Dogs are meant to live active lives!
Many studies, especially those conducted by zoos, have shown that enriching an animal’s environment improves the psychological and physical well-being of animals which can help stop a dog from being destructive.
The co-authors of Beyond Squeaky Toys break down enrichment for animals into six different categories, and there are games to consider that may be a good fit for your dog (and you). Remember that enrichment is for ALL dogs. Some may need a “job,” and some may be couch potatoes, but this applies to every canine!
Beyond Squeaky Toys: Six types of enrichment to help stop destructive dogs
1. Social enrichment
It provides opportunities for a pet to spend time with other animals and people in new, different environments. Examples include:
- Trips to a public space. My three dogs enjoy outings at the beach and river.
- Going shopping. We work on leash reactivity and any retail outlet that allows your dog an excellent enrichment environment.
- Going to the office. My husband takes our dog Sherman to work on Thursdays.
- Snuffle Mats: These provide a way for you and your dog to bond! You fill the shuffle mat with tiny treats, and they hunt and forage. This can also fall into the next category.
2. Cognitive enrichment
Provides opportunities for thinking and problem-solving. Examples include:
- Puzzle toys. Fantastic for dogs that are constantly busy and need a job between meals.
- K9 Nosework. Another sport we’re big fans of. All dogs can excel at this odor game.
- Hide and seek. Hide treats in kongs and hide them throughout the house!
3. Physical enrichment
Blanket forts andtents! Dogs enjoy it when you mix it up at home and add elements they’re not used to seeing in the environment.
- Provide a bury/dig pit. This is simple. Buy a dog or kiddie pool and fill it up with sand. You can even hide toys for your dogs to dig up. If your dog likes to dig like ours, you will be their best friend after introducing this!
- Pop-up tunnel. Similar to what’s used in agility, these can be purchased online, and our doxies love tearing through them in the backyard.
- Fill a kiddie pool with balls: Load balls into it, which prove impossible to get out, while bobbing around in the water!
4. Sensory enrichment
Sensory enrichment isn’t unique but a form of enrichment that stimulates any five senses. Nosework is another excellent example.
- Bubbles, bubbles, and bubbles! You can even buy bacon-flavored bubbles for dogs. And you should buy these!
- Herbs and spices. Are you growing mint in your garden? Add that to various areas where your dog likes to use his nose.
- Farm animal scents. We use our chickens and all the beautiful smells as a way to enrich our dogs when we take afternoon walks.
- Wind chimes can be fun toys that offer new sounds to cats and dogs. If your dog is super sound-sensitive, choose chimes that are “softer” sounding!
5. Feeding enrichment
This enrichment area is all about making mealtime more interesting! Hand feeding can enrich dogs that need to learn to use a soft mouth. Ask our staff about these below toys! We sell them all! One is for kibble (puzzle toy), and the others you could hide in a sandbox.
- Treats under a blanket. Simple—just hide them out of sight!
- A puzzle feeder can slow down gulpers and stimulate the mind.
- Ice cube containers. Try freezing small toys in giant ice cubes and see how long before they can get access to them!
- Muffin tin ball feeder. Cheapest nose work game you’ll find. Put tennis balls in the muffin tin and hide food under some of the balls.
- LickiMats are all the rage these days! These mats can be enjoyed by dogs for hours. You add food to the mats, and your dogs lick it off!
6. Toy enrichment
Toy enrichment alleviates boredom! Get creative! (see above pic for other toy ideas!)
- Stuff old clothing with anything smelly, like grass clippings.
- Snoops: Planet Dog makes a puzzle toy that even the most intelligent dog needs a little assistance with after it is full of treats.
- Old paper towel rolls: Fill these with tiny treats, and your dog will spend his snack time finding his reward.
Enrichment doesn’t take a lot of time or money. Many of these tips are low maintenance and take just a few minutes but will go a long way in stopping your dogs from being destructive.
You might also be interested in “Organizing Dog Gear: How to Declutter on a Budget.”