Day 51 Compound Puzzles

Welcome to Day 51 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!


Compound Puzzles

At a glance:

  • get a box (or other safe container), stuff with puzzles
  • puzzles within puzzles within puzzles
  • the Russian Dolls of puzzles!
  • food 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 puzzles for their pets.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • Compound puzzle prep will probably take you about five-ten minutes – having a collection of puzzling stuff is a good idea…it will resemble a pile of rubbish or recycling!

What do you need?

  • cardboard boxes or plastic tubs or similar, any container that is open (and safe)
  • paper e.g. packing paper, kitchen roll, newspaper etc.
  • eggboxes
  • balls
  • paper cups
  • plastic tray inserts from sweets, biscuits etc.
  • cardboard cup holders


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 puzzles
  • by varying the design of each puzzle 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 each puzzle 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.

Compound puzzles encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with it is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

By offering a variety of puzzles in puzzles, 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 compound puzzles 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 Compound Puzzles:

Compound Puzzles are truly adaptable and you can dress them up for more challenge or just use the bare essentials to make a quick and easy puzzle.

Don’t make the challenge beyond your dog, 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 compound puzzles, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to this puzzle.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, some of these puzzles may not work or you might try using a plastic tub and supervise them closely. They will still eat plastic, it will just take them longer.

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 something they shouldn’t.
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. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

Go nuts today! How many puzzles can you get into one puzzle?

Add packing paper:



Add treat parcels:

Add Stuffables!

stuffable in box

Add stuffed tubes:

Add teasers:

  • add paper treat parcels to each space in the tray and stick that in the box

add packing to tray to box

  • use toilet rolls wedged into suitably sized spaces in the tray, over each treat

tube teaser

  • pop food rewards into each tray space and wedge paper cups over each treat
  • add food rewards to each space in the tray and then stack the trays

Add paper cups:

Add boxes to other boxes:


Add tubs and eggboxes

Add pulleys

treat on a string

Add blankets and things for digging or snuffling.

Add things for dissection and destruction or chewing

Add bottles:

Add puzzles to puzzles to puzzles!

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!

You just need to clean up the mess!