WRITTEN BY: Amanda Vincent
In our day to day lives as humans were experience so many things to provide us with stimulation. You may not even consider this as you go about your day. All the sights and smells you experience on your commute to work, interactions with family/friends/coworkers on a day to day basis, reading a book, watching TV, playing a game, and so on and so forth. Just about everything we do provides us with some sort of stimulation in one way or another and without these daily parts of our lives it is very likely we would grow incredibly bored. Since we often don’t even think of our own daily enrichment, it isn’t a big surprise that we may not think too much about our canine companions’.
Where do they get their daily stimulation?
Dogs live their lives in our very strange world and it is much different from what dog world would look like. However, just like us, without stimulations dogs grow bored! Enrichment provides our furry family members with the chance to learn, explore, problem solve, and even increase their confidence. Plus mental stimulation can be just as tiring and healthy as physical exercise.
So what exactly does “Canine Enrichment” mean?
“Additions to an animal’s environment with which the animal voluntarily interacts and, as a result, experiences improved physical and/or psychological health,” is the definition give to us by ASPCA. This pretty much means almost anything can be enrichment as long as your dog enjoys it and it improves their mental/physical health! There’s many difficult forms of enrichment and some dogs may enjoy some more than others. Every dog is different and should be treated as such.
The different forms of Enrichment could be as follows:
- Sensory – Scents, Sights, Sounds. Just letting your dog experience new things that use their senses.
- Social – Going new places. Going to the Dog Beach. Going to a new park. Going Downtown to just walk around. Anywhere your dog hasn’t been that they can meet (if they want) or just see new things/people/dogs.
- Cognitive – This gives your dog a chance to use their brain to problem solve. Puzzle Toy, Scent work, playing games are all great ways to get the wheels turning.
- Physical – This can be just as simple as taking your dog for regular walks or providing outlets for physical desires, such as a digging pit or blankets to hide it.
- Feeding – Similar to Cognitive, challenge your dog for their meal! Use a puzzle feeder, play a game for food, or freeze their treats in ice.
There’s no limit to the awesome ways you can provide your dog with enrichment!
So why is all of this so important?
As I mentioned before, just like us, dogs grow bored. They have desire and drive to use their brains and without proper stimulation negative behaviors can even occur. Sometimes these happens in the form of furniture destruction and chewing. Sometimes in the form of depression. Sometimes in the form of pacing and whining, just like a child crying to their parent “Mom, I’m bored!” Dogs can display similar reactions to boredom. We want our pets to live the best possible life and enrichment provides us with a great and fun way to give them that life.
CHEAT SHEET FOR CANINE ENRICHMENT GAMES
1.) Hide and Seek
Description: Place treats/kibble in random locations around the house then allow dog to go and find their treats.
Items Needed: Treats
2.) Pick the Hand
Description: Begin simply with one hand. Get a few treats into one hand, with loose closed fist, allow dog to sniff at hand. When dog does this, say “Find it/Pick a hand”, then when they sniff, allow them to have the treat and say “Good Boy/Girl!” continue this a few times until dog seems to have the hang of it, then you can add in an empty fist for dog to sniff out treat. Do not allow dog to see which hand the treat has been placed in then offer both to them to “Pick the Hand”.
Items Needed: Your hands, Treats
3.) Cup Game
Description: Place treat under 1-2 cups then line the remaining up. Allow dog to sniff and find the cup(s) with treats). Repeat. Can be made harder later on by moving the cup with treat under it around and mixing it more with the other cups before allowing dog to sniff it out.
Items Needed: 3-5 Cups, Treats.
4.) Box Game
Description: Spread out however many boxes you have and fill some/half of the boxes with a couple treats. Vary sizes, locations, open/closed, etc. Let dog seek out all the hidden treats!
Items Needed: 5-10 Cardboard Boxes, Treats
5.) Towel Burrito
Description: Roll treats up in old towel. You can do this by sprinkling, then rolling, then repeat until the towel is totally rolled up! Or you can put some treats in the middle and just bundle the towel up as well.
Items Needed: Old Towel, Treats
Example 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQV-b5SPCGk
6.) Water Bottle Treat Dispenser
Description: Get a water bottle and put some treat/kibble sized holes all in it (will be provided in enrichment box). Fill with some kibble/treats and cap. Allow dog to push around bottle to get the treats out. (Carefully watch this activity, do not allow heavy chewing). Or simply fill regular water bottle and leave cap off.
Items Needed: Water Bottle, Treats/Kibble
7.) Scatter Snacking
Description: Toss treats/kibbles into an open area and just let the dog go on a sniff and search for all those treats.
Items Needed: Treats/Kibble, Open Area
8.) Scatter Snacking – Grass Edition
Description: Scatter treats/kibble in the grass and just let the dog go ahead and sniff everything out.
Items Needed: Kibble/Treats
9.) Bubbles! Bubbles! Bubbles!
Description: Using dog safe bubbles, simply just blow bubbles and let the dog investigate (or eat if they want) the bubble as they float and fall.
Items Needed: Dog Safe bubbles
Description: Spread Peanut butter or Wet food on silicone mat (provided in enrichment box) and let dog go to town.
Items Needed: Silicone Mat, Peanut Butter/Wet Food
11.) Treats Hidden in Toy box
Description: Hid treats in a box. Use toys/paper/balls/etc. as obstacles in the box. You can just fill the box with toys or layer treats between layers of paper or any combination.
Items Needed: Toys/Balls/Water Bottles/Paper, A Box/Bowl/Container, Treats/Kibble
Example 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LtkWxF5TEw
12.) Muffin Tin
Description: Place Kibble/Treats in some section of muffin tin then cover all sections with tennis ball.
Items Needed: Muffin Tin, Tennis Balls, Kibble/Treats
13.) Towel Paper Game
Description: Get paper towel roll or toilet paper roll. Fold one end up. Fill open end with treats/kibble. Fold open end shut after treats are filled. Let dog do their thing!
Items Needed: Paper Towel Roll, Treats.