We love a good reason to show our pooches some extra love and attention each and every day! Let’s jump in paws first and learn all about dog enrichment, why it’s important, and discover different ideas on how you can keep your canine happy.
*Pulls out the dog-tionary* – canine enrichment is all about making your dog’s life richer. We’re talking about interactions or activities that are mentally and physically stimulating. If you want your dog to be less stressed, less destructive, and generally happier, you can bring in some canine enrichment.
We’re barking mad for canine enrichment. It can help with socialisation and keeping their mind active, leading to a happier and healthier life for them. Imagine if you were stuck doing nothing all day – you’d likely feel gloomy, bored, and possibly tempted into doing something mischievous!
Take a walk on the wild side and you’ll find untamed canines in nature who are constantly stimulated by their environment. From hunting and foraging to exploring new places with their packs, there’s plenty to keep them occupied in the wild. Although you can’t perfectly replicate this setup for your domesticated pooch, we’ve got plenty of ideas for at-home canine enrichment.
More pawsitives of stimulation and entertainment? They could become more relaxed, more confident, and even improve their problem-solving skills. Doing engaging activities with your dog is also a great bonding experience (and we don’t know about you, but we want our dogs to love us as much as possible).
Now we know the ‘why’, let’s jump into the ‘what’. To make things easier, we’re splitting up canine enrichment into four areas: environmental, social, cognitive, and nutritional. Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you.
Environmental and physical enrichment is all about making your dog’s living space more exciting. Keeping them cooped in one particular area, limiting their physical activity or not giving them interesting objects to interact with could end in boredom and destruction. They say variety is the spice of life, and it couldn’t be more true when creating a fun space.
Our handy tip is to keep their senses in mind when looking to enrich their environment: touch, taste, sight, smell, and hearing.
A few fun suggestions for environmental enrichment are:
Dogs are highly social creatures (sneaking into your bed in the morning, anyone?) and love to be with their humans. This is why proper socialisation is an important part of canine enrichment. Spending time with people and other dogs will build up their confidence and trust, plus keep them engaged and happy.
If your dog hasn’t had proper training or is reactive around other dogs, these kinds of interactions may be stressful or triggering. Consider working with a trained behaviouralist or consulting with your vet.
Some examples of fun ways to socially enrich your canine are:
Exercising your dog’s mind is just as important as keeping their body active, which is where cognitive enrichment comes in. Think about activities that encourage them to use multiple senses, to test their problem-solving skills or to put their natural breed instincts to work. And remember, it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!
Some fun ideas for cognitive enrichment include:
Also known as ‘give me all the treats’… just joking, don’t overfeed your dog. Seriously though, you may want to introduce your dog to some food-based enrichment to encourage their foraging skills. It also helps to get them moving that little bit more. If your canine is especially motivated by food, we reckon they might just enjoy these suggestions.
Our pick of fun nutritional enrichment ideas are:
Absolutely. We have a lot of love for our senior dogs, but while they may be young at heart, their bodies can’t always keep up, and that’s OK. We don’t want anyone getting injured here! Just adapt the enrichment to suit them. You could try setting up an older canine next to a window where they can act as a neighbourhood watchdog.
This ‘adapt to suit’ mindset is equally true for puppies. Little bodies that are full of beans, puppies often need extra enrichment to satisfy their inquisitive natures and high energy. Translation? You might need to up the activity ante for these little rascals.
An anxious dog might need more calming gamings or sensory activities to help ease their worry. Breeds that are used for herding or hunting could want something a bit more mentally challenging or that burns more energy.
What we’re trying to say is, always think about your dog’s specific needs as there’s no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to enrichment.
Many of us love a bit of DIY, but why keep this just to improving the home?
Snuffle balls and mats are great dog mental stimulation toys and have grown in popularity over the years. You can buy them online and even in some pet stores. If you’re a creative pet pawrent, you can try making your own at home.
A plastic bottle or cardboard tube is a quick and easy way to make an enrichment game for your dog. Pop kibble into a loo roll and squish down the ends to trap the treats, then watch your dog chew and scratch their way inside. We think they’ll also be thoroughly entertained by rolling a treat-filled plastic bottle around the room.
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