Day 87 Stacked Puzzles

Welcome to Day 87 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!

Stacked Puzzles

At a glance:

  • stacked bowls or cups, with food, stacked together for some cognitive challenge
  • food based and cognitive based enrichment
  • add food, add packing, stack in a box…just stack ’em
  • 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.
  • Stacked puzzle prep will probably take you about five minutes and isn’t too hard on the clean-up either!

What do you need?

  • paper cups, dog bowls or plastic bowls or tubs that fit into one another
  • even plastic trays inserts from sweets or biscuits
  • paper e.g. packing paper, kitchen roll, newspaper
  • a smaller box or shallow tub
  • variety of food rewards


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 puzzles
  • these puzzles can encourage lots of thinking so prevent your dog just destroying the puzzle outright by keeping the challenge doable

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 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.

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

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 puzzles so that they can work on them themselves; not too much mess with this one, but there will always be a little mess when puzzling
  • 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 Stacked Puzzles:

These are simple puzzles to put together and can offer dogs real cognitive outlets. I like to categorise these as thinking puzzles as, with the right support, the dog can be encouraged to think through the problem and learn to apply new and old strategies to solving them.

These puzzles can be easily adjusted so that all levels of puzzler can take part and benefit.

Keep ’em simple to get started with to help the dog develop an approach to solving and then you can add layers of difficulty from there.

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 these 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 for you.

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 paper.
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. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

Option 1: Stack ’em

Start with the beginners option and stick with that until your dog gets the game, and then move through the levels.


  • add lots and lots of food to each bowl
  • stack just one bowl on top of the food
  • the two bowls shouldn’t touch



  • add a small amount of food to each bowl
  • make a stack of three bowls
  • the bowls might touch a little



  • add a small amount of food to each bowl
  • make a stack of three bowls
  • have the bowls slot into one another



Option 2 Pack & Stack


  • add some food to a bowl
  • crumple up some paper and add on top of the food
  • add another bowl and repeat
  • stack three bowls with paper on top



  • make some treat parcels by adding some food to paper and scrunching it up
  • add to each of three bowls, on top of food in each one too
  • make a stack of three bowls

paper food balls

You can make this puzzle even more elaborate, with layers of challenge:

Option 3 Stack in a Box


Make your stack at beginners, intermediate or advanced levels and slide into a box:

Wedge it in an open box or tub:


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!