Dexterity Puzzles with Dogs

Diversions of Yesteryear
By Barbara Levine, July 2012, Updated February 2015
Trick Poodle, c.1920 (top). (Left to right) Rin Tin Tin, c.1960 USA; Dog c.1950

Trick Poodle, c.1920 (top). (Left to right) Rin Tin Tin, c.1960 USA; Dog c.1950 Japan; Dog with Cigar, c.1910;

“A good puzzle should be simple in idea. H It should explain itself without any long instructions, and it should look attractive.” —Robert William Journet, 1927 R. Journet & Company

Dexterity puzzles—also known as palm puzzles, games of skill and handheld games—have been a source of fascination for adults and children since the nineteenth century. The simple hand-eye challenge of rolling a ball into a hole, or sliding, nudging and tilting a capsule through a maze, has proved to be among the most delightful, maddening and enduring diversions of the modern age despite, or perhaps because of, its sheer simplicity. Soon after the games became popular with the public in the late 1800s, they were produced in large numbers in the United States, England, France, Japan and Germany. The games, which often featured dogs on the face of the puzzle, could be found in doctors’ offices, train stations and the rainy-day game rooms of seaside resorts—in essence, anywhere that required waiting. They were even nicknamed “patience games.”

Trick Poodle, c.1920
In the 1920s, the University Theatres Concession Company of Chicago commissioned from Germany many different penny toys, which were sold with candy or given as a novelties in movie theatres.

Dog with Cigar, c.1910
Made of tin and glass, with a mirror on the back.