Your dog’s mental and physical health benefits from regular stimulating diversions that should be introduced into their daily life. Enrichment activities can decrease your dog’s naughty conduct and help them cope with stress. Regular exposure may improve their brain function, and protect them from cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is the canine equivalent of Alzheimer’s in people. Our team at Countryside Veterinary Hospital wants to provide ways to offer your dog this important aspect of their well-being.
#1: Social enrichment for your pet
After your dog has been socialized to ensure they are comfortable around people and other animals, they will benefit from regular social interactions, such as:
- New faces — Stimulate your pet with fresh human faces and encounters with other dogs. Take them to dog parks, or enroll them in an obedience class.
- New pets — Introduce a new pet to your household. This is especially helpful if another species is involved.
- New animals — A wonderful way to broaden your pet’s world is to take them to a farm to see many animals they have never seen before. You will likely also get some funny photos as your dog meets each new friend.
#2: Occupational enrichment for your pet
Many dogs appreciate having a job, as you see in herding and service dogs. The job does not have to be formal, because a dog who is training for agility competitions or participating in an obedience class will see that as their “job.” Any activity where they are expected to behave a certain way and perform a particular task, such as a simple but thought-provoking trick, will suffice. Enrichment should be challenging, not frustrating.
For example, spaniels were bred to track scents, so devise a hide-and-seek game for your spaniel by placing treats under upturned flower pots or buckets, which will allow them to use their natural skills.
#3: Physical enrichment for your pet
Toys are the easiest way to offer physical enrichment, but ensure you rotate your dog’s toys frequently to prevent boredom. Also, add physicality to their toy play:
- Provide a doggy door to give your pet more control over their environment.
- Set up objects, like bowling pins or soda bottles, for your dog to run down and knock over, which is not only fun, but also great exercise.
- Play a vigorous tug-of-war, or participate in an enthusiastic game of fetch.
Terriers, for example, love to dig, but that can damage your yard and garden, so make a sandbox to give them their own specific digging area where they cannot do harm.
#4: Sensory enrichment for your pet
Sensory enrichment includes visual and auditory experiences. One example of visual enrichment is a platform placed near a window where your pet can view the outside world, while music offers auditory enrichment. Studies have shown that when dogs listen to classical music, their stress levels are decreased, and their sleep and resting times are increased. Do not play the music constantly, because your pet needs some quiet time, and keep the volume low to ensure your dog’s sensitive ears are not irritated. Some owners leave the television playing when they’re not home, to offer visual and auditory enrichment. Scent enrichment can reduce stress levels, and lavender fragrance, specifically, has been shown to reduce barking in dogs.
#5: Nutrition enrichment for your pet
Dogs enjoy working for their food, which can be achieved in a variety of ways, and make them use their brain to fill their stomach. You can simply place food in multiple locations for your dog to seek out, or make things a little more challenging.
- Open up — Make your dog use their snout and paws to open a container before being awarded a treat.
- Find the way — Have your dog navigate a maze for a treat reward.
- Solve the puzzle — Make your own food puzzle toys by placing kibble in muffin tins, putting balls over each individual muffin compartment, and letting your dog knock the balls off to get to the food.
- Meet the challenge — To make things a little more difficult, use three upturned cups and place kibble under only one cup. Ask your dog to find which cup is covering the food. Once they catch on to the game, try moving the cups around before letting your dog find the kibble.
With this useful information, we hope you can begin to incorporate enrichment activities to your dog’s daily routine. Our team members at Countryside Veterinary Hospital are happy to help you find more ways to make your pet’s life better. Do not hesitate to contact us to address any questions or concerns you may have.