Introducing Food Puzzles to Your Fearful Dog

fearful dogs Jun 29, 2020
fun and enrichment puzzle

Fearful dogs can be highly suspicious of novel objects, and of anything that makes noise or moves unexpectedly. Unfortunately, many food puzzle toys check all of these boxes.


Does that mean your fearful dog can’t benefit from food puzzles? Absolutely not! In fact, learning to play with food toys can be a big step forward in your dog’s journey to learning that his world is safe. By playing with a variety of food puzzles, fearful dogs can learn that interacting with novel objects make good things (treats) happen. 

Check out our new video tutorial on getting your fearful dog interested in food puzzle games:

A few important tips when introducing your shy dog to puzzle toys and games:

1) Make sure your dog “wins” right away.  Many dogs give up on food toys if their first efforts don’t produce treats. For fearful dogs, just approaching a new toy could be a significant effort. If your fearful pup is new to food puzzles, start with wide open designs like snuffle mats or egg cartons, and reward them for even looking at or approaching the item. 

2) Avoid noisy toys:   Start with soft rubber toys, or give hard plastic toys to your dog on a carpeted surface. 

3) Don’t let a new toy move & spook your dog:  Even if you start off with a toy that isn’t designed to move around, like a snuffle mat, it could still slide on smooth flooring. If you think a toy might move when your pup touches it, and they’re not ready for that, hold it still for them while they’re checking it out the first several times.  

If you're looking for more guidance with your fearful dog, check out our monthly training membership.

We’d love to hear what food puzzles your fearful dog likes!  Join us in our private Facebook group, and share your successes!