The Muffin Tin Game: An Easy Game For Your Dog

German Shepherd laying next to a muffin tin with tennis balls in each muffin cup.

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Dogs need both physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. 

Most dogs get the majority of their exercise from walks and playing fetch, but that’s not enough. They also need mentally stimulating activities to keep them sharp.

The Muffin Tin Game is an easy game you can make at home with things you already have. It’s a fun game that is both mentally and physically stimulating for your dog.

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What is the muffin tin game?

The muffin tin game is a game where you hide treats in each cup of a muffin tin and cover them with tennis balls (or other items). Your dog then has to figure out how to get to the treats.

This game is great for dogs who are food motivated. It’s also a good way to teach your dog how to use their nose to find things.

Are there benefits to playing the muffin tin game with my dog?

Yes! The muffin tin game is a great way to stimulate your dog mentally. Giving your dog things to do that challenge their brain can help prevent boredom, and can also help tire them out.

This game also provides some physical exercise when your dog moves the tennis balls off of the tin to get to the treats.

It’s also a good way to bond with your dog and teach them new skills.

How Do I Play the Muffin Tin Game With My Dog?

Playing the muffin tin game with your dog is easy!

Supplies you need for the muffin tin game

A muffin tin, 12 tennis balls, and some dog treats.

First, you have to collect the items you need for this game. You will need:

I prefer to use tennis balls to cover the muffin cups, but any small item that doesn’t fit all the way in the muffin cup will work.

How to set up the game

A dozen tennis balls covering all the cups in a muffin tin.

Once you have all the supplies, it’s time to set up the game. 

To set up the game, place a treat in each muffin cup. Make sure that the treats are small enough that your dog can eat them quickly.

Then cover each muffin cup with a tennis ball. That’s it, it’s ready to play.

Teach your dog how to play the muffin tin game

German Shepherd laying next to a muffin tin with tennis balls in each muffin cup.

Once the muffin tin is ready, it’s time to teach your dog how to play.

To do this, start with showing your dog the treats in the muffin tin. Lift a few of the tennis balls up far enough for your dog to see the treat, but don’t let them get the treat yet.

Once they know there is a treat under the tennis ball, set the muffin tin on the floor and let your dog sniff around it. They should start trying to move the tennis balls.

A German Shepherd biting a tennis ball to remove it from a muffin tin.

Some dogs will do this by pawing them, nosing them, or just biting the tennis balls and moving them that way.

As they are moving the tennis balls, praise them so they know they are doing the right thing.

What should I do if my dog “doesn’t get it?”

If your dog is having trouble understanding the game there are a couple of things you can try.

Make it easier

A muffin tin with half the cups covered with tennis balls and the other half with a dog treat in each cup.

Instead of covering the muffin cups after putting the treats in each one, give it to your dog without the tennis balls.

Then, after your dog has eaten the treats from each muffin cup, refill the muffin tin with half high-value treats and half kibble. Cover the high-value treats, but not the kibble.

Place it on the floor and let your dog try again.

Show them what to do

A German Shepherd sniffing a muffin tin game with a hand grabbing one tennis ball.

You can also try showing them that they have to move the tennis balls.

First, give your dog a chance to sniff the muffin tin with the tennis balls on it. Then, if your dog doesn’t move the tennis balls, move one and let your dog eat the treat.

Do this with a couple of tennis balls, moving them in different ways. Maybe pick a ball up, then push the ball off the tin.

Hopefully, after watching you move the ball and getting to eat the treat that is under the ball, they will catch on and start moving the ball by themselves.

Hold the muffin tin still

A small dog pawing a tennis ball in a muffin tin.

When I played this game with Morgan, she couldn’t get the tennis balls off of the tin. She refused to bite them, but she would paw at them. This caused the tin to move all over the floor, but the tennis balls stayed put.

To fix this issue is just used one hand to hold the tin still. This gave her enough help to get the tennis balls out of one muffin cup. They usually fell into another cup, so I also would remove the ball if it fell into an empty cup.

She was trying so hard to get the treats, I didn’t want to make it harder. Plus, Morgan is the type to get discouraged if the treat is too hard to get.

How do I make it harder?

Once your dog is a pro at the regular version of this game, you can make it harder.

To do this, fill only half of the muffin cups with treats. Then cover all of the cups with tennis balls.

Give your dog the game and keep track of how many treats they find.

Some dogs will still remove all of the tennis balls to find the treats and others will be able to tell which tennis balls cover a treat and which ones don’t.


The Muffin Tin Game is easy to make and a lot of fun for your dog. This game is perfect for mentally stimulating your dog and helping keep them active. All you need is a muffin tin, some treats or toys, and a little bit of your time. Your furry friend will love spending time playing this game with you! It’s also a great bonding activity between you and your dog.

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Pin image for how to teach your dog the muffin tin game today with images of a muffin tin, tennis balls, and a German Shepherd sniffing a fully set up muffin tin game.

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