Just like people, dogs need a variety of activities to keep their minds and bodies healthy. A bored dog becomes a destructive dog. Many dogs end up in shelters every year due to destructive and other “bad” behaviours that can easily be prevented with adequate enrichment.
So, how do you add some enriching activities in your dog’s life? Check out some of the ways below to find the one that best brighten’s your dog’s brain.
Puzzles and Chew Toys
Puzzles and chew toys are excellent low-interaction activities that can help keep your dog happy and occupied. They’re a great activity to give to your dog when you can’t be home, especially if they’re prone to separation anxiety. Having a puzzle to solve with a rewarding treat inside allows your dog to focus on the task at hand, rather than on being nervous or anxious.
Chew and puzzle toys work by the toy either being edible, or by placing edible treats or kibble within the toy. Your dog then works to get the treat out by chewing, tossing, rolling, or other interactions with the object. This not only helps your dog’s brain, but can get out nervous energy through chewing and concentration. It can also reduce your dog’s desire to chew on things he shouldn’t such as your shoes or couch.
In addition to the enrichment provided by these toys, puzzle toys are also a great way to feed very active dogs or those that tend to gobble their food. By solving a puzzle, your dog has to naturally slow down, preventing that gulping, choking behaviour that some very boisterous breeds are prone to. Hiding puzzle toys filled with kibble throughout the house can also encourage hunting and foraging behaviour, adding even more enrichment to the puzzle toy experience.
All dogs need exercise, even the tiniest of teacup Poodles! Exercise is a great way to get out excess energy, tire your dog out, and provide them with new sights, sounds, and smells while out and about. It keeps both you and your dog healthy, and also makes a great bonding experience. Exercise can also help reduce canine obesity, a growing issue that can lead to health problems, illnesses, and shortened lifespans.
If you haven’t exercised with your dog very much, or you have a very small breed dog, you’ll want to start off on short, small walks. From there, you can gradually build up to your dog’s tolerance level, adding in longer walks, or exploring new locations. For breeds that are incredibly high energy or active, exercise routines such as running alongside a bike can help match their pace and increased exercise needs.
Not every dog is social, and some dogs may prefer solo activities rather than interact with others. However, for dogs that are very social and playful, canine socialization groups are a great way to add an enriching activity to their day. Many cities now have fenced dog parks that are a great way for your dog to stretch its legs, run around, and enjoy some time with friends. If you have a smaller dog, a lot of dog parks also have designated small dog areas so you can make sure your pup can play with dogs their size safely.
Other socialization activities can include group walks around the park or even a few days a week at a doggy daycare. These are a great way to ensure your dog isn’t bored home alone all day. Doggy daycare provides a structured, monitored environment for play — a great way to stay safe and have fun. Many doggy daycares also offer scheduled activities as well, such as pool play days or group time with toys and treats.
If your dog isn’t the social type, you might want to check out some training games instead. Training games, such as nose work activities, are a way to keep your dog active physically while also challenging their brain. Nose work, or scent training, involves hiding a scented item in a box or under an object and letting your dog explore the room to find the object. This can be done both in a class — where each dog is brought into the room individually for their turn — or at home with your own personal course set up.
Obedience training is another excellent training game that has the bonus of increasing your dog’s focus and working on good behaviour. Training sessions don’t have to be very long, and several shorter sessions throughout the day are better for your dog’s attention span than one long one. You can work on anything from the basics such as sit and stay, to more advanced techniques such as laying down in a specific spot, retrieving an item, or even putting it away.
Ever wanted to try out an agility course with your dog? Group sports are a great way to incorporate a variety of enrichment activities including exercise, puzzle-solving, socialization, and more. While agility is one of the most well-known canine sports, there are several others your dog can try too.
Dogs that love tennis balls may enjoy flyball, a team sport where dogs take turns running over a course, grabbing a tennis ball, and bringing it back. Dogs that love to run can try out lure coursing, which involves dragging an object on a course and having your dog chase after it. Water-loving dogs may enjoy sports such as dock jumping, where they can leap off a dock into the water while attempting to catch a tossed item.
No matter your dog’s personality, there are many enriching activities available that can help focus their mind and get out excess energy. Enrichment is a necessary activity for any dog, and it can help reduce stress and prevent problem behaviours. Try out something new with your dog, such as a fun puzzle toy, a long relaxing walk, or a group sport, and enjoy the memories you’ll create together.