Teach Your Pet a Puzzle

By Suzanne Denk, Dip.FBST, Animal Enrichment Specialist

Puzzle time with your pet shouldn’t be confusing – it should be fun! Follow these simple tips to get the most out of this entertaining and stimulating activity.

When introducing a new puzzle, teach the puzzle to your pet over several days – there’s no rush! Set them up for success by teaching the puzzle in stages to them. Help them with the steps and you’ll be surprised by how much your pet enjoys the process.

Introduce a new puzzle when your pet is calm, not when they are full of energy. While puzzles should be mentally stimulating, look for signs of frustration and don’t be afraid to move back a step. Puzzles should be relaxing not arousing so pay attention to your pet’s body language for any signs of overexcitement. Remember, it is okay to show your pet how the puzzle works!

Consider how your puzzle can be broken down into steps like this:

Step 1 Provide a treat and let your pet investigate the puzzle without having to perform in any way.

Step 2 Remove any pieces from the puzzle and place food or treats near them to get the pet used to the objects. This will also help them learn that the puzzle pieces are connected to food.  (picture #1)   The association with food is important so your pet does not see the puzzle pieces as chew toys. If they want to chew on the puzzle, simply remove the treats and puzzle pieces and try again later.

Step 3 Present the puzzle pieces with some of the treats hidden.

Step 4 Place treats in the puzzle base so they are easily accessible.

Step 5 Place treats in the base, hiding some of the treats and make some of them easily accessible.

Step 6 Cover treats completely by adding any final puzzle pieces. Add fabric loops to pieces if it helps your pet grasp them as they learn to use the puzzle.

The fun doesn’t end once your pet learns the puzzle. When stocked with tasty treats, your pets will continue to be interested in the same puzzle and will want to do it over and over again. Try a puzzle today!

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