Dog Puzzle Feeders: 10 Benefits To Use Them

Alice Nguyen | 13 December, 2022

            Dog Puzzle Feeders: 10 Benefits To Use Them

What's your fur baby’s victim this time? If it’s not your dress, it must be your favourite shoes from mom. 

While some dogs do well indoors or in a calm environment, most require mental stimulation to get rid of boredom and anxiety. Hence, if they're not given enough time outside to explore, pets will find entertainment in your laundry, couch, and everything you told them not to touch.

Now you’re thinking, if only there's something that could keep them busy while you’re away doing your stuff, something that will liven up their boring daily routine. Well, you must be looking for puzzle feeders!

But…What are dog puzzle feeders?

Puzzle feeders are food containers with a twist that your dogs would love. It requires skills and mental acuity to solve the puzzle and eventually get to your furry buddies' object of affection—food!

It comes with different designs and levels of difficulty. We have the classic Kong that uses the slow-release method, the Nina Ottosan Brick with movable parts, the Lickimat for wet food, and many more.

It’s definitely more fun than passively preparing their food. But if you need further convincing, here are the top 10 benefits of using puzzle feeders!

1. Provides mental exercise

Starting with its most apparent benefit—mental stimulation. Although dogs and cats are pampered these days, they’ve had a long history of hunting and surviving on their own. Hence, the challenge of finding food through puzzles would always be fun for them.

A study by McGowan et al. (2014) tested six pairs of matched beagles and confirmed the "Eureka Effect" in dogs. Specifically, they found out that dogs feel more rewarded when they work for their food instead of receiving it for free. 

Thus, with puzzle feeders, they’ll be more eager to eat while keeping their minds sharp.

2. Reduces stress and anxiety

Dogs are often housed in a limited space where they spend most of their days. Sometimes they endure long periods alone and bored, waiting for you to come home. Sometimes they hear loud noises they can't locate. All of these build up and often cause them stress and anxiety. 

But puzzle feeders will keep them busy enough for them to forget the stressors and the fact that you're away.

3. Deters problematic behaviours

Many problematic behaviours (e.g. excessive barking, aggression, and destructive chewing) stem from anxiety, stress, and even boredom. Hence, experts often recommend puzzle feeders to keep pets entertained while being cooped at home.

A study conducted by Schipper et al. (2008) also observed less barking and aggression in sheltered dogs that were given feeding enrichment toys. This supports the idea that puzzle feeders stimulate species-specific appetitive behaviours in dogs.  

But, this shouldn't be considered an alternative for long-term treatment of your dog’s destructive behaviours. Consult your veterinarian for a comprehensive intervention program.

4. Keeps pets active

Su et al. (2019) compared the activity levels of dogs fed with ordinary bowls and puzzle feeders. Results show that toy feeding increased the dog's walking time by 26 % and total activity time by 12%.  

With these results, puzzle feeders are deemed practical tools to increase pet activity and support weight loss programs.

5. Promotes brain health of aged pets

Like humans, dogs may also experience age-related degenerative changes, such as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). This causes our pets to be forgetful and anxious. 

Puzzle feeders help prevent these diseases and promote brain health by stimulating our pets' minds and keeping them active.

6. Regulates food intake

Since a puzzle feeder is designed to offer some challenge to your pet while eating, it also effectively regulates their food intake. This is especially beneficial for dogs who basically inhale their food. Preferred options are slow-feeder bowls and lickimats.

7. Maintains healthy weight 

Did you know that 41% of dogs and 32% of cats in Australia are overweight?

Obesity in dogs is often caused by a lack of exercise and excessive food consumption. If left untreated, pets will eventually experience arthritis and other joint and heart diseases. Hence, it's best to address the problem before it's too late.

Apart from paying attention to your dog's exercise routine, using puzzle feeders for their meals could also help them burn a few calories and slow down food uptake, which promotes satiety or the feeling of fullness.

8. Wards gastric problems away

Other than maintaining a healthy weight, puzzle feeders also prevent gastric problems in pets, such as bloating or Gastric Dilation. It is the build-up of fluids in your pet's stomach, often resulting from eating too fast and swallowing a lot of air. 

If left untreated, bloating could evolve into GDV (Gastric-dilation-volvulus), where the bloated stomach would twist up to 360 degrees, cutting off the blood supply in the stomach and sometimes other organs. Hence, it's best to address your pet's eating habits as early as possible.

9. Keeps pets from fighting

Having multiple pets at home is bliss until they start fighting over food. But since puzzle feeders keep pets occupied, the occurrence of fights during mealtimes would be significantly reduced!

10. Provides an opportunity to bond with your pets

Puzzle feeders have varying levels of difficulty and designs. Hence, you could make feeding more challenging every time your pet completes one. Apart from keeping their minds sharp and problematic behaviours at bay, this could also be a fun activity for you and your fur baby. 

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