Dogs are clever and active animals, and they need lots of daily enrichment to keep them entertained and on their best behaviour. By adding enrichment to your dog’s daily routine, you can help them burn off excess energy and develop new skills. Here are three ideas to help you get started.
1. Use food puzzles at mealtimes
Food puzzles are toys and games that make dogs work to access their food. A common example is a treat-dispensing ball which the dog has to knock around for it to drop tasty morsels. A fun makeshift alternative is to create a dig box using a cardboard box and balls of newspaper. Scatter your dog’s kibble in the box and let them hunt, snuffle and dig for their dinner.
An extra benefit of food puzzles is that they can help to slow dogs down as they eat to reduce the risk of bloat. This is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the stomach fills with gas, twists, and loses circulation. Some breeds, such as Great Danes, Standard Poodles, and Weimaraners, are at higher risk of bloat than others and can particularly benefit from food puzzles at mealtimes.
2. Switch up your walking routine
It’s normal to find ourselves visiting the same parks and taking the same routes as we squeeze walkies into our busy daily routines. Wherever you can, try to step out of the norm, visit new places, and switch up your routes regularly. Sniffing is an important natural behaviour in dogs and exposure to new smells provides important sensory enrichment. It’s especially important for older dogs who tend to have less energy for physical activity but crave the mental stimulation of sniffing on walks.
When you have extra time on the weekends, consider going to environments that are totally different from the norm. For example, if you usually walk in the park, go to a forest or a beach. Experiencing new sights, sounds and smells on a regular basis will help your pooch become more confident and adaptable.
3. Invite people over to spend time with your dog
Social enrichment is as important for dogs as it is for us. It helps them develop and maintain their social skills to ensure they interact with other dogs and humans politely. It also simply makes them happy to play with other dogs and receive cuddles from new people. Inviting people over to your house regularly can give your dog the chance to socialise and learn that it’s okay for visitors to enter their territory.
You can also provide valuable social enrichment by joining group dog walks or attending training or agility classes. These have the bonus of helping you to socialise with new people which might be particularly important if you live alone. 84% of pet owners feel less lonely thanks to sharing their life with an animal. For dog parents, it’s the combination of their pooch’s company and the opportunity to interact with fellow dog owners that helps to alleviate feelings of isolation.
Enrich your dog’s routine for a happier pup
Dogs that are challenged and entertained by enriching activities tend to be more relaxed and better behaved. Give some of these enrichment ideas a try and see how happy they make your pup.