When we were young, learning and mental development did not seem as important to us as kicking the football at recess.
Your dog does need to burn energy on a physical level but what about enrichment activities? Are they equally important?
Introducing mentally stimulating games and activities into your dog’s daily routine is a great way to keep your dog happy and healthy while also decreasing unwanted behaviours such as excessive chewing and barking. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Let’s have a look at some enrichment activities you can start now!
Snuffle mats and stuffed Kong
Our bet is that this is one a lot of dog owners do already! Maybe it is the way you feed your dog, so they must work for their dinner!
A snuffle mat is basically a fleece or rubber mat, usually mimicking grass, where you can hide treats.
A Kong can be stuffed with practically anything, thrown in the freezer for even more challenge and cleaned in the dishwasher.
Both will provide your dog with ample sniffing and challenge!
Our favourite snuffle mats are from Fuzzy Dog Tug Toys. They are so colourful and happy and they ship worldwide.
Outdoor enrichment areas such as obstacle courses, are great for both physical and mental stimulation.
You can join agility classes, but you can also teach your dog simple tricks such as jumping, weaving between poles (or your legs) and going through tunnels. Some dog parks are equipped with agility obstacle courses. We would recommend trying it first when no other dogs are around as it can otherwise be quite distracting.
This one is an indoor activity. Great to do on a rainy day, it only requires treats!
Also known as nose work, it is a type of enrichment activity that let your dog use their best asset: his/her sense of smell!
Here is how it works: cut up a carrot, celery, piece of cheese or anything that your dog enjoys (high reward treats are best for this activity).
Ask your dog to stay put while you go an hide the pieces of food around the house. Release your dog by asking “go find” and make sure to encourage and praise whenever they’re getting close to or find a treat! You can start with one room and easy to find spots then increase the challenge by extending the search to the whole house and harder to find spots.
You can find many puzzles at the pet shop or online and they increase in difficulty for those pups that are super smart and get bored easily (we’re looking at you border collies!). Some can be extremely challenging and great fun to watch your dog trying to figure it out!
You can also make your own easy puzzle by using a muffin tray, putting treats down each hole then covering the holes with tennis balls.
On a budget? We've got you covered!
Thankfully, adding mental stimulation to your dog’s life doesn’t require breaking the bank.
You can create your own snuffle “mat” by adding treats into a rolled towel or amongst a pile of towels and clothes (before you put on a washing for example).
You can create a challenging food dispenser by using an empty plastic bottle, thread a string through the bottle by cutting two little holes on either side, in the middle. Fill the bottle with kibbles. You can know attach each string end between two poles for example, at the level of your dog, nose of the bottle facing upward. Your dog will have to push the bottle with their nose to try and topple it and get the treats to fall. Tested and approved by our Labrador!
Finally, the treasure hunt activity mentioned earlier doesn’t require any $ spent.
There are an infinite number of online resources for DIY activities so let your creativity go wild!
We hope this gets you excited to start introducing enrichment activities into your dog’s routine! Let us know in the comments what you have tried and what works best for you and your pup!Love and pats,
The Doggy Grub team
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The Doggy Grub blog is dedicated to help dogs and their owners achieve happier, healthier lives, changing the way we feed our dogs one bowl at a time! If you would like to know more about our fresh food head to Doggy Grub