Day 53 Suspended Puzzles Pt.1

Welcome to Day 53 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!


Suspended Puzzles

At a glance:

  • taking puzzles to a new height, literally, changes the challenge greatly
  • you really can suspend any puzzle, but today we are starting with a more gentle introduction to suspended puzzles to help our dogs gain the skills
  • 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.
  • Suspended puzzle prep will probably take you about 5-10 minutes – having a collection of puzzle stuff is a good idea…it will resemble a pile of rubbish or recycling!


What do you need?

  • plastic bottles from soft drinks, for example
  • a range of food rewards
  • a toy or toys that your dog loves
  • paper for stuffing and packing
  • dog lead, cord, shoe lace, rope or similar (you cold even use a bamboo stick or similar)
  • Stuffables
  • Pringles tubes or similar
  • toilet roll tubes
  • a basket with holes

Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
  • to do more feeding related behaviour than eating
  • to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of  the suspended devices
  • by varying the design of suspended bottles 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 suspended 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.

Suspended puzzles 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 carefully layering the challenge, so that they don’t give, 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 suspended 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 Suspended Puzzles:

Suspended puzzles are a great to expand your puzzling-arsenal and carefully increasing the challenge will really stretch the dog’s puzzling abilities.

These puzzles offer lots of different possibilities for expanding the dog’s behavioural range, truly engaging them cognitively.

Suspended puzzles 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.

Suspending puzzles can be quite a change for many dogs so taking it easy and increasing challenge very gradually is more worthwhile.

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 suspended puzzles, 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.

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 the bottle.
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 fastners, small pieces and plastic pieces. With bottles, remove the lid and plastic ring before giving to your pet. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

Suspending puzzles increases challenge suddenly and drastically. It’s important to work incrementally to help your dog develop skills (behaviours) to solve these puzzles.

Increase or decrease difficulty by lowering and loosening the line, and by working against a wall or surface or have the puzzles freestanding.


  • puzzle is suspended at or lower than your pet’s chin height
  • the line is looser
  • puzzle is suspended against a wall or surface


  • puzzle is suspended at or slightly above your pet’s chin height
  • the line is tighter
  • puzzle is suspended against a walk or surface


  • puzzle is suspended at or slightly above your pet’s chin height
  • the line is tighter
  • puzzle is freestanding

Option 1 Jumblers

Simple and fun introduction to suspended puzzles!


Simple puzzles, with quick wins, so are the perfect introduction to Suspended Puzzles!


Activity Food Dispenser

Add a couple of holes to a tube or bottle, add food rewards and suspend it!





Free standing tube jumbler: 


Option 2 Hanging Basket

Suspend your dog’s favourite toy or stuffable in a hanging basket for an extra level of challenge to toy games. Have a fun game when the dog gets the toy, and then set up for another hanging basket challenge!


Option 3 Bottle Spinner

Be careful where you pierce the bottles, to pass through the line on which they are suspended. Further up the bottle, toward the lid, makes it more difficult for the dog to spin to win.


Option 4 Suspended Stuffables

Lots and lots of stuffable options and suspending them make the challenge more interesting and tricky.


Option 5 Suspended Paper Treat Parcels

Start with suspended paper treat parcels:


Add paper treat parcels to an egg box:


Add paper treat parcels to toilet roll tubes:



There are more Suspended Puzzles, offering new and different challenges, over the 100 days!

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!