I thought since I mention enrichment and mental stimulation in virtually all of my dog breed overviews it was about time I did a post all about enrichment and mental stimulation! For the purpose of this blog I’m going to lump enrichment and mental stimulation together and just call it ‘enrichment’ even though they are actually slightly different things.
What is enrichment
Enrichment is essentially making your dog use their brain to figure things out on their own. It is such an important aspect to having a well-rounded contented dog that is very often overlooked or forgotten! Not only do dogs find enrichment very satisfying they can also find it calming and very tiring. Some forms of enrichment are so tiring that 10 minutes of enrichment can tire your dog out as much as an hour walk would. How crazy is that?!
Now you know how great enrichment is, I’m sure you’re wondering how you can provide your dog with enrichment. So, I’m going to tell you my top ten favourite enrichment games, toys or puzzles! (These are in no particular order.)
The number one for me has to be the good old classic Kong! You can stuff it with a plethora of different yummy goodies for your dog. They then get to figure out how to get to all the food which will take a while, especially to start off with. But if you have a very smart dog or a very food-oriented dog you could even freeze the Kong. This makes it even harder for your dog.
This is basically a toy that imitates scavenging and using their nose to find food in the wild. It is also super easy for you because all you need to do is hide some food in the mat and give it to your dog.
It has actually been proven that licking actively calms dogs down! So likki mats can also be a great tool for training an anxious dog. This one is also super easy for you as all you need to do is spread some food e.g. liver paste or dog friendly peanut butter on the mat. You could also freeze the mat so that it will last longer.
The most common version of this toy is the Kong wobbler which I’m sure all of you will have heard of but you can find many great alternatives online.
There are hundreds of different dog puzzle toys on the market but the most well-known ones are by Nina Ottosson. Puzzle toys come in a range of difficulties from supper easy for young puppies to virtually impossible for all those doggy Houdini’s out there. You can even make a really basic puzzle at home using a plastic water bottle! Simply remove any labels and small parts from the bottle and put some food in it. Voila one really easy and quick enrichment toy for your dog!
A Towel or yoga mat
This one is a great free option! All you need to do is spread some food out on the towel/yoga mat then roll it up. If your dog finds this too easy you can put a knot or several knots in the rolled up towel to make it much more difficult.
This is another one you can do with bits from around your house. Just put a few bits of food in the cupcake tray then place a tennis ball in each whole. Your dog then needs to figure out that is has to lift the ball out of the whole to get to food.
Hide some of your dogs treats around a room or outside and let them use their amazing sense of smell to hunt them out!
Doggy people watching
I know it’s a funny name but what I mean is to simply sit with your dog in an environment where there are things happening and let them watch the world go by. This one is especially brilliant for puppies or socialising dogs. As it helps them to be neutral to the world and nor scared or overexcited by anything.
By this I mean trick training, agility, flyball etc. Basically, just something your dog will enjoy a lot more than basic obedience training. Not only do dogs find this really satisfying it will also help strengthen your bond with them.