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Enrichment - Keeping your dog busy the smart way


If I had £1 every time someone tried scheduling more exercise into their dog's day to "tire them out" I wouldn't be writing a blog. It's no secret, most dogs need a lot of stimulation (greyhound owners you can log off here). But, did you know that mental stimulation is just as valuable, if not more so than physical exercise? That's where enrichment comes in.


Enrichment is pretty much anything that requires your dog to use their brain for an activity. Dogs Trust says:


"Enrichment enables dogs to explore and use their natural instincts. Enrichment activities can prevent boredom, build confidence, and teach a variety of skills such as problem-solving, searching and agility. It allows them to sniff and chew appropriately. Plus, it’s the ideal way to manage their energy, encouraging calmer behaviour and helping them to learn good habits." (Full article available here)


A lot of enrichment uses food, but not all of it! You can use toys, yourself or even the environment to reward your dog for using their brain. Ideally, dogs will have the opportunity for some form of enrichment every day, but certainly after any stressful events or if they are on a rest schedule for medical reasons. Here are my top enrichment activities to do at home:


Use alternative feeding methods


Meals from the bowl are great, but there are lots of fun ways to feed your dogs (be it a meal or a snack) that require them to work for their food. Examples include:

  • Lickimats - There are so many to choose from now! (Check out their website)

  • Snuffle mats

  • Scatter feeding - Literally scattering food

  • Kongs


Towel burrito


Now, I always thought I'd invented the towel burrito and then I saw them selling on Tik Tok...


This one is so easy and keeps dogs entertained for a decent amount of time. It's important to say though that the towel burrito is not suitable for those who eat fabric. To construct a towel burrito simply lay out an old towel (or similar) and scatter some treats. Roll it up and tie it in a knot. For extra difficulty wet it and pop it in the freezer!


Destruction boxes


Save your cardboard boxes and toilet roll tubes and make a Russian doll for dogs! Layer up the different materials and mix in a few treats or toys. This is particularly great for terriers and bull breeds who love to shred things.


Hide and seek


Just as the old children's game is played, hide and seek requires you and your household to hide and ask the dog to search for you. You can use treats to reward them, but this activity can be played without any food. Your dog will love using their nose to find you!


DIY agility


Collect a broom, some old pieces of furniture and whatever else is in the cupboard and construct a small agility course for your dog. Asking them to navigate the course will require them to problem solve and also help any dogs that are lacking in confidence.


Basic scent work


Basic scent work is often an extension of scatter feeding. Hide food in a slightly more structured way (possibly with a start and a finish) and teach your dog to search. If they are great at this you can buy books to take your skills further at home. Otherwise, this resource from The Blue Cross is great.


Training


Simple. If you can't take your dog for a walk (for whatever reason) a 15-20 minute training session will work wonders. Start with something they already know and progress to a new exercise if your dog needs a bit more of a challenge.


For more ideas on enrichment you can check out "Beyond the Bowl" on Facebook, as well as this book by Claire Arrowsmith CCAB. In the meantime, enjoy your newly relaxed and worn out dog!

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