Canine Enrichment – Get that brain trained!
Canine Enrichment is all about provide mental stimulation for our dogs. Whilst physical exercise is an important part of our dog’s health, regular enrichment activities ensure that their brains also get a good workout, which leads to a longer, happier life for your best friend. Just 15mins of one of these activities could stimulate your dog’s brain as much as a 60min walk!
There are SIX different types of enrichment we can offer our dogs, some of which cost nothing at all but will add lots of credits into your relationship bank account. Here are some great ideas for each area of enrichment:
- Feeding enrichment – The first type of enrichment most owners think of. This is basically different ways to feed your dog so that they are more stimulated and challenged by their daily food allowance. There are hundreds of “feeder toys” on the market – Kongs, Snufflemats, Puzzle Toys the list is endless. A very simple but very effective way to add daily enrichment.
- Social enrichment – Find a new public park or open space you and your dog have never been to before and allow them to “lead the way”. Let their nose guide you on a voyage of discovery! You could also check local dog walker groups on social media to introduce your dog to some new friends if they enjoy the company of others. Remember – your dog is the navigator on this adventure.
- Physical enrichment – Find a number of portable, low level objects which have different textures (towels, cardboard boxes (cut flat), a children’s paddle pool filled with sand, pebbles, soil or water, a rubber bath mat) lie them on the floor and lead your dog across them. Make sure your dog has the choice as to whether he wants to step into the item or not and do not force them if they are unsure. You could also set up safe “obstacles” in familiar areas such as the garden for them to maneuver around such as plastic stacking cups.
- Sensory enrichment – A walk (at a safe distance and on lead of course) around areas where livestock are held will create an amazing sensory experience for your dog. Village fetes and parties are full of unusual sights and sounds – candyfloss machines, hot dog vendors, ice cream vans, amusement fairgrounds and lots of people! You can by doggy safe “bacon flavored” blowing bubbles which your dog may also enjoy, just be careful not to blow them directly at them.
- Cognitive enrichment – Some of the puzzle toys listed earlier would fall into this category too, but cognitive is all about brainpower. Teaching your dog a new trick or skill such as scentwork can also add towards this type of enrichment. My Facebook page offers 12 easy to learn tricks for you to teach your dog: 12 Weeks – 12 Tricks
- Toy enrichment – You can bring many of your dog’s old toys back to life in an exciting way with a little work and some imagination. If your dog likes to “de-stuff” toys, why not replace the stuffing with their food allowance for the day and hide the toy somewhere safe in your garden or home for them to “seek and enjoy” once more? Threading a rolled up doggy fleece or soft stuffed toy through a toilet roll inner (or several) and then placing treats between the toy and the cardboard tube give your dog a tasty challenge to overcome. A homemade “flirt pole” can be created with a broom handle, a stuffed toy and some rope – Mr. Teddy is much more fun when he can run away!
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTES – Dogs should always be supervised when playing with feeder or physical toys – homemade or shop bought. You should not force your dog to engage in an activity or place them in an environment that is distressing for them or which is likely to cause them physical harm. An adult should always supervise any children and dog interactions.
Louise Burton IMDT
Hilton Dogs Training Academy
Vet recommended puppy and dog training services
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