It is widely agreed among animal professionals that daily enrichment is essential for the overall well being of our animals. Exploring, scavenging and playing is part of our animal’s natural behaviours. The question is, is it not enough that we provide, food, water and shelter for them?
Most zoos, sanctuaries and animal shelters have enrichment programs for their residents in order to provide them with legal outlets for their natural behaviours. Many species spend the majority of their day hunting and foraging for food and dogs and cats are no exception. There is a wide variety of enrichment ideas to help keep our animals mentally fit and provide them with a way to use their natural behaviours in a way that does not bother us humans.
Here are some of out top enrichment ideas:
Everyone knows about kongs! If you don’t, I highly recommend looking into it! Kongs are rubber toys used to stuff food inside. You can find a wide range of recipes in order to keep your dog - even the most finicky, entertained!
Wet ingredient such as canned food, baby food, yogurt, broth or minced meat.
Dry ingredients such as treats or dry dog food
Place a few dried treats into the kong (this helps prevent the hole from blocking)
Mix wet and dry ingredients together.
For beginners: Lightly stuff the kong with your mixture where they can easily fall out. If your dog or puppy has never used a kong before or gets easily frustrated, I highly recommend starting out like this!
Intermediate: Fill the kong, and lightly pressing ingredients inside so they stick together making it harder for pieces to fall out
Expert: Fill kong and press ingredients together and place the kong in the freezer for minimum 2 hours. A kong that previously took 5 minutes can now take up to 30 minutes to eat!
Kong, Outward Hound, Nina Ottosson, Petsafe and Starmark are just a couple of different companies that sell animal puzzles. You can find a wide variety of puzzles that have a range of difficulties that really get your dog’s brain working.
Any new toy should be done together. Help your dog by showing where to food is hiding and encourage them to play. If your dog is shy or fearful, it may that them awhile to feel comfortable approaching this new object. Or if you are on the other side of the spectrum, you may need to actively supervise your dog so they don’t destroy or ingest their new toy.
Here are some of our favorite puzzles
Made by kong, this toy is made out of hard plastic and comes in 2 different sizes. We use the small even with a great dane, it’s the perfect size for our 3 dogs.
The toy twists open so that you can place small sized treats or dog food inside. Then your dog must use their paws, or nose to wobble the toy for treats to fall out of the hole.
Level: Good for beginner
Hide treats or dog food in each space and place the dog bones on top. In order for your dog to get the treats at the lower levels, they need to remove the bone (which also has food hidden under neath)
Level: Good for intermediate
This toy has 8 compartments. Your dog must lift a flap in order to get the treats out. The flaps also spin! Theres a dial under the toy to either make the flaps spin easily or take more muscle.
Level: Beginner and intermediate
One of our favorites! Place treats in each compartment and place the bones to prevent the bricks from sliding. Like the Tornado, your dog must remove the bones to be able to slide the bricks to get the treats out!
DIY Enrichment Ideas
Place treats inside the muffin tin and put tennis balls on top. I suggest holding it so your dog doesn’t flip it over. Encourage them to remove the ball with their mouth or paws.
Toilet paper rolls
Fold one side of a toilet paper roll. Place treats inside and fold the other side.
Take whatever you have in your recycling bin: cardboard boxes, egg cartons, paper towel rolls, news paper and yogurt containers. Place treats or dog food inside each and place them into a box.
Place treats on a towel and roll it.
Fleece cut into strips
Rubber mat with holes
Our snuffle mat took about 2 hours to make.
Cut each the fabric into 2”x10” strips.
Tie a piece through each hole.
Tie strips by row, then another strip diagonally.
Once you’re done, place treats or kibble and rub it into the mat.
I strongly recommend supervising your pet while they play with this toy and they can easily destroy it. Hand wash and hang to dry when needed.
One of the best activities you can provide your dog! Letting them sniff and explore the outside world. Grassy or wooded areas are best but even just the posts along the side walk so the job!
Let your dog decide where to go, you’ll be surprised to where you end up. Let them sniff for as long as they want. Even if the get less physical exercise during this walk, you will tire them out mentally!
Hide and seek
Place treats or kibble around the house. Have your dog sit and stay while you set up, then release the hounds! My dogs have so much fun doing this!
You can also toss their kibble out onto the grass for an easy and quick backyard sniffari!
For more ideas check out our Pinterest page!