as long as they don’t have any metallic parts in them.

Obstacle course

This game is nice because you don’t need any expensive agility hurdles. Instead you can use any light weight or soft objects you can find in your home.

Obstacle box

I’ve always wanted to craft this kind of box to Miki and fortunately I had some free time at the weekend.

Newspaper onion

For this one you need a newspaper (staples taken out), some masking tape and any dry treats or just kibble.

Nested packages

You can give carton packages as such for your dog to shred but you can create something different when you nest several packages.

Narrow box

The dog is supposed to lift the obstacles out of the narrow box in order to get the treats.

Mystery box

This game has two parts in it. The dog needs to open the first flap of the box and after that he needs to push the box open.

Mission impossible

I thought this game would be easy for Miki but it turned out to be “Mission impossible”.

Magazine roll

For this game you need a magazine, masking tape and some thin and sticky treats, like semi-moist duck fillets or chicken fillets, or small slices of cheese o...


You can use any lids for this game. Small and light weighted lids are usually the easiest for dogs and the larger and heavier lids are the hardest.

Lava lamps

I made these lava lamp looking cones by using Ikea’s Kalas cups and paper cups.

Laundry balls

Laundry balls are versatile toys, as long as you remember to scrub off all traces of laundry detergents.


This game has similar layers as lasagna.

Kongs in cups

If food dispensing toys are too easy for your dog, you can make some of them more difficult by combining them with other objects.

Knick-knacks puzzle

I got a dog treat advent calendar as a gift from Zooplus’ online store on last christmas.

Kibble hunt

If your dog loves to chase and hunt his food then this is a perfect game for him.

Kibble dispenser

This game is easy to prepare, but it still gives a good challenge for your dog.

JW Hol-ee Roller

JW Hol-ee Roller toy (size L) is one of the best toys we have bought for Miki, because it’s so versatile.

Ikea's Mula wagon

Toys for small children are mainly safe for dogs as well because they are tested for toxics (at least in Finland) and they seldom have any small loose parts.

Ikea's Drömmar set

Slow feeding bowls are usually quite expensive but you can purchase this Drömmar pastry cutter set from Ikea for under six dollars.

Ice cube trays

Ice cube trays are the best in those hot summer days, but you can also use them otherwise.

Hot-air balloon

The hot-air balloon is a completely different game that Miki is used to.

High roller

In this game a dog needs to roll the tube so the treats fall out from the holes.

Gone fishin'

In this game a dog needs to fish a cup attached to a rope out of a plastic jar.

Flying saucer

I made a diy kibble dispenser out of two deep paper plates.

Flying saucer II

I got carried away again when I got some yarn as a Christmas present and I crocheted this flying saucer toy to Miki.

Floating cups

I thought this would’ve been easy for Miki, but it turned out if was quite difficult.

Flippin' it

In this game the dog needs to flip the blue baskets to get the treats.

Fleece wraps

Are treat dispensing toys too easy for your dog too? You can make some of the toys more difficult with a piece of fleece.

Fleece puzzle

This game is convenient because you can adjust the difficulty to fit your dog’s level.

Falling treats

Preparing this game takes a bit time, but Miki found this game super fun so I recommend you to try this with your own dog.

Egg cartons

Egg cartons are amongst the classics of diy food puzzle toys for dogs.

DVD case

For this one you only need an empty DVD case and some treats that fits in the case.


For this game you need two laundry balls and an empty paper roll.

Dermosil bottles

Dermosil soap bottles are shaped like they were designed as treat dispensing toys for dogs.

Denim plait

For these games you need a pair of jeans that you are about to throw away and some dry and hard treats.

Cups in bowls

These games are great because you can modify them almost endlessly.

Cup in the tube

You should make the effort to build this game because it’s just so much fun to watch your dog to solve the puzzle.

Cup doughnut

You need at least 10 carton or plastic cups and some string or yarn.

Crocheted baskets

I got the idea for these baskets from Ikea’s Nordrana baskets. So, if you don’t want to crochet the baskets yourself, you can buy them from Ikea.


You can make different search games for your dog from these chocheted corals. This is also an excellent way to get rid of left over yarns.

Coral mat

This coral mat is similar to snuffle mat, but instead of fleece it’s made of crocheted corals.

Coral cappuccino

I choose a Nescafe jar for this game because of the narrower section in the middle of the jar.

Confidence booster

This is a confidence boosting game for your dog, by This is a great start if you need to train your dog to wear a muzzle.


For the honor of late summer, I did these cones inspired by ice cream cones for Miki.

Climbing and balancing

On our daily walks I often ask Miki to climb onto various things, such as rocks, trunks of fallen trees, stumps, benches etc.

Cans with lids

These games are quite difficult so they suit best for dogs that already have some experience with puzzle toys.

Calming down

Calming down is very hard for Miki so that’s why we need to practise it.

Bread and circuses

This game is for the bread and circuses - a game where your dog can win treats by playing.

Box full of toys

At first I thought of making a ball pool in the cardboard box, but the balls would have cost about 50 euros so I ended up improvising.

Basket in the box

For this one you only need two baskets or boxes and any treats or just kibble.

Ball pool

You can buy expensive ball pool balls from a toy store and pay a fortune, or you can improvise like I did.

All eggs in one basket

We got this basket full of delicacies as a Christmas present, but it soon found its way to be part of Miki’s games.