Day 44 Puzzle Chains

Welcome to Day 44 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!

Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!


Puzzle Chains

At a glance:

  • string up different puzzles on a cord or stake and let the puzzling begin!
  • food and cognitive based enrichment
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and these challenges offer lots of opportunities for children to use their imagination to come up with the best puzzle for their pets.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • Puzzle chain prep will probably take you about 10 minutes – having a collection of puzzle stuff is a good idea…it will resemble a pile of rubbish or recycling!

What do you need?

  • cord, rope, dog lead, shoe lace or a bamboo stake or similar
  • all sorts of puzzling stuff such as bottles, toilet roll tubes, cloths, paper, egg boxes
  • a range of food rewards
  • Stuffables

Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
  • to do more feeding related behaviour than just eating
  • to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of  the puzzle
  • by varying the design of puzzles we will facilitate carrying out a range of different behaviours, broadening the dog’s repertoire

While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Working out how to get to the food and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the puzzles are examples of cognitive challenge.

Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value,  and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

Puzzle chains encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the bottle is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

By offering a variety of puzzle chains, we want to help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • give your pet plenty of space for working on puzzle chains and bear in mind there will be mess, so think about spaces that are easier for clean up
  • the more difficult you have made the challenge, the higher the value the reward must be so use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration!)
  • if your dog just dives in, in full on destruction mode that might also be an indicator that they need an easier challenge so they get to experiment with a broader range of behaviours

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of Puzzle Chains:

I love to use compound puzzles; a puzzle with other puzzles…the Russian Doll of Puzzles, if you will.

These Puzzle Chains are adaptable and offer a straight forward start to compound puzzles, more of which will come over the #100daysofenrichment

Puzzle chains are truly adaptable – there really is no limit to how they can be adapted to suit different puzzling levels.

What I tend to see, though, when puzzles are given to dogs, is that well-meaning owners go waaaaay over board, coming up with the most elaborate designs to really challenge their pet.

While it’s great to go for challenge, it’s important that enrichment remain enriching. That means that the challenge must be made appropriate and doable for the individual puzzler.

Our job is to adjust the puzzle difficulty so that our dog uses a range of behaviour and gets to the goal pretty quickly.

This is the true way to improve the dog’s confidence in puzzling (and in life) and help them expand their behavioural repertoire.

Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in puzzle chains, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to this puzzle.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, these may not work or you may need to think about what types of materials and puzzles you include.

If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats in your pocket and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating a puzzle.
Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.

Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fasteners, small pieces and plastic pieces. With bottles, remove the lid and plastic ring before giving to your pet. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

Today’s options are really just going to be a variation on the one theme – you guys can come up with sorts of adjustments to make this a fun and interesting challenge.

Loops, washing line or kebab?

  • String up each puzzle on to a cord, or similar, and tie the ends together.
  • String up each puzzle on to a cord or stake, or similar, and hang it up creating a suspended puzzle.
  • Add each puzzle to a stake and hang it up creating a suspended puzzle.

Secure the loop under a chair or table leg, or hang up a loop, washing line or kebab!

Bath ball loop

Bath ball scrubbers can be easily chained together and make a great snuffle toy, with food added in between the netting. Note, they are very easily destroyed!



Puzzle Loop

Take all your pet’s favourite puzzles and chain them together

Clip link


Your challenge

Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!

Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂

We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!