Article Written by FAPL Adoptions Associate Heather
Have you and your dog ever found yourselves stuck inside on a day where the weather just isn’t cooperating? Whether it’s freezing temperatures, rain and mud, or dizzying summer heat, sometimes we have to forgo our walks for everyone’s health and safety. Or maybe it seems like your dog is still looking for something to do even after you’ve taken your daily walk. At times like these, it’s nice to be able to give our dogs something to keep them occupied and exercise their brains. This is where our friend enrichment comes in!
Enrichment activities are puzzles or games designed to encourage your dog to use their brain and body to figure out how to get a treat or toy you’ve prepared for them. These activities can even help your dog to problem solve or learn new skills. Some common forms of enrichment toys include:
- Kongs or West Paw Toppls stuffed with things like canned food, plain pumpkin, peanut butter, or kibble (try soaking it in low sodium, no onion or garlic broth!). You can pop these prepped toys into the freezer for a few hours to make them last longer. These are good for licking and nudging around as your dog figures out how to get every last bit of what’s inside.
- Snuffle mats can be sprinkled with kibble or a few of your dog’s favorite treats. These textured mats give your dog an outlet for sniffing, snuffling, and foraging. They can also be great for slowing down fast eaters!
- JW Hollee Roller balls can be stuffed with large treats or other toys like soft squeaky toys or tennis balls for those dogs who prefer toys to treats. Your dog can have fun rolling, tossing, and pouncing as they work to remove the goodies you’ve stuffed inside.
The toys and puzzles listed above are all forms of enrichment that your dog can work on alone with supervision, but there are also things you can do to work together and help strengthen your bond. Some ideas to get you started include:
- Hide and seek. Distract your dog with a treat or toy. While they are occupied, hide a few treats, toys, or even yourself somewhere in the room. After they are done with their distraction, encourage them to explore the room to find what you’ve hidden (or make a small noise from your hiding spot if you’re hiding yourself). Make it easy at first so they catch on to the concept and increase the difficulty as they catch on.
- Trick training. Many times when we think of training we think of practical, everyday obedience skills. While those skills are valuable and important for all dogs to have, teaching tricks is fun and rewarding as well and engages our dogs brains in new ways. There are many types of tricks, from teaching your dog to shake or speak, to teaching them to put away their toys, to teaching them to “tell a secret”. The possibilities are endlessly entertaining!
There are many other types of enrichment out there to explore, but we hope that this small sampling of ideas has given you a starting point for those bad weather days or even as an addition to your daily routine. Have fun experimenting and finding a type of enrichment your dog loves!