Canine enrichment provides dogs with active mental and/or physical stimulation to help alleviate unwanted behaviors. Canine enrichment is most commonly used when a dog is left alone, either in a kennel, yard or house, but can also be used when you are present with the dog. Most pet dogs spend many hours alone, due to family work and life commitments. Some dogs seem to do quite well when left alone, but many dog develop poor behaviors due to boredom anxiety and frustration. Enrichment provides the dog with entertainment and there are many products and methods that may be used.
Providing mental stimulation is very important, but it is just as important to provide the dog with what he needs physically, to be more calm and relaxed when left alone. Daily exercise and mental stimulation is a critical part of any canine wellness program. My favorite saying is:
“A tired and mentally stimulated dog is a well behaved dog.”
One of the greatest ways we can enrich our dogs’ lives is through Play. Let’s face it, we all love to play and dogs are no different. Each dog is different in their preferences for play…Some dogs love inter-active, assertive and intense play, while others prefer alone time, chewing on a bone. Dogs need daily opportunities to ‘cut loose’ and have fun and there are a myriad of products and toys available to help facilitate play
Here are some of my favorite Canine Enrichment options:
- Food dispensing toys----Puzzle toys for dogs are the latest ‘rage’ in the pet industry. Several companies have developed a variety of sturdy, easy to clean puzzle toys of varying levels of difficulty. My dogs eat all of their meals from their puzzle toys and they thoroughly enjoy the process. The following companies make excellent puzzle toys: Kyjen; Premier; Treatstik; Nina Ottosson; & Aikiou.
- Purchase a baby wading pool or child’s sandbox, fill it with sand and then hide your dog’s favorite toys or treats and let him enjoy digging for his rewards!
- Ice cube treats---Use a regular ice cube tray—fill the tray with water and add kibble or other tasty treat options. Freeze overnight and the offer up the treats whenever you want! Another option—fill the cube tray with low sodium chicken broth and freeze.
- Baited Kong’s: You can bait Kong toys with all variety of tasty treat options---cheese, peanut butter etc. Not too much, just enough to keep your four legged friend entertained!
- Kong icicle: place masking tape over the small hole of the Kong and turn it upside-down and place it inside a cup. Fill the Kong with water and then dog kibble and freeze it overnight. A Kong icicle will keep any dog occupied for quite a while!
- Ice treat bucket: Take a large water bucket, fill it with your dog’s favorite toys or treats, then fill it with water and freeze overnight. Hours of licky enjoyment, especially on hot days!
- Blow bubbles. Dogs love bubbles! Endless hours of fun and enjoyment—active too!
- Laser pointers: Some dogs have strong prey drive and love chasing the laser pointer! A great way to exercise a dog when you have limited mobility.
- Catch a treat: Teach your dog to catch a treat! Most dogs aren’t very good at first, but they’ll get the hang of it and its lots of fun.
- Hide & seek: Throw a ball into one room and when your dog runs to fetch it, you run away and hide. Your dog will get great enjoyment out of running around, trying to find you. Be sure you give him lots of praise and a treat when he does find you!
- Hide kibble inside blankets and towels and let your dog hunt for his rewards.
- Doggy Massage: Spend some quality time with your dog, giving relaxing massage. You can learn more about Tellington Touch massage technique for animals here: https://www.ttouch.com/
Don’t just ‘live’ with your dog, ‘deal’ with your dog, or ‘put up with your dog’. Learn how to play with your dog and learn to enjoy their company!