Value in puzzles

What’s the real value in puzzles for our animals?

When we think about our companion animals, a lot of us spend a lot of time in the day away from our companions.

While we have the commute to and from work, a day spent working, shopping, eating out or catching up with friends and other sports or hobbies we may do.. this all qualifies as our enrichment!

All the while our companion animals sit patiently (if we are lucky) at home waiting for us to return and do something with them- our companions..

This is where puzzles can really be of benefit for both when we are present and when we are not.

I can’t tell you how many people have told me their animals are so excited to see them and it takes hours walking them or throwing the ball in the backyard to tire them out.

Puzzles can help you both reclaim those hours and turn it into quality time.

What’s so special about puzzles?

I’m sure we have all studied something at some stage in our life right?

Think about how tiring a big study session can be. This is because you are concentrating and using your brain. This can actually be more tiring than going for a run.

This is the same for our animals.

An appropriate challenge of puzzles can tire your animals out more than exercise.

How happy was I to hear this when Phatso was an adolescent!!

We walked/ran twice a day and still he was a 50kg puppy bouncing off the walls!

When our trainers said hey swap one walk out for some brain training our whole world changed!

We went to positive reinforcement based training classes and learnt our basics and we learned about enrichment and puzzles!

Pretty soon we were walking better, Phatty had cool manners and tricks to show off, I wasn’t as worn out all the time and Phatso was much more settled in general!!

When you start to teach your animals how to do things using positive reinforcement you open up clear channels of communication between you.

This in itself is quite settling for an animal to know they can look to you for guidance and understand what you are telling them!

*No intimidation or fear needed here!

When we introduce puzzles we are helping our animals to think for themselves!

We need to set an appropriate  challenge- we wouldn’t plonk a 2yr old human child in front of a 1000 piece puzzle and say go on sort it out!!

So it’s the same with our animals. 

We start out with super easy stuff like kibble in an egg carton- it’s all right in front of them, they just need to work out how to flick it out. Then when they have that mastered simply close the egg carton for the next degree of difficulty..

Then you may move onto a muffin tray.. then a muffin tray with tennis balls covering the kibble..

In each of these steps you would take the time to show your learner where the treats are and help them by moving or flicking treats out here and there and before you know it you have a pro who can open the box to find the box inside the box inside the box inside the box which holds the taped up egg carton with kibble in!!!!!

How cool is that!!

The important thing is to help your learner and pay attention to what they are good at and where they need guidance.

Once you know what puzzles they are brilliant at then you can leave them to enjoy them while you are out.

Then with the puzzles they still need assistance with, these become your quality time together when you get home from work- maybe before you need to start dinner.

Using this time for puzzles will settle them because they’ve had some one on one time with you, earned some treats, learned some new skills which is all using their brain so they may now need a little lie down.

This could be perfect for the busy end part of the day... then you may even find they are more settled and happy to chill on the lounge and watch TV with you!!

Play around with your puzzles and what time of day works well for your household dynamic.

What kind of puzzles are there?

There are so many ways to get your animals thinking and learning and a lot can come from your recycling bins!

I save all my toilet rolls and boxes to pop treats in.

For something a little more long lasting this is where your treat dispensing toys come in!

Some are easier than others and it’s always good to start easy and build up your learners skill set.

This is where our subscription boxes are great because you get access to our video tutorials and inspiration pages.

This month we are featuring The Busy Buddy Tug-a-jug which is one of the harder toys and if you watch our brand ambassadors on their socials we can all share their learning journey with this toy together!

Check out our Brand Ambassadors on our “About Us” page and find the links to their socials there.

For an easier challenge I like the Busy Buddy Barnacle too as this is able to be customised to your dogs skill level.

Whatever your skill level, puzzles are awesome and we would love to see your animals’ favourite puzzles so tag us on your socials @crazycritterztoybox and show off your skills to us!!

Go get puzzling!!

Jessica Moore