Enrichment for Dogs

Pet dogs sometimes lack enough fun and exploration in their lives, but this can be easily changed.  One thing we can all do is realize that most dogs don't enjoy walking on leash just for exercise; they are naturally faster than us, so walking on leash can be difficult, frustrating, or boring for them. What dogs can get out of leash walks is exploration of the world and pleasant time with their guardians. Therefore, it's important to ensure that dog walks are dog-centric walks: encourage sniffing, for example, and focus on strengthening the bond between you.

"Enrichment" can be achieved by any number of things--preferably, by a wide variety of things--that the dog enjoys, especially things that mimic natural behaviors. Play is enriching for many dogs, as are digging, chasing, seeking, chewing, dissecting, etc. Stuffed Kongs are commonly used, but more creativity and enthusiasm-building efforts may be needed to truly enrich a dog's life. You might need puzzle-feeders to challenge your dog and keep things exciting, or toys that double as treat delivery systems.  

Remember: When choosing an enrichment plan for your dog, whether toys, games, puzzles, sniff walks, or other natural activities, in order to be enriching to a dog, it must be something the dog really enjoys. Be sure to supervise your dog with all toys and during activities.

I'll be adding a few examples, with links to wear they are found, on this page now and then.  Drop me a note if you have any questions.

Snuffle Balls

Snuffle Balls come in various types.  Some are simply fabric tied together, some are held together with zipties (I do not recommend this), and some are fabric on a chewable, non-toxic rubber frame. A snuffleball is both a toy and, if you want it to be, a food or treat-feeder. You place treats on the interior of the ball and the dog can get them out by a variety of behaviors.  

Here's a source for snuffle balls built on rubber frames.

Sensory Gardens

Sensory gardens for dogs can be a great sniffing/exploration option in your own yard! Sensory gardens typically feature a selection of plants that offer a variety of scents, textures, and heights. (Be sure to confirm that the plants you choose are not toxic to dogs.) Sensory gardens might include other items as well. Here's a website that has a nice explanation in a relatively short read.

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