Enrichment Activities for Your Dog

Can’t make it to daycare? Here are some enrichment activities to entertain your dogs that go beyond the basics of tug-of-war, fetch, and walks. Activities that offer mental stimulation can calm anxious dogs, curb unwanted behaviors, and improve communication between you and your dog.

1. Bones: Both natural and synthetic bones provide dogs an outlet through chewing, and dogs’ latent prey instincts are activated by the smells and flavors of the treats. Until you know your dogs’ chewing habits, don’t leave them unattended with bones!

2. Stuffed Kongs: If you have the time, pop them in the freezer after you stuff them. Your dogs will stay busy licking, digging & chewing the tasty treats out of the center. Popular stuffers are peanut butter, cheese, broths, and pumpkin. These can also be mixed with favorite treats or food. BEWARE OF XYLITOL — this is a common sweetener in human food products that is toxic to dogs!

3. Food Dispensing Toys: as dogs bump and knock the toy around, kibble falls out. Dogs will work hard to get all the food out. The food also falls out in an unpredictable way, and that added challenge provides more stimulation.

4. Snuffle Mats (nose work): Dogs explore the world with their noses. Introducing them to interesting smells is like teaching them a new language! Certain herbs and spices, the scent of other animals, and of course, food, can all be infused into snuffle mats, toys and bedding. If your dog shows a real interest in using their sniffer, you can take it a step further and play hide and seek with the new smells.

5. Bubbles: Dogs are wowed by the bubbles bobbing in the air, catching them in their mouth, watching, chasing. They are unpredictable (like prey) and that adds a level of mental stimulation that chasing a ball lacks. You can even get scented bubbles!

Dogs love bubbles

6. Laser Pointer or Toys on a String (just like the cats like): Get your dog moving from the comfort of a chair!

7. Sound Enrichment: Certain kinds of music, wind chimes, or specially produced “dog soundtracks” can break up the monotony of a too-familiar environment.

8. Massage: Slow, intentional touch, where you pet or massage your dog in a pattern, carefully holding or massaging specific spots on their bodies, takes thought. Your dog will also be thinking about how you’re handling them, and therefore, this kind of touch becomes an enrichment activity.

9. Casual Walks: Allow dogs some purposeless walks, where they can wander and sniff entirely at their own pace!

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