DIY Dog Enrichment Games
If you’ve ever been around a dog who seems bored or anxious, they may not be getting enough mental stimulation.
To keep their bodies and minds in shape, these dogs need structured activities and exercise.
Is My Dog Getting Enough Enrichment?
Here is a list of symptoms showing your dog may be bored:
- When left alone, a dog may bark or behave destructively.
- A dog may chew furniture or shoes when left alone.
- Howling or barking excessively.
According to San Francisco State University, "Enrichment is a synonym for 'more like nature.'" Enrichment activities will stimulate behaviors and thought patterns that dogs would exhibit in the wild.
Besides hunting and foraging, dogs enjoy a variety of other activities. Among these are retrieval, searching for objects, hunting prey, chasing other animals or people, and locating the "scent" tracks left behind by others.
Our dogs can benefit from several enrichment activities that satisfy these needs. Here are a few to consider.
Hide and Seek Mental Enrichment For Dogs
Playing hide and seek with your dog can be as fun for you as it is for him.
- When your dog isn't looking, let him be "it" and hide somewhere in your home.
- Tell him to come find you when he's not looking.
- From time to time, change the location so they are always challenged.
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Scent Enrichment for Dogs
An excellent sensory game for dogs is by using a scenting game. It is a great way for your dog to learn problem-solving and communication skills.
Muffin tin puzzles are an example of scenting games.
DIY Dog Enrichment Muffin Tin Puzzle
- Place treats in a few of the cups of a large, clean muffin tin.
- Cover all the cups (even the empty ones!) with a tennis ball.
- Have your dog to search and recover the treats from the muffin tin puzzle.
Be sure to switch up where you put the treats whenever you use this activity, so your dog stays challenged.
You can apply this concept in other ways to make different scenting games, too.
Try using things like cardboard boxes, fabric, and paper bags to make different puzzles for your dog to figure out.
Food Enrichment for Dogs
You can also engage your dog in a scavenger hunt to help build their scent-tracking skills. It simply involves hiding dog treats around your home or yard.
The best treats for this activity are those that have a strong smell and that your dog prefers, so that the activity keeps his interest and motivation high.
- It is helpful to introduce this game by placing the two first "treasures" near each other so that they can find the first one.
- After that, let your dog wander, following their nose to locate each reward.
Enrichment Toys With Kongs
It is made of an almost indestructible rubber tube with a hollow center and comes in a variety of sizes.
It is filled with tasty treats or kibble to keep your dog occupied while they work off their calories.
Filling a Kong
Filling that hollow cavity requires some tricks.
One method is to use large chunks of food so that the dog has to work to remove them from the toy.
- If you cut everything into small pieces before inserting it, they’ll learn to empty it out too quickly.
- In addition, you can secure all the tasty treats inside a pouch by using a "lickable" spread - peanut butter, honey, butter, etc. - that the dog has to lick out before she can get to them.
Some dogs are quick to figure out how to empty Kongs, which is a common complaint.
- Try freezing your Kongs overnight with their contents inside so that when your dog comes back inside the next morning, it will still occupy him by licking the tasty morsels inside.
If you'd like, you can even build an agility course for your dog.
Besides, having fun this will allow them to use muscles they don't normally used, and flex muscles they rarely use, while burning calories.
- There is no need to purchase special equipment - you can use things like chairs and bars to create a hurdle they can jump over.
- Create a maze for your dog by using heavy water jugs or almost anything.
- Of course, if you want to make things simpler, you can simply purchase an expertly designed agility training set that’s easy to set up.
Spend Time with Your Dog
Last, simply spending time with your dog is enriching for them.
It nurtures their sense of self-worth and provides much-needed socialization.
Spending time with your dog, walking with them, or even just sitting with them and petting them is important.
There are endless enrichment activities for high-activity breeds of dogs!
Spending time with your dog and being creative will go a long way.
If you want to enrich your canine companion's life consider looking for a professional trainer who can develop an individualized plan that meets their specific requirements.
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6 Types of Enrichment for Dogs
- Canine Enrichment for the Real World: Making It a Part of Your Dog’s Daily Life by Allie Bender, CDBC and Emily Strong, CDBC
- Canine DIY Enrichment - ASPCA https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/canine-diy-enrichment