Enrichment Essentials

What is enrichment?

Enrichment is something that adds value, pleasure, and joy to life.  

Enrichment is something that is rewarding to our dogs. It can be natural activities or ones that are created by human design.  It may look a bit different from dog to dog because each dog will have their own favorites.  Just as some humans may prefer to spend their free time solving a jigsaw puzzle or playing video games, others may prefer to go hiking or to play a sport.  The same goes for our dogs.  Some may love to chase and sniff out prey, while others may prefer car rides or food puzzles.

Who can benefit from enrichment?

All dogs can benefit from enrichment in many ways. Enrichment activities are also great for increasing the bond between human and dog. The best way to make our dogs happy is to provide them with most of the things they desire in order to meet their needs and to create positive and playful interactions with us. Many types of enrichment are also great for socialization, lowering stress levels, and increasing a dog’s comfort with a variety of day to day situations. 

While some dogs may enjoy enrichment to fill their down time or for the thrill of a good challenge, enrichment can be used for specific purposes as well.  Got a dog who is destructive or does not have good house manners? Enrichment can help because it exercises a dog’s brain and decreases stress.  It also gets your dog to be independent and makes your dog less demanding and needy when you may need a break.  Many behavior problems can be fixed simply by thinking about what our dogs need and how to meet those needs in a good way (example: chewing and licking a stuffed kong rather than your couch). Got a dog who never wants to calm down or chill out? Or maybe you need calm activities for your dog who is recovering from injury or entering their older golden years?  There are great enrichment activities to help with this! Enrichment also gives dogs such as puppies and rescue or shelter dogs an easy way to be socialized and shown a variety of sounds, textures, and experiences. By giving our dogs something they can do to meet their needs, we can decrease stress, eliminate boredom, and prevent problem behaviors.  Using enrichment will bring joy to your dog and also to you!  

When can I use enrichment?

Enrichment can be used any time, every day, and in many different ways.  Enrichment can be used before walks or car rides to decrease hyperarousal or after exciting events to help you calm and refocus your dog.  It can be used to give your dog something fun to do while you may need some personal space or while your family wants to eat dinner and watch a movie.  Enrichment can be used to calm your dog when it is feeling anxious or simply to cure your dog’s boredom.  Carefully planned enrichment can also help fearful dogs not only decrease stress, but also be able to feel comfortable in their environment. Any time you are struggling with your dog’s behavior and want them to do something different, enrichment may be able to be a big part of this solution!

Where can I do enrichment?

Enrichment can be done any time and anywhere!  Doing enrichment can easily be accomplished at home around the house or in your yard, but it can also be taken on the go.  Some great places to go for enrichment are parks, open fields, parking lots, dog friendly stores, and even in your car.  This being said, make sure that you choose a location that is safe, not overly stressful, fun, and appropriate for the enrichment activity that you and your dog choose.

Choosing Enrichment for Your Dog:

Environmental Socialization 

Sniffing: long leash sniffy walk, food foraging, wood pile exploration

Watching: nature walks, parking lot observations, coffee shop protocol, car rides

Exploring nature: parks, beaches, hiking trails, open fields

Fun fact: Did you know that recent studies have shown that natural environmental enrichment is the best form of enrichment and promotes the best overall wellness?!

Promoting Calmness and Decreasing Hyperarousal

Licking: ice cube trays, lick mats, textured surfaces, kongs, frozen marrow bones, slow feeder

Chewing: Frozen raw bones, benebones, nylabones, chew toys, etc. (check with vet for safety)

Shredding: treats in a paper towel or toilet paper roll trapped inside, make your dog your new paper and cardboard box shredder 

Sniffing: exploring nature with long leash sniffy walks at parks, beaches, hiking trails, open fields, or wherever possible

Using Prey Drive Instincts

Chase Games: fetch, recall games, flirt pole, doggie playdates

Digging: Sand box, dig pit, baby pool, snow pile, treats rolled into towels or blankets

Sniffing and food foraging: snuffle mat, long leash sniffy walk, food foraging, wood pile exploration, food puzzles, kong wobbler, slow feeder bowl

Special note: Prey drive activities should be done in moderation and followed by calming enrichment to prevent frustration behaviors (ex: a few longs throws of fetch, then do some shorter throws, then hand offs, then an activity from the calming and decreasing hyperarousal list)

Enrichment for Social Interaction

Play at home:  toy play, tug, catch me if you can, peek-a-boo, hide and go seek

Socialization trips: visiting with their favorite human or canine friends in an environment where they are comfortable, trips to dog friendly stores (pet store, hardware store, etc.)

What to learn more about enrichment? Check out the links below!

Dog Spots 101 recorded live on enrichment- IAABC Certified Behavior Consultant Caitlin Coberly and ABC Certified Trainer Andrea Burggrabe discuss ways to enrich your dog's life in this recorded live https://www.facebook.com/caitlin.coberly/videos/10221704300031252/

Dog Spots 101 youtube enrichment playlist- tons of examples of dogs and enrichment https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsZwx_x0eaSduGjKEfRTTVod4IlYbKJoq 

Go hunt- how to hunt with your dog and improve your bond and leash walking skills https://www.facebook.com/groups/Dogtraining101/permalink/1167344023384375 

What is enrichment?- types of enrichment and more ideas for loads of fun https://stacythetrainer.blogspot.com/2019/02/mental-stimulation-enrichment-what-is.html?m=1&fbclid=IwAR3HCZ2t-WypHJLFKjiBrPSByr7MLk106xt0p9SCAervMe1jkNp9b_6fIU4

Sniffing- how to get your dog to use their best sense- their sense of smell https://www.silentconversations.com/importance-of-allowing-your-dog-to-sniff/?fbclid=IwAR1Ma9pR9bEEDj58EWXE5xZtqu7aot_Lg_1QMvGHwhbheedevovhWJX8Tfs

Food bowling- a fun enrichment game for bonding and working on recall https://youtu.be/HPy8YRGfaH4

Scatter feeding- an easy peasy form of enrichment that anyone can do and can help dogs who struggle with enrichment learn how to get a good start https://aniedireland.wordpress.com/tag/scatter-feeding/?fbclid=IwAR1jCU5ulkOuIIP_-1Yzus4h_l1hNGnQ72KC6tic8aLDIPGiAtyHztdpRuQ

Nose play- indoor fun for cold or rainy days- or any day! https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/training/how-to-teach-your-dog-to-play-nose-games/?fbclid=IwAR1gvSrBeNIcHW6vYgSR-fh0M0YQOLHbBMr_3TI6F9iQ2HmcNUvi2ny7CVM

Busy box- games and activities you can use with things you can find in your home https://aniedireland.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/day-

101 things to do with a box- fun games with a box to build confidence and perseverance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2a0zl9FZb0


Popular posts from this blog

Lessons From Lena by I Speak Woof Training