Dogs need to do dog things, such as sniffing, chewing, foraging, barking, digging, and playing, to be emotionally fulfilled. Enrichment activities provide your dog the opportunity to perform these natural behaviors, to ensure their physical and psychological needs are satisfied. Six enrichment categories are important for a dog’s wellbeing.
- Social enrichment — This type provides opportunities for your dog to interact with other pets, animals, and people, in new, different environments.
- Cognitive enrichment — Cognitive stimulation allows your dog to think and solve problems.
- Physical enrichment — Physical enrichment adds complexity to your dog’s living space.
- Sensory enrichment — Sensory enrichment stimulates the five senses.
- Feeding enrichment — These activities make mealtime more challenging and interesting.
- Toy enrichment — Providing toys that can be manipulated or explored adds enrichment.
Since providing enrichment activities for your dog is important to their overall wellbeing, our team at Town and Country Animal Hospital PC has compiled several enrichment activities you can provide for your dog.
#1: Take your dog on exciting adventures
When walking your dog, explore different neighborhoods and locations. Allow them to interact with other friendly dogs at dog parks, and introduce them to new people. Take them to places with different terrains, such as woods, trails, fields, and beaches, so they can investigate intriguing landscapes, allowing them plenty of time to sniff their new surroundings to satisfy their sniffing needs. You can also introduce them to other animals, such as horses, cows, goats, and pigs.
#2: Let your dog have daily visitors
If your dog stays home alone while you go to work, have a friend or a pet sitter give them a mid-day walk and play session. Breaking up the day will help prevent boredom, and give them something to look forward to during the day.
#3: Play hide and seek with your dog
Hide and seek is essentially a hunting game, which makes the activity perfect to channel your dog’s natural instinct to hunt, track, and trail. Playing with your dog will also strengthen your bond, building trust and communication. To teach your dog how to play hide and seek, follow these steps.
- Stay — Ensure your dog obeys your command to stay. If they come looking for you before you call them, lead them back to their waiting spot and try again, decreasing the wait time.
- Hide — Find a hiding spot. When starting out, ensure the spot isn’t too difficult, so your dog won’t get frustrated and stressed.
- Whistle — Once you are hidden, whistle for your dog, or call their name.
- Celebrate — When your dog finds you, offer excessive praise, and give them a high value treat.
#4: Build an obstacle course for your dog
Use items around your home to build an obstacle course for your dog to navigate. You can make them weave through cones, jump over broomsticks, and go through a cushion tunnel. Lead them through the obstacle course initially, so they understand what you expect.
#5: Make a dig pit for your dog
Dogs love to dig, and providing a place they can safely dig may save on your landscaping bill. You can use a kiddy pool, or designate a section in your yard as your dog’s dig pit. Fill the area with sand, and hide a few toys and treats in the sand. Your dog will love digging to their heart’s content.
#6: Play nosework games with your dog
Nosework games allow your dog to use and hone their excellent natural sense of smell, and also build their confidence. Easy nosework games include:
- Which hand? — Place a treat in one hand as your dog watches, and close your fist. Extend both hands toward your dog and ask, “which hand?” If they choose correctly, praise them, and give them the treat. If they choose the wrong hand, open your hands to show them the treat, and try again.
- Find the treat — Hide a smelly treat while your dog is watching. Then, tell them to “find it,” and praise them when they do. Once they get the hang of the game, you can hide the treats when they aren’t watching, to make the game more challenging.
#7: Feed your dog’s meals in a food puzzle toy
Putting your dog’s meal in a food puzzle toy will make mealtimes more interesting, and stimulate their mind while they eat. This technique also ensures your dog doesn’t eat their food too fast. You can build your own food puzzle toy by placing your dog’s food in certain muffin tin compartments, and placing balls and toys over the food. Then, allow your dog to search and find the food.
#8: Introduce your dog to remote toys
Use remote-control toys to stimulate your dog. They will be intrigued and excited by these fun, moving toys. If your dog has a tendency to destroy toys, ensure they don’t put the toy in their mouth.
Enrichment activities are a great way to keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated, and ensure their emotional needs are satisfied. If your dog is exhibiting signs of stress, contact our team at Town and Country Animal Hospital PC, so we can determine the cause of their anxiety.
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