The Best Dog Enrichment Activities To Keep Your Pooch Occupied!
Whether your dog is an energetic puppy, a highly intelligent pooch, or a senior four-legged companion slowing down in their twilight years, all dogs can benefit from enrichment activities.
What is dog enrichment?
Dog enrichment allows you to provide your doggo with ways to stimulate their mind and encourage their natural instincts. Enrichment activities benefit the lives of dogs by giving them something challenging (mentally, physically or both) to keep them engaged.
As the name suggests, these activities are designed to enrich the life of your pooch. They are especially beneficial for particularly mischievous dogs, dogs with high energy needs, or dogs that have to be left at home more often.
Benefits of dog enrichment
Dog enrichment activities are a great way of satisfying your dog's needs and natural instincts. Other benefits of dog enrichment activities include:
- Alleviate boredom
- Reduce chance of undesirable behaviour such as barking or destructive chewing
- Encourages physical activity
- Nurtures mental well-being
- Gives an outlet for instinctual behaviour such as foraging and digging
- Offers opportunities for bonding with your furry friend
- Lowers stress and anxiety
Why do dogs need mental stimulation?
Enrichment activities are designed to encourage your dog to use their brain - but why?
Domesticated dogs have got it pretty good. Their humans provide them with food, water and a safe spot to sleep. While this is all well and good, it does mean one thing - it's easy for your pampered pal to get bored.
A bored dog is much more likely to behave in a destructive or undesirable manner. This may include excessive barking, digging, chewing furniture or anything else as an outlet for their bottled up energy.
By offering mental stimulation, you encourage your dog to think. Dogs love a challenge, and trying to solve a problem will keep your dog occupied - and therefore too busy to engage in destructive behaviours.
All dogs need mental stimulation, from puppies to wizened seniors, from tiny Chihuahuas to big Great Danes.
Dog enrichment ideas
Different dogs will enjoy different dog enrichment toys and activities, but here are some ideas to try out with your furry friend:
A snuffle mat is a great one if your dog loves sniffing games. A snuffle mat is made up of lots of fabric strips in which you can hide treats. The natural instinct to sniff and forage paired with your dog's love of treats makes this a really simple and much-loved enrichment activity. Your dog's sense of smell is put to use to sniff out the treats, and the yummy snack is their reward.
Enrichment toys for dogs often include some variation of the snuffle mat, such as a smaller snuffle dog toy or a snuffle ball.
Muffin tin food puzzle
As far as canine enrichment games go, this one is simple to set up, and you can increase the difficulty as your dog gets the hang of it.
Take a muffin tray, some tennis balls and some treats. To begin with, put treats in every spot of the muffin tin and cover each hole with a tennis balll. As your dog gets better at this food puzzle, you can start only putting treats in some of the muffin tins, allowing them to sniff out the hidden treats. This offers great mental stimulation and encourages problem solving.
Puzzle feeders are beneficial in slowing down your dog's eating, which is good for weight control. But beyond that, a puzzle feeder is a great mental workout for your pooch. Your dog's mind is engaged in order to get to enjoy their food - and what better incentive than food?
DIY obstacle course
Physical enrichment is just as important as mental stimulation for your pup. A DIY obstacle course is a great physical and environmental enrichment activity, with the added benefit of encouraging problem solving.
You can teach your dog a new trick, such as jumping over the handle of a broom. Once they've got that down, teach them something else new, like how to weave between a few objects. Eventually, you can put all the new skills together and have your furry friend complete a mini obstacle course right in your living room or backyard.
Environmental enrichment activities (such as an obstacle course in the living room) can help combat boredom within the dog's living space.
You don't need to get fancy - your pooch probably doesn't expect expensive dog toys. You can create some fun activities with things you have around the house - such as cardboard boxes. The different texture of a cardboard box is fantastic for your dog to explore.
If you don't have a snuffle mat, you can still set up scent games - hide some treats in a cardboard box and packaging paper, and let your pooch sniff out the hidden treats. You can even try rolling up some treats in a towel and letting your dog sniff them out.
Social enrichment is vital for a well-rounded doggo to ensure they are not fearful of other dogs, while giving them an opportunity to develop good doggy social skills.
Visiting a dog park encourages physical and social enrichment. Getting outside in a park setting is also a great way of burning off excess energy, and getting them out of their usual environment (which can get pretty boring day in and day out!). If there is an dog agility course near you, this is a great way for your active dog to let off some steam.
If you want to encourage your dog to be calm when out in public, you can try including a few other dog enrichment activities during your visit to the park. For example, take the muffin tray puzzle and invite your dog to calmly play. It can be a good distraction to keep them from becoming overexcited, or teach them to concentrate in a different environment - a great mental workout!
Stuffed food activities
This deserves a whole section of its own! It's no secret that food is often the answer for keeping a pup interested. Food activities, especially long-lasting treats or frozen treats, are a fantastic way of keeping your dog entertained for a while.
Stuff a kong with your dog's favourite treats, such as dog-safe peanut butter, yoghurt, or a few pieces of your dog's food. A kong is an interactive toy that will keep your pooch mentally stimulated for a while, especially if you really fill it up with goodies!
One step up on the kong are long-lasting hollow treats such as a goat horn or moo tube. The benefit here is that not only can you fill it up with treats for your dog to enjoy, but the entire thing is edible. The moo tube or goat horn itself will keep your chew-happy doggo engaged for a long time!
Not sure what to stuff in your goat horn? Check out how to stuff your hollow goat horn for some tips.
Canine enrichment doesn't have to be complicated
The truth is, there are heaps of fun activities out there to encourage your dog to use their brain. Enrichment is a necessary part of any dog's life, to ensure they live a healthy, happy and, well, enriched life. Dog owners can help encourage canine enrichment by offering options for mental stimulation and physical exercise daily in the life of their doggo.
We hope these dog enrichment ideas will help your furry friend stay engaged and entertained. Don't forget to check out our range of WAG natural long-lasting dog treats to offer as a tasty enrichment activity for your doggo.