Dog Enrichment: Will Dog Games Help Curb Destructive Behavior?

Dogs are meant to live active lives!

Many studies, especially those conductedby zoos, have shown that enriching an animal’s environment improves thepsychological and physical well-being of animals.

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: 6 Types of Enrichment for Dogs

1.   Social enrichment

Provides opportunitiesfor a pet to spend time with other animals and people in new, differentenvironments. Examples include:

  • Trips to apublic space. My three dogs enjoy outings at the beach and river.
  • Going shopping. We work onleash reactivity and any retail outlet that allows dogs is a great environmentfor enrichment.
  • Going to theoffice. My husband takes our dog Sherman to work on Thursdays.

2. Cognitive enrichment

Provides opportunitiesfor thinking and problem-solving. Examples include: 

  • Puzzle toys. Fantastic fordogs that are constantly busy and need a job between meals.
  • K9 Nosework. Another sportwe’re big fans of. All dogs can excel at this odor game.
  • Hide and seek. Hide treatsin kongs and hide them throughout the house!

3. Physical enrichment

Blanket forts andtents! Dogs enjoy when you mix it up at home and add elements that they’re notused to seeing in the environment. 

  • Provide abury/dig pit. This is simple. Buy a dog or kiddie pool and fill it up withsand. You can even hide toys for your dogs to dig up. If your dog likes to diglike ours do than you will be their best friends after introducing this!
  • Pop-up tunnel. Similar towhat’s used in agility, these can be purchased online, and our doxies lovetearing through them in the backyard.  

4. Sensory enrichment

Sensory enrichmentisn’t unique but a form of enrichment that stimulates any of the five senses.Nosework is another good example.  

  • Bubbles, bubbles, andbubbles! You can even buy bacon-flavored bubbles for dogs. And you should buythese!
  • Herbs andspices. Are you growing mint in your garden? Add that to various areaswhere your dog likes to use his nose.
  • Farm animalscents. We use our chickens and all the wonderful smells as a way toenrich our dogs when we take afternoon walks.
  • Wind chimes can be funtoys that offer new sounds to cats and dogs. Note that if your dog is supersound sensitive to choose chimes that are “softer” sounding!

5. Feeding enrichment

This enrichment area is all about making mealtime more interesting! Hand feeding can be enriching for 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 ablanket. Simple—just hide them out of sight!
  • A puzzle feeder can slow downgulpers and stimulate the mind.
  • Ice cubecontainers. Try freezing small toys in giant ice cubes and see how longbefore they can get access to them!
  • Muffin tin ballfeeder. Cheapest nosework game you’ll find. Literally, put tennis ballsin the muffin tin and hide food under some of the balls.

6. Toy enrichment

Toy enrichment alleviates boredom! Get creative! (see above pic for other toy ideas!)

  • Stuff oldclothing with anything smelly, like grass clippings.

Enrichment doesn’t takea lot of time or money. Many of these tips are low maintenance and take just afew minutes, but will go a long way with your dogs.

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