How to enrich your dog’s life?

Enrichment is an incredibly important activity to include in your dog’s life. There are so many benefits including confidence building, calming, improved behaviour, better eating habits, expressing natural behaviours and bond building.

Enrichment should not only benefit you as a dog owner but your dog should also benefit mentally and physically. Anything that involves your dog sniffing, licking or chewing will be giving your dog that mental stimulation that it needs.

Did you know 5 minutes of mental stimulation is roughly the equivalent of 20 minutes exercise? Now that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise your dog, of course you should, but the brain needs exercise too which a lot of people forget.

Violet is deaf and partially sighted. In this clip you can see her enjoying enrichment with an old sock and some food.

In fact too much physical exercise can have a detrimental impact on your dog’s health such as long term joint issues and constantly increased adrenaline levels resulting in a dog that can’t relax.

Mental stimulation has also been linked with a reduction in dog dementia which is a big problem for a lot of senior dogs at the moment.

It’s a common misconception that you have to spend lots of money on puzzle toys. You can make so much at home with things you would usually throw away. If you have children include them in this too as it’s a safe way for them to get invloved with your dog’s training and will help with bond building.

Vinnie having enrichment at Christmas

By thinking outside of the box you can incorporate cheap and easy ideas into your dog’s life such as;

  • scatter feeding
  • food inside a closed egg box
  • food inside a toilet roll tube then folded at each end
  • food in a bowl with balls on top
  • a sniffy walk
  • introducing scent work using your dog’s favourite toys
  • bowl free feeding
  • a walk in a new environment
  • good interaction with you or another friendly dog

Why spend £20 on a plastic puzzle toy that is bad for the environment and once your dog figures out how it works it’s useless?

If you do want to buy equipment to help enrich your dog’s life there are a few must haves that I always suggest to owners;

  • Kongs
  • Snuffle mats
  • Lickimats
  • Snack snake
  • K9 Connectables
Clockwise Vinnie, snuffle mat, Vinnie, Kong jumbler/ snack snake/ K9 connectables

Always take into account the age, breed and ability of your dog. If your dog finds what you’re doing easy you can make it a bit more difficult. However, don’t make it so difficult that your dog gets frustrated. That isn’t what enrichment is about.

Likewise if your dog gets annoyed and finds it too hard, make it easier. If it is the first time you have introduced this particular activity you may have to show your dog what to do first.

I use enrichment in a lot of my training and if you follow me on Facebook (The Ipswich Dog Trainer) or Instagram (@theipswichdogtrainer) you will have seen lots of pictures. I like to include Vinnie enjoying lots of different enrichment in my posts

I always talk about it to new puppy owners during training as it is a great way to build a dog’s confidence…….and a confident dog is a happy dog! During 1-2-1 training sessions it can be used to calm over aroused dogs, it can help the dog get a good association with things it is fearful of and it can help with dogs that get bored and destructive.

Other times you can use enrichment are if your dog needs crate rest after an operation, if your dog is elderly and can’t do the physical exercise it used to (or maybe you can’t do the physical exercise you used to!) or if the area you live in is experiencing extreme weather such as thunderstorms, snow or heat.

Hopefully this blog has given you some ideas on how to enrich your dog’s life whether you are a dog owner or professional. This is a subject I’m incredibly passionate about and I hope you are too!

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