Whether you’re a seasoned dog owner or you’ve only just picked up your puppy, learning about enrichment could be the best thing you do.
Put simply enrichment is anything that engages your dog’s senses. The human equivalent could be reading a book or gardening. Similar to human hobbies, enrichment for dogs comes in many shapes and sizes. Whilst most people believe enrichment is purely interactive toys filled with high-calorie treats, that statement could not be further from the truth.
I like to break enrichment down into 5 categories –
Implementing regular and varied enrichment provides many benefits to your dog, such as:
- Reduces stress
- Distraction from disruptive ways
- Supports crate training
- Tires out your dog and promotes calmness
- Mental and physical stimulation
So now you know a few of the reasons to give enrichment a go, I’m sure you are wondering just where to start?
Try it yourself
This is a category that is often taken for granted. Something that your dog experiences every day, but can often be harnessed to provide even more stimulation. Some activity suggestions are:
Watching the outside world – Have you ever noticed your dog trying to look out of the window? Maybe climbing on the sofa or trying to tiptoe to reach to view out? Try giving them a space where they can easily see out. Maybe bird feeders to encourage wildlife (At a height to ensure you aren’t putting them at risk).
Radio – If there are loud noises outside and your dog is being reactive. Try blocking some of it out with the radio. Classical music has been proven to calm our canine friends down.
A 2002 study conducted by animal behaviourist Dr. Deborah Wells confirmed the relaxing effect on dogs of classical music. In this study, the dogs spent more time resting and being quiet, and less time standing when exposed to classical music compared to heavy metal music, pop music, or conversation.
This is probably the most common type of enrichment that people know about. Think Rylo, KONG®, West Paw®, SodaPup® etc. Use a Stuffable toy and pop your dogs daily food allowance in it. For an extra challenge you can freeze it. For extra interest pop a tasty topper on it such as the Furr Boost or Innocent Hound treats!
“A dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times better than that of a human.” The scent is the most powerful sense for our canine friends. Therefore it has a big impact on the enrichment in our dog’s lives. Some activities to try are:
Sniffari walks – allow your dog to sniff and explore their surroundings whilst on a walk. Let them lead the walk.
Chief post checker – an easy activity is to allow your pup to sniff any parcels or letters that you receive.
Nature Snuffle Mat – Scatter some treats outside in the grass and get your dog to search for them.
This category is covered with a lot of the above activities, however, there is something to be said for training and bond-building activities. Some suggestions may be teaching your dog a new trick, or using the time it takes for the kettle to boil to practice a dance routine with your dog. Another example is puzzle toys, be sure to cycle your toys so that your dog doesn’t get too used to one activity.
So there you have it! the above activities are just the start. There are so many different types of enrichment that can help you and your dog lead a happier more fulfilled life.
Melissa Smith is the founder of Paws In Earnest and creator of Rylo. Rylo is an interactive treat toy which enriches your dog during mealtimes. It features a patent pending safety tube and offers leak-free filling, making it easier to offer your dog enrichment. Visit www.pawsinearnest.co.uk to find out more.