Dogs need something to do, just like you! They can’t be left alone for hours on end without anything stimulating their minds or bodies; otherwise, they will become bored which causes them a lot of stress-related health problems such as depression and anxiety issues.
Canine enrichment is important for your dog to maintain good mental and physical health.
A study conducted by Drs Alice Moon-Fineli & Andrew Luescher found a strong correlation between lack of enrichment opportunities and the development of undesirable behaviours, so it’s not surprising to find enrichment has become a more mainstream topic for dog owners.
What Is Enrichment?
What we mean by canine enrichment is providing your dog with physical and mental stimulation to keep them occupied and engaged. As a pet parent, it’s up to you to provide opportunities where your dog can exhibit their natural behaviours to keep them happy and healthy.
Enrichment can be anything from a new toy, to chew a bone or puzzle feeder filled with food that needs solving before the dog gets any reward, such as their dinner.
Enrichment also includes things you might not think of at first: taking your dog on walks in different routes every day (even if it’s only around your neighbourhood) so there are always different sights, sounds and smells that will keep them interested.
Enrichment can even be as simple as getting up early some days for walkies when your dog usually sleeps late to change the routine and break the boredom.
5 Easy Canine Enrichment Ideas To Try
- Give your dog a new toy to play with. This can be something they haven’t seen before, or even just an old favourite that has been hidden away for a while and is now resurfacing as “new” again! You can even make your own.
- Hide your dog’s food in different places around the house each day so your dog has to use their brain and all their senses to find their meal. Here’s how to play the ‘Find it!’ game with your dog.
- Take your dog for a ‘Sniffari’ walk around the block. Even if your dog has walked the route before and you’re not going anywhere new this time let them sniff everything and take it at their own pace. This is also great because walking helps with your dog’s physical health, and they’ll get some mental stimulation from all the new things to see and sniff.
- Get your dog involved in a game of tug with you! This is an excellent activity for both physical and mental stimulation, as well as having the added benefit that your dog gets some extra exercise too if your playtime lasts more than five minutes or so. Tug it’s also great fun on those days when you can’t go out for a walk. If you’re worried about a game of tug leading to aggressive behaviour, read my tips here on how to play tug-of-war.
- Play a game of fetch! This is another excellent activity for both your dog’s body (especially if you throw it a long way with a ball launcher). Yellow tennis balls or a blue frisbee that your dog can see are good toys for this game.
Sarah-Jane White is an Animal Behaviour & Enrichment Expert who owns award-winning business, Ruffle Snuffle® . Her mission is to help pet parents use enrichment for a happy and fulfilling life together; Using ideas that support the instinctual behaviours of their pets in safe, fun, and enriching ways every day. Read her free Beginner’s Guide to Canine Enrichment.