Fantastic blog by Hollie Williams from Lawoofs of Devon, an independent pet & owner boutique.
How to incorporate enrichment into your dogs life
Why is enrichment important?
Enrichment is a really important part of daily life for your dog. Arguably as important to their daily routine as walks, training and play (who said having a dog was easy huh?).
It's true, physical exercise keeps your dog fit and healthy, and training and play helps to build the bond between you and your pet. But enrichment keeps the brain active and healthy, and helps your pet to settle down after a stimulating walk or play session.
Isn't it a lot of hard work?
It doesn't have to be another chore, there are many different types of enrichment and levels you can take it to dependant on what's available to you.
Scatter feeding for example, you can take a handful of dry food and simply scatter it across the floor to allow your dog to sniff and find them all. Turning the light off on these dark winter days adds another level of difficulty, making then rely on their nose to find the straw kibbles.
If you want to up the ante you can try doing the same thing in different rooms in the house, out in the garden, or even out on a walk. The distractions when out on a walk make this enrichment extra challenging.
To take it even further try actively hiding dry food, biscuits, or your dogs favourite treats. Behind plant pots, on ledges, in their toy box, you can be really imaginative with this, but be prepared to lead your dog around once they have tried to find then to make sure none were missed.
Many dogs have to work up to this level, actively using scent to find treats is harder for some dogs than others. Try starting off with more obvious placement of treats and use a lot of praise, and work up to harder hiding spots with lots of encouragement.
What other enrichment things can I do?
Puzzle feeders, snufflemats and classic Kongs are all great ways to add enrichment to a standard meal time. There are many great local businesses that make these by hand. Alternatively they are also available from most pet shops. Or if you want to show off your crafting skills you can even make your own snufflemat or puzzle feeder, instructional videos on how to do this are available on the Internet.
The Internet has many examples of enrichment activities, including recycling old cardboard boxes and toilet roll inner tubes to make exciting little enrichment parcels for your dog to tare into if you don't mind the clean up afterwards. Remember to always supervise your pet with anything that might cause a choking hazard and try to remove the cardboard as they tare it.
These types of feeding puzzles also help with digestion by slowing down how fast your dog can consume their meal, helping to avoid bloat and gastric problems. If you have a dog that wolfs down their food in a blank of an eye, puzzle feeders could be very beneficial to their on-going health.
No matter your budget, or circumstances your dogs life can be enriched further with simple games and adaptions to your daily routine, keeping their mind engaged and leading to them being a happier, calmer, dog with more balanced behaviour.
Photography by Nicki Cameron Photography