What is Canine Enrichment?
Enrichment is adding something or somethings to make experiences rewarding, giving something purpose and full of benefits. Enriching can be used to describe a life full of abundance of health, love and happiness. It is also used to describe food when vitamins and nutrients that are added to food making the dish healthier.
So what exactly is canine enrichment?
Adding food challenges, rewards, toys, games and puzzles to give your dog more purpose. Essentially rewarding your dog for being a dog. Instinctively dogs sniff, chase, dig and consume challenging things that requires their mind to think and problem solve, creating immense satisfaction.
As the saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog. You don’t have to find more hours in the day to add enrichment to your dogs life. In fact, if you walk your dog for 30 minutes every morning you can walk for 20 minutes and do 10 minutes of enrichment activities. You will tire your dog out, she or he will be far more satisfied. Most importantly your dog will love you more than if you walked the entire 30 minutes.
Food Stuffed Kong and other toys
If your dog eats kibble you can moisten with water or bone broth pack the moisten kibble into a Kong and seal with a bit of pure pumpkin, freeze and serve.
Treat Balls and other food dispensing toys.
The omega treat ball and the hard plastic kong are great food dispensing toys and watch your dog have fun using their paws, brain and determination to get the food out.
Snuffle Mat & Ball
A snuffle mat is created by tying fleece in the holes of a rubber mat or ball. Hide treats or kibble in the mat. Your dog will sniff and forage around to find the food.
A very simple do it yourself project with a paper towel or toilet paper roll, empty box or paper egg carton. Fill the roll, box or carton with a few treats and paper, then fold the ends in, tape the box or carton and give it to your dog with “Take it”. Your dog will shred the paper and find those treats. This is a supervised game, you do not want the dog to eat the paper/cardboard. Once they are done pick up the paper and head for the recycle bin.
Find it Game
Teaching ‘find it’ is very simple, easy and can almost be taught the same as a release word. Ask your dog to sit down, go to their mat, crate, special place or bed and release your dog with “find it” while tossing a treat.
Once your dog has a grasp for step one, the next step is to ask your dog to go to their place and watch you put the food around the house on different objects. Place the food a few feet away under a chair or on top of an ottoman or around the corner on the floor. Release with “find it.”
The next step would be to have your dog out of sight and release them to a new room where they have not seen the items. Be creative, place the treats on the backs of chairs, on top of doorknobs, on shelves or molding.
Find it can also be used to find people and toys once your dog can recognize the people and dogs by name.
Games – tug of war, fetch, flirt pole
My personal favorite. These games can be so effective to burn off excess energy, drive chase, and catching games while reinforcing impulse control and obedience. This is how your dog will master leave it, drop it, take it.
Dogs love to dig. If you have the space for your dog to dig or a sand dog park nearby, encourage your dog to dig on cue. If you don’t want your dog digging in the garden, create a space for her or him to dig. Using a kiddie pool or a kiddie sandbox (finding one with lid) is a great option. Put a large tarp down, place the kiddie pool or kiddie sandbox on top of the tarp. Take a favourite toy or toys and bury them in the sand box. Again have your dog sit or down and then release them to the sand box giving them the release “go dig” and let them have a blast! When done take the kiddie pool off the tarp, gather corners of the tarp and pour the sand back in the pool and cover until next time.
DIY obstacle course
Get creative around the house and build your own obstacle course. You do not need an agility rink or equipment to provide the same stimulation and exercise at home. Even in a hallway you can provide objects for your dog to go around jump over and to climb. Example, a small puppy may climb up a bean bag chair and down the other side. A medium sized dog may jump over an ottoman or stool or even a cardboard box. Get creative!
Frozen treats are great, and it is best to make them large so that your dog licks and doesn’t eat quickly. The easiest way is with a homemade bone broth. How do you make a bone broth? Boil soup bones in water, add apple cider vinegar, cool and place in a container for freezing. Old food containers work great. Serve outside on the grass, on a mat and or in their crate on a towel.