Posted by Lora Shaw on May 8, 2023
A dog’s natural instinct is to spend their day foraging and hunting for food where there are other animals to chase, grass to roam in, streams to swim in, endless scents to explore, and beyond. Opposite of this, domesticated animals readily have food and water in their bowls and only a certain amount of space to roam in a controlled manner, bucking their natural instincts.
As a dog owner, it is possible to tap into your dog’s natural instincts so they can scratch that itch. However, keeping your dog happy and healthy means more than just going on walks and making sure they eat well. An additional way to enhance the health of your dog is through dog enrichment. Dog enrichment is achieved by encouraging them to engage in their innate behaviors, like playing, chasing, smelling, chewing, and scavenging.
By encouraging these innate behaviors, your dog becomes physically, emotionally, and mentally satisfied. Let’s dive into different types of dog enrichment and ways to enforce it on a daily basis.
There are five different types of dog enrichment that can help your dog reduce stress and lessen boredom. Utilize them to improve the overall quality of life for your furry friend.
Social enrichment is important for dogs of all ages, especially puppies. The process of socializing your dog exposes them to new people, places, and situations where they can learn and grow. Dogs who are well-socialized have the best chance of being confident, are typically less aggressive, and do not become overstimulated in unfamiliar situations.
Ways to engage your dog socially and further contribute to their canine enrichment include the following:
However, the list doesn’t stop here. This form of dog enrichment includes any activity that exposes your dog to other dogs, individuals, or groups in different environments than their familiar ones.
Next in the lineup, we have nutritional enrichment which encourages your dog to use its natural scavenging instructs to hunt for rewards, typically a treat or small snack. A popular way to do this is through puzzle toys or mats, which combine treats with physical and mental stimulation. This will reduce your pet’s boredom and keep them occupied for a period of time.
Try the following dog enrichment activities to promote nutrition and health in your pup:
Using occupational enrichment helps your dog to stay out of trouble while allowing them to release excess energy. This keeps them mentally stimulated and gives them a fun activity to do. You can try:
The senses of sight, sound, touch, and especially smell are major parts of your pup’s life. Stimulating your dog’s senses can greatly reduce their anxiety, making them happier and healthier.
Below are some dog enrichment activities that you can engage in to encourage your pet to fully use its senses:
The final form of canine enrichment is the easiest one to practice, as it involves getting active and playing with your pup! Whether your dog likes to fetch, play tug of war, or simply run around, there are so many ways to practice physical enrichment. The best way to do this is to combine mental exercise with physical exercise, which provides a positive way to reduce stress or any built-up energy from the day.
But remember, physical enrichment can also mean rest. This could include cuddling up with your dog while you watch a movie or allowing them to nap after a long day of play while you give them a belly rub.
Dogs do need to learn to cope with boredom and solitude, especially since entertaining them 24/7 simply isn’t feasible for any pet owner. However, providing your pet with adequate enrichment can improve their quality of life.
Additionally, proper enrichment reduces the chances that they will participate in stressful behaviors, including the following:
Most dogs should have at least 20 minutes of active stimulation each day, on top of 1-2 walks. However, higher-energy dogs and breeds may require more than this and elderly dogs will definitely not need as much. Therefore, it is beneficial to experiment and find the appropriate amount of dog enrichment activities that should be practiced with your pup.
Beyond age, here are some other characteristics to consider when engaging in dog enrichment:
By providing your dog with different types of simulation, you can help curb unwanted behavior while increasing their happiness and wellness. Remember that balance is key and that engaging in a variety of activities will help achieve the best outcomes!
Also, if you’re worried that your pup isn’t getting enough enrichment at home, be sure to take them to your nearest Pet Palace. From interactions with other dogs to plenty of outdoor time, we can provide dog enrichment activities that you might not have time for.
Contact us today. We look forward to seeing you and your furry friend!
About the author
Lora Shaw is currently the Vice President of Operations at Pet Palace.