Did you know that up to 85% of dogs exhibit at least one behaviour problem?
Whether barking, overexcitement, separation anxiety, or something else - ensuring your dog’s physical and mental needs for stimulation are met can go a long way in reducing problem behaviours.
In this blog, we’re sharing a raft of dog enrichment ideas that go beyond the bowl, and help you to meet your dog’s needs. So you can both feel fulfilled, happy and calm.
When you meet your dog’s needs, everything else will be a breeze!
Taking canine enrichment beyond the bowl….
Enrichment feeders have become the go-to source of enrichment for dogs, they’re quick, easy and keep your dog occupied.. But they’re the tip of the iceberg in terms of what your dog craves.
Interactive enrichment that involves you actively doing something WITH your dog, will not only provide them with mental stimulation, but it’ll boost your relationship and improve your dog’s engagement and responses to you.
Enrichment is the act or process of improving the quality or power of something by adding something else.
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Enrichment that matches your dog’s breeds needs
To find the best enrichment activities for your dog, it helps to consider what your dog was bred for initially. While your dog may spend their days mostly being a pet and companion, originally they were likely bred with a job in mind!
Connect the dots and give your dog enrichment that matches their innate breed behaviours and you’ll be onto a winner!
For example, Sighthounds will enjoy enrichment games that involve using their sight to seek something and then give chase! You can use chaser toys to give your sighthound an appropriate outlet for their prey drive.
Scenthounds like Dachshunds, Beagles, and Bassets will really enjoy enrichment activities that incorporate scentwork. Snuffle mats and ‘Find it’ games are a big hit with these sniffy breeds!
Retrievers will enjoy enrichment games that allow them to fetch things and bring them back to you…. Yes, fetch played safely is a brilliant way to tap into your retriever's natural abilities!
Read up on what your dog was originally bred for and use that information to get creative! How can you give your dog an outlet for natural behaviours that they crave to perform?
4 Mental enrichment ideas for dogs
Giving your dog an opportunity to use their brain is brilliant enrichment. Rather than only giving attention to your dog’s physical needs, try to incorporate some mental stimulation too!
Teach your dog a new trick
Trick training is great because you’re not hugely bothered about getting it right! This takes the pressure off both of you and allows you to just enjoy doing something together. You could teach your dog to play dead, teach sit pretty, or teach your dog to take a bow!
Practise new skills together
Training works your dog’s brain (and improves your bond!). So spend some time working on skills such as recall, impulse control, or loose lead walking.
Try some scentwork games
Sniffing isn’t just something your dog loves, it works their brain HARD! Your dog’s nostrils work separately - with one side drawing in the scent and processing it, whilst the other focuses on breathing! Scentwork games are excellent mental stimulation.
Try a dog sport
Whilst dog sports may sound more physical than mental, the truth is that your dog needs to focus, listen and control their impulses when taking part in dog sports. From agility to mantrailing through to flyball and Hoopers - there are tons of dog sports you can try with your dog.
Find a dog sport class near you with Yappily.
Puppy Enrichment Ideas
Enrichment isn’t just for adult dogs, it’s super beneficial to give your puppy enrichment activities from a young age. Enrichment can aid with calming your puppy down, building confidence and, socialising your puppy to new things gradually.
Socialising your puppy isn’t about meeting every dog and person you see, it’s actually about teaching your puppy to be calm and content in the presence of different stimuli. This can be socialising your puppy to sounds, textures, and new environments - but take it slow and watch your puppy’s response to ensure you’re not pushing things too far or too fast.
Visit somewhere new
This doesn’t need to be somewhere busy! Walk around different local streets, go to a quiet area you’ve not visited before, or bring back items from somewhere your pup’s not visited for them to investigate the smells in the comfort of their own home.
Lay a variety of objects down and scatter treats between them
Encouraging your puppy to investigate different objects, textures and to move between them is great for building confidence. Lay the items out, scatter some treats and then sit back and let your pup explore at their own pace. No pressure!
Play with your puppy!
Yup, play is enrichment! Playing tug with your puppy is a brilliant way to bond, burn off some puppy energy and beat boredom. Grab a nice long puppy tug toy to keep your hands safe from bitey teeth - wiggle it like prey and watch your puppy’s natural instincts take hold! This is also a brilliant way to redirect your puppy away from biting things they shouldn’t!
Introduce your puppy to scentwork
You can scatter treats on the ground to gently introduce your puppy to scentwork or choose an interactive treat dispenser that’s designed for play. I love The Clam from Tug-E-Nuff as it’s super versatile and uses treats to encourage your pup to play, sniff and fetch!
Learn 5 fun ways to use this treat ball here.
4 DIY enrichment activities for dogs
I shot these videos during lockdown, they're super easy enrichment ideas you can try at home without spending a penny. Simply get creative and use things you have around the house and enjoy some quality time with your dog.
It’s a present! (treats or toy enrichment game)
Use whatever your dog prefers, treats or their favourite toy. Grab a blanket and wrap their reward up… then watch your dog use their brain and body to get their reward.
Treat cuptacula (food enrichment game)
Grab some paper cups and some treats - simply pop a treat under each cup and let your dog work out how to retrieve their treats.
Cereal Box Bingo (DIY enrichment using recycling)
Grab some paper, some treats and a box… wrap each treat up in a scrap of paper then pop them all inside the box. Give your dog their box and let them get stuck in!
Ball fiend glory (enrichment for ball obsessed dogs)
Ditch the ball chucker and use your dog’s favourite ball for a calmer game that works their brain and impulse control. Take your dog’s ball and ask your dog to sit and wait. Hide the ball and release your dog to retrieve it - minus the joint aching brakes and sudden stops.
Toys for bored dogs
Sometimes you may lack time to interact with your dog and in these situations, it’s handy to have some puzzle toys on hand that you can give your dog to keep them stimulated and occupied.
I love the Nina Ottosson range of feeders and puzzle toys. The Tornado and the treat maze have both been firm favs in our house.
You can see how I use both these dog puzzle toys in an interactive search and find enrichment activity in this video!
I hope this has given you lots of inspiration and ideas to think beyond the bowl when it comes to canine enrichment. Give some a try and let me know in the comments how you get on!