Keeping your dogs entertained through Canine Enrichment!
Keeping your dog mentally and physically stimulated is especially important at the moment- let’s look at Canine Enrichment! We know that many of you are under Stay at Home Directives and have limited opportunity to go out as you would normally do with your dogs.
It is not only a worrying and stressful time for us humans, our pets are also impacted by all the changes to routine and how we are feeling.
Your dogs are most likely experiencing some anxiety during these difficult times. Their normal routine has changed:
- Maybe you are suddenly home all day when you normally leave for work?
- Are the kids at home due to school closures?
- You could be feeling worried about everything that is going on?
Your dog will be picking up on these cues and will be affected by the change in routine. It is great if you can still give them physical exercise, but we know that some dog owners are currently unable to do even this.
Giving mental stimulation will calm your dog and decrease anxiety. We will share some of the many activities you can do while you are at home for this extended period of time. If a dog does an activity that it finds pleasurable or fun there is a release of dopamine in their brain. The release of dopamine creates a ‘feel good’ response which increases the desire to keep doing the behavior. Chewing and sniffing are just a couple of the behaviors that create this response. We can use this response to encourage them to do good things!
Don’t let your dog get bored while stuck at home.
What is Canine Enrichment?
So, we wanted to talk to you about Dog Enrichment. First of all, what is Canine Enrichment?
‘Canine enrichment adds mental and physical stimulation to your dogs daily life that boosts confidence and encourages your dog to use its natural instincts. ‘ (Neil Day- Owner/Trainer @All Day Dog Adventures).
We recommend that you include Enrichment activities into your dog’s routine on a daily basis. Mental stimulation is an important activity that is actually more tiring than physical exercise for your dog. Below we will share some enrichment activities to get you started!
What does Canine Enrichment do for your pet?
- lowers stress levels and reduces anxiety
- encourages the use of your dogs natural instincts
- develops your dogs problem solving skills
- builds confidence
- decreases boredom
Dogs have many natural instincts that can be used during enrichment games/activities.
Every dog is born with a number of natural instincts. The ones we will focus on are:
Scent – Chewing – Digging – Chasing – Scavenging
All dogs are born with a natural ability to use their nose. Their sense of smell is their Primary Sense. To give you can example of just how powerful your dogs sense of smell is, imagine this…..
A tasty Pepperoni Pizza- what can you smell?
Human– Cheese, pepperoni, tomato sauce, bread dough? Yep, that’s probably all us humans are smelling.
Now your dog is a different matter- what can they smell?
Your dog-is that a mix of cheeses? Oh yes, mozzarella with Gouda, and a hint of Parmesan. Pepperoni, salami- specific type! Tomato paste- oh yes the one from Spain, southern Spain. Bread dough- oh that’s the gluten free type, with a hint of basil, parsley and rosemary, and a pinch of thyme.
Dogs are natural chewers, it exercises their jaw and they love it! Which is great because it furthers your dog’s mental and emotional health. It also helps keep their teeth and gums clean and strong. All of that lovely saliva that is part of the chewing also has a job! It encourages the flow of cleansing, antibacterial saliva through your dog’s mouth.
Dogs are natural born diggers- though not all dogs do it (luckily!). Dogs dig to scavenge, hide things, out of boredom and to create a sleeping area.
Dogs are also natural chasers and good at herding. Some breeds excel at herding, like Border Collies or Heelers.
Dogs are also good at scavenging for food and enjoy doing it. Imagine being served the same meal twice per day in the same bowl. How boring is that when you like to scavenge for food?
So how can you encourage your dogs to use their natural instincts?
Well, there is an easy answer… Canine Enrichment Activities and Games! Dogs have their natural abilities, as owners we can encourage them to use them. By including activities that are part of their natural instinct into your dog’s daily routine.
There are so many great ideas being shared in the dog community!
Here are some fun enrichment activities you can do with your dogs:
Let your dog use his/her nose- dogs love to smell!
Snuffle Mat– hide tasty treats inside a snuffle mat and let your dog scavenge for food. We buy our
Snuffle Mats locally from Mountainside Playhound in Kalispell.
Cardboard box– fill it with empty toilet paper rolls (don’t waste TP!!) maybe even add some tennis balls or toys and then toss in some tasty treat for your dog to sniff out/scavenge.
Hide & Seek– you can hide yourself around the house and your dog will have fun finding you! This is also a great way to work on your dogs ‘stay’ command! Don’t want to hide yourself? Simply hide treats throughout the house and encourage your dog to hunt for them.
Scatter feeding– instead of just putting the food bowl out why not scatter feed (*) in a safe area. You just scatter their normal dog food and let their nose take over. This normally keeps our dogs entertained for a while. Dinner time now went from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. *if your dog resource guards food then please put safety measures in place.
Frozen Treats – fill an ice cube tray or muffin tin with tasty treats and then freeze it.
Felt mat– you can plait some felt together and hide treats inside
Puzzle or slow feeders– these are also great for making mealtimes fun for your dog. You can also use boxes you have in your home to make a puzzle feeder. We have also started to freeze the kibble in the slow feeders (mix in gravy, broth or water). This keeps your dog busy for quite some time! Check out some cool puzzle/slow feeders on Amazon
Walks/Hikes– let your dog sniff while you are out for a walk! If your dog does not have a consistent & reliable recall or you are in an area that requires dogs to be leashed, we suggest using a long line so your dog can explore and sniff. A hike or walk will help you & your dog to decompress, which is so important. Don’t turn this into a training walk- let your dogs enjoy the scents out there.
Digging fun-if you have an old sandbox or an area in your yard that you don’t mind them digging in, you can hide chews, treats or other favorite toys in there and encourage your dog to dig in the designated area.
Chasing– play fetch with your dog. Check out our local Pet Stores- they are offering delivery and curb side collection.
Tailwaggers in Whitefish
Dee-O-Gee in Kalispell
Chewing- a good butchers bone is always a good one! We also love bully sticks- we buy ours locally from Murchdochs in Columbia Falls (great selection and prices)
Trick Training– Give trick training a go! We will be offering ONLINE Trick Training in April. What our out for our exciting classes coming soon.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on new toys to keep our dog occupied. Make use of items you already have in your home. Your dog will enjoy having some new things to explore and play with- Canine Enrichment at its best! We love to see your ideas and how your dogs are enjoying them.
Please join our FREE Pet Coronavirus Support Group on Facebook where our community is sharing great ideas to help keep us, and our dogs happy!
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