Enrichment is a buzz word in the dog world now, which is great. To enrich the lives of the dogs we live with is part of the job.
Even if your dog doesn’t create problems when bored, canine enrichment is still vital because it stimulates the brain and provides the opportunity to practice natural behaviour. In short, even the smallest activities are beneficial so make them an essential part of your dog’s daily life.
The dog is a scavenger and problem solver, food is one of the biggest problems that non-domestic dogs must solve. To create enrichment activities around food will brighten your dog’s day, get his neurons firing, prevent listless boredom and may even chase away dementia. Here are some easy food focussed activities to adopt today.
Admittedly more suitable with dryer foods if you’re playing indoors, but if you cast aside the food bowl and scatter food in as many areas as possible. The dog’s nose is amazing, plus sniffing is a real boredom buster, so why not make the most of feeding times with some scatter fun.
Hide and Seek
Shut the dog away and prowl around the house for a while hiding treats. Make the hiding places match your dog’s ability to find or he may lose confidence and give up. The ability to find hidden food will grow along with the confidence of your dog and you can progress to all heights and more difficult hiding places.
The snuffle rug can be easily made at home or purchased online. It’s a mat with large felt strips for snuffling in after tiny grains of food and dogs love them.
Sprinkles (TM) by Sally Hopkins is the ultimate sniff enrichment. It’s more than a game, but a stress buster and cognitive behaviour tool. The aim with sprinkles is that the dog is led into an area where his nose naturally begins to work, to settle his stress systems and benefit his mind and body. You can see the details on the website here.
Search dog games are great fun. Begin with a toy that holds a tiny bit of food and have your dog held, or waiting if he can contain himself, whilst you pretend to drop the toy in a variation of areas in an outdoor space. Touch every area you pretend to leave the toy in, with the toy, as this creates a scent disturbance. Then return to your dog and send him to find the treasure.
Freeze and Lick
Frozen Kongs or similar toys, with tasty food in, are long lasting lick treats that will keep your dog busy for a while. Whilst licking, a dog relaxes and this benefits his mind and body.
The more you carry out enrichment, the happier your dog will be. In addition, the better at it he will become. Plus, it’s great fun for both of you and great for your relationship. So, hide food in boxes, in bigger boxes and let your dog pull them apart. Wrap and tie rags around a treat and let your dog rip them open or create elaborate games with all sorts of household items such as plastic bottles, muffin trays and old toilet rolls.
- All dogs are different and some have more confidence than others. Whilst most dogs will work out what to do, some struggle due self-belief. This often doesn’t mean a lack of interest but simply low self-esteem. Offer help, just enough to make it easier for progress, keep it pressure free and coach that confidence.
- Motivation varies and if your dog shows little interest then your reward isn’t motivational enough. Each of us have unique motivators and that includes our dogs. When something excites your dog, it’s likely to be a motivator for him. To build his confidence and enthusiasm, always use a reward that he actually wants.
When you start using canine enrichment with your dog you will both get addicted. And why not? It’s great fun. If you already enrich your dog’s life with unique and interesting techniques, leave a comment, it will help the rest of us and our own dogs can benefit too.