DIY Dog Puzzle

Last December, Mrs. Canada and I considered what get our pup for Christmas.  We were hoping to get him some sort of a puzzle.  On doing some research, we found that these types of toys are typically sold for $40 to $80; pretty steep for something that would likely be forgotten or chewed to bits in a matter of weeks.

But nothing was stopping us from trying to make one ourselves.  Based on some other examples, here’s what we made:

The overall idea is to suspend plastic bottles from a rod so that they can spin.  Put food in the bottles, and your precious pupper gets to figure out how to get it.  Simple enough!


Why a Puzzle Toy?

They’re good for your dog: they relieve anxiety, help in healing from injuries, and help teach good eating habits (source).


Why This Puzzle Toy?

It’s cheap, it’s fairly easy, and it uses a lot of recycled or scrap materials.  When one set of bottles gets worn out, you can easily replace them with more.

This toy allows for a wide range of difficulty.  You can change the difficulty by using different types of bottles, and by mounting the bottles higher or lower.  This means your dog won’t get tired of it after a few days.

It’s also a great project to do with the kids, as you don’t have to get everything perfect.  Your dog certainly isn’t going to mind.


What You’ll Need

  • 2″ x 4″ – three 8′ boards, or several pieces (between 2′ and 3′)
  • Deck screws
  • Some sort of rod, between 1/8″ and 3/8″ in diameter.  Mrs. Canada found a fiberglass driveway marker at Home Depot for about $3.  It had just a little flex to it.
    • You’ll also need some way to cut the rod.  I used an angle grinder.
  • Empty plastic bottles.
  • Some sort of saw, and a drill.


Step 1: Make the Legs

Start by cutting the legs.  For each leg, one end is flat while the other is cut twice on an angle.

I used a piece of scrap to draw angled lines on each piece.

Once the angled end is cut, cut each piece to 24″ (from the tip of the angled end).  You’ll need four of these total.

With this done, attach two legs together (using a piece of scrap to level out one of the legs).  Be sure that the longer angled edges are facing away from each other.

Make two sets of these, and be sure to layer the pieces in the same way for both sets (i.e. left-on-top or right-on-top for both sets).  Then, measure the distance between the longer angled edges.  Both of mine measured 31″.  You’ll need this measurement to create the base.

On one of the two sets, drill a hole so that the rod fits through snugly (we’ll drill the other one later).


Step 2: Make the Base

Take the length you measured from the legs and subtract 3″.  You’ll need to cut two new pieces at this length.  Finally, cut two more pieces; I cut mine at 25 1/2″, but you can cut them based on how long you want the toy to be (as long as they’re the same length).

Use these four pieces to create the base of the toy.  Here’s what we’re aiming for:

The 28″ pieces are running the length, and the two 25 1/2″ pieces are running the width (with 1 1/2″ hanging off of opposite sides).  Use a piece of scrap to space it out when attaching them.


Step 3: Attach and Sand the Frame

Here’s why we made that weird overhang on the base: our legs should fit up against the end of the base.  If the offset is going the wrong way, don’t panic: just flip over the base.

Attach one set of legs on each side of the base.  At this point, you’ll want to sand the entire frame.  You could always finish it somehow as well; I left mine raw.  If you decide to apply a finish, be mindful of anything that would be harmful for your pup to chew on.


Step 4: Drill a Second Hole for the Rod

Try a dry fit of the rod through the set of legs with the hole:

On the set of legs you didn’t drill, mark where the rod touches.  Then, remove the rod and flip the base on its side.  Drill a hole on your mark, but only 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through.

Try another dry fit with your rod.  Make a mark 1/2″ from where the rod enters the first set of legs.  Remove the rod, and cut off the excess at the mark.

Try a last dry fit with the rod.  It should fit snugly, but you’ll want to be able to remove it.  My fiberglass rod had a small rubber cap on the end, and I was able to replace it on the end of the cut piece.  Otherwise, be sure to sand off any rough parts on the end.


Step 5: Add the Bottles

Grab your plastic bottles and drill two holes across from each other near the top.  The closer you drill them to the top of the bottle, the more difficult the puzzle will be.

Once the two holes are drilled, the rod should fit through them, allowing the bottles to spin around them freely (these holes will need to be slightly larger than the holes in the legs).

Now put it all together, and you have a new puzzle toy!


Step 6: Market Research

Needless to say, Moose enjoyed his first Christmas with us.

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