Canine Enrichment Ideas
As a dog trainer I always suggest adding enrichment to a dog's life. Dogs need both mental and physical exercise to be balanced and happy.
Let me explain why! Think about comparing the lives of wild animals and our pets, there is a huge difference in their activity level.
Dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and all other pets spend a large part of their days just lying around with nothing to do. Their wild cousins on the other hand, see their days filled with challenging activities such as hunting, scavenging, chasing, and gathering food. They experience the joy of tracking a prey, the excitement of finding a new food location and the satisfaction of a nap to recover from all the activity. Of course life in the wild is not easy! Surviving requires lots of exercise and constant problem solving. So what happens to our pets when they’ve lost the opportunity to use those skills? They look for things to do.
Dogs will raid the laundry basket, tear up stuffed animals or chew on your shoes and furniture. They’ll bark at the neighbour’s dog, dig holes in the back yard or look for ways to escape. Just like in other species, many dogs also engage in behaviours such as excessive licking, spinning, tail chasing, hair pulling, nail biting or air biting. In the end, many of these behavioural problems can be avoided by simply providing your dog with something to do.
For me enrichment is a huge part of my dogs life. It is not enough to spend time cuddling with your dog, they want to use their brains. Mental stimulation is the best way of building calmness in your dogs life but also it is a great way to substitute physical exercise while your dog is recovering after a surgery; when they are injured or not enjoying long walks anymore due to their age; when the weather is bad or otherwise.
Science has proven many times that dogs prefer to work for food over just being served it! Finding the right balance of physical and mental exercise for your dog makes a world of difference
Dogs have wonderfully intelligent, creative brains that need to be challenged and stretched to help prevent boredom related behaviour issues. Using some of the ideas listed below will not only help your dogs normal brain function, but will also improve the relationship you have with your dog.
Puzzle, Toys & Games
Problem solving activities, like interactive puzzle toys are a great way to provide mental stimulation to your dog. They help your dog to build tolerance of frustration. Often these toys come in a form of a puzzle, which hide treats and encourage your dog to figure out how to unlock the prize. I suggest not to make things too complicated. Slowly build it up to the next level and set your dog up for success.
Dogs Don’t Need To Eat From A Bowl
Hide piles of food around the house or in the backyard. Scatter your dog’s meal in the lawn. Stuff toys with your dog’s food. You can find many different food dispensers on the market. Snakes, kongs, licking mats, the list is long. My favourite ones are kongs! Again start easy and build up slowly to make it more challenging.
Home Made Activities
A snuffle mat is basically a rubber mat with lots of fabric strips (usually fleece) tied to it. They’re designed to mimic grass, and they’re used to give your dog a fun yet challenging way to sniff out food and treats
Put the food in a muffin tin and cover with balls.
Water Confidence - pour a bit of water into a plastic container and add few tasty pieces of food for your dog to fish out. Carrots apple and cheese are great to use with this game.
Rolled up towel - simply put a towel on the floor and roll it with some treats inside. Your dogs nose will do the rest.
Pigs ears , pizzle sticks, meaty bones, tripe press bones, dried fish skin, chicken feet, hooves, Yakers , antlers, ox tails. I would suggest to always supervise your dog while they have a chew.
Never give your dog a rawhide - https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/rawhide-dangerous-for-dogs/
Train Your Dog
There is no limit to what your dog can learn. Spending a few minutes everyday to teach your dog a new trick will not only provide him/her with needed mental stimulation, it’s also quality time spend on your relationship.
Digging is a natural canine behaviour and many dogs reduce stress and get a lot of stimulation when they dig. Create a place for your dog to dig – a sandbox, an area of your yard. Encourage your dog to use it by burying one of their toys, or by digging yourself to show them how it’s done. I don’t know about your dog, but if I dig at anything with my hands my dog will gladly join in.
Sports and other activities. From Freestyle to Flyball, Frisbee, Agility and Nose-work. There are a number of fun things to do that allow the dog to run and use his skills. Stimulating and energy burning, these activities are great for both dogs and owners!
Play with your dog. Nothing replaces a chance to play with you. Many dogs enjoy playing tug-a-war or fetch.
Canine Enrichment – One of my favorite facebook groups that’s filled with awesome canine enrichment advice and activities.
Science has proven many times that dogs prefer to work for food then just being served! Finding the right balance of physical and mental exercise for your dog makes a world of difference. Our only limit is our imagination…