Here are some simple enrichment activities you could do at home with your dog.
So the goal of enrichment is to enrich our pet’s lives, not to just make it more difficult. When starting any Enrichment activity you want to start simple and easy to ensure your dogs don’t become frustrated. Make sure the dog will be successful, whether they are knocking food out of a toy or searching for hidden food/toys, etc.
Don’t completely ditch the food bowl but at times let your dog work to eat – Your dog is not biologically set up to have a bowl of dried food dumped down in front of him. He is a hunter by nature, meant to work for his food. Instead of feeding all his food from a bowl, use that food to get their mind working.
*just a note though, that although I advocate using a portion of your dogs usual food in enrichment activities, I also think it is equally important to still feed some of their meal in a bowl so that they do not get frustrated by always having to work for their food.
There may also be times that necessitate using a bowl and your dog still needs to be happy to use one.
Feeding from a food bowl can also be used for a whistle/food association which can help with recall. (Look out for more information on this in my next blog full of recall training tips)
Don’t throw out your recycling get creative with it instead by serving your dog’s food in a variety of ways:
Use empty plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, safe packaging materials.
Treats wrapped inside toilet roll tubes with ends folded for dissecting. These can also be hidden for searching fun. Or throw them along the floor for chasing fun.
Scentwork – Dogs have a large part of their brains dedicated to scent detection, and they just love to sniﬀ!! they crave it and they need it!!
It doesn’t have to be complicated – You can just scatter treats, grated cheese or make a kibble trail with your dogs usual food in your garden and let them hunt. On wet days, why not lay a trail around your house.
Snuffle matts, snuffle balls, activity matts – there are lots of products out there that you can purchase in the pet shops to hide their kibble in.
It doesn’t have to be expensive though, you can use some simple household materials like folded towels or floor mops. Or why not have a go at making your own ‘interactive brain game’, I have even made one using some cheap mini plastic storage boxes.
Hide their favourite toy or even a special a cat nip scented toy.
Make it easy to start with by starting in one room of the house with few distractions, place it within sight and reward when they find it. Then begin to hide behind something, under something, in different rooms and when they get really good in the garden or even out on a walk.
On walks, stop and let them sniff, your dog sees the world through his nose, sniffing is mentally stimulating and provides them with important information about their environment, plus it gets them moving in all different directions giving them a full body and brain workout!
To quote Nancy Tucker ” going for a walk without letting him sniff is akin to going for a scenic drive but being asked to keep your eyes shut”.
So vary their walks as often as you can – take them to the woods, rivers, the beach and through fields.
Use the natural environment on your walks to set up little scentwork games and hide pieces of cheese or sausage in tree stumps or dry stone walls.
And lastly, don’t underestimate how enriching your dog finds just spending time with you having cuddles and being chatted to.
There is always something new to explore in my sessions from interactive puzzles to solve, different smells and tastes to enjoy or reject and different textured surfaces to walk over or dig in. There are objects to be explored that make noises when moved with a nose or a paw or walked over and activities that encourage foraging. There may be scent tracks to follow or scented items to find.
I will be posting more ideas and videos for you to try at home in future blogs, so don’t forget to keep coming back, but in the meantime check out my facebook page to see lots more ideas and examples of the fun things we do in our enrichment sessions.