Dogs are meant to live active lives!

Many studies, especially those conducted by zoos, have shown that enriching an animal’s environment improves the psychological and physical well-being of animals.

The co-authors of Beyond Squeaky Toys break down enrichment for animals into six different categories and there are games to consider that may be a good fit for your dog (and you!). Remember that enrichment is for ALL dogs, some may need a “job” and some may be couch potatoes but this applies to every canine!

Beyond Squeaky Toys: 6 Types of Enrichment for Dogs

1.    Social enrichment

Provides opportunities for a pet to spend time with other animals and people in new, different environments. Examples include:

  • Trips to a public space. My three dogs enjoy outings at the beach and river.
  • Going shopping. We work on leash reactivity and any retail outlet that allows dogs is a great environment for enrichment.
  • Going to the office. My husband takes our dog Sherman to work on Thursdays.

2. Cognitive enrichment

Provides opportunities for thinking and problem-solving. Examples include: 

  • Puzzle toys. Fantastic for dogs that are constantly busy and need a job between meals.
  • K9 Nosework. Another sport we’re big fans of. All dogs can excel at this odor game.
  • Hide and seek. Hide treats in kongs and hide them throughout the house!

3. Physical enrichment

Blanket forts and tents! Dogs enjoy when you mix it up at home and add elements that they’re not used to seeing in the environment. 

  • Provide a bury/dig pit. This is simple. Buy a dog or kiddie pool and fill it up with sand. You can even hide toys for your dogs to dig up. If your dog likes to dig like ours do than you will be their best friends after introducing this!
  • Pop-up tunnel. Similar to what’s used in agility, these can be purchased online, and our doxies love tearing through them in the backyard.  

4. Sensory enrichment

Sensory enrichment isn’t unique but a form of enrichment that stimulates any of the five senses. Nosework is another good example.  

  • Bubbles, bubbles, and bubbles! You can even buy bacon-flavored bubbles for dogs. And you should buy these!
  • Herbs and spices. Are you growing mint in your garden? Add that to various areas where your dog likes to use his nose.
  • Farm animal scents. We use our chickens and all the wonderful smells as a way to enrich our dogs when we take afternoon walks.
  • Wind chimes can be fun toys that offer new sounds to cats and dogs. Note that if your dog is super sound sensitive to choose chimes that are “softer” sounding!

5. Feeding enrichment

This enrichment area is all about making mealtime more interesting! Hand feeding can be enriching for dogs that need to learn to use a soft mouth. Ask our staff about these below toys! We sell them all! One is for kibble (puzzle toy) and the others you could hide in a sandbox.

  • Treats under a blanket. Simple—just hide them out of sight!
  • A puzzle feeder can slow down gulpers and stimulate the mind.
  • Ice cube containers. Try freezing small toys in giant ice cubes and see how long before they can get access to them!
  • Muffin tin ball feeder. Cheapest nosework game you’ll find. Literally, put tennis balls in the muffin tin and hide food under some of the balls.

6. Toy enrichment

Toy enrichment alleviates boredom! Get creative! (see above pic for other toy ideas!)

  • Stuff old clothing with anything smelly, like grass clippings.

Enrichment doesn’t take a lot of time or money. Many of these tips are low maintenance and take just a few minutes, but will go a long way with your dogs.