Enrichment is one thing I chat with clients about often. Dogs come pre-wired with many skills like sniffing, chewing, dissecting and scavenging that many domesticated dogs don’t have a good outlet for. Family dogs often find themselves with endless hours of lounging around and not having an ability to use these skills, which can lead to boredom, destruction, frustration (for owners and dogs!) and decreased quality of life. Providing outlets for these natural behaviors in ways we approve of not only improves quality of life but is critical to their well-being. We can take the simple act of feeding our dog and turn it into an activity that improves their quality of life.
Today I’m sharing my top 5 favorite enrichment items:
- Snuffle mat – this is a great outlet for dogs to use their nose to find their food, tapping into scenting and scavenging. It’s also a quiet enrichment option and easy, which is particularly good for fearful dogs or dogs new to enrichment. It’s also a great cat enrichment option!
- No Hide Chews – these are a great, long lasting chew option that is healthy and safe. Real rawhide isn’t digestible and is processed with a lot of unsafe chemicals, but No Hides are made by Earth Animal, based in Connecticut. They offer various flavors, sizes and types for all sizes of dogs, if even if they have a particular protein allergy or dietary restriction. They’re fully digestible, sustainably-sourced and all natural.
- West Paw Toppl – A great stuffable food toy, with a wide mouth, which makes it a little easier for dogs getting started. But, if you need to up the difficulty, get both sizes and squish them together and then freeze it. Give your dog their meal stuffed in this toy and mealtime will last much longer. If you normally only feed kibble, just mix the kibble with a little binder, like a few tablespoons of wet dog food, canned pumpkin or plain, unsweetened yogurt.
- Cardboard box – That’s right. Just a cardboard box, with kibble or treats rolled up in the packing paper and stuffed back into the box. You can do the same thing with a cardboard empty egg carton. Let your dog unpack the box and help with the recycling, as long as your dog isn’t a paper ingester. This is a great activity to tap into your dog’s natural dissection skills and it’s free!
- IQ Treat Ball – I prefer this treat ball over others because you can adjust the inside disc to make the difficulty easier or harder, or based on kibble size. It’s durable and easy to clean too!
Enrichment can also help fearful dogs build some confidence by getting them to interact with with environment and can be a better option than trying to hand feed a fearful dog. So go do some activities with your dog! Give them some enrichment!
View my Enrichment YouTube playlist here for more DIY enrichment ideas and enrichment toys in action!