We all know the importance of physical exercise for our dogs, but we often overlook their need for mental exercise. Enrichment activities are those that work a dog’s brain, allowing them to lean into their natural instincts and have fun solving problems. These activities are important to keep your dog happy and curb problem behaviors due to boredom, but they’re also a fun way to bond with your dog and wear them out.
I go over my favorite enrichment activities in the below video. Keep reading after the video for additional information and links to some of the products mentioned.
Enrichment Feeding Toys
There are a ton of enrichment toys on the market, and many are quite inexpensive. What I like about enrichment feeding is that it taps into the dog’s natural drive to work for its food. My two go-to enrichment feeders are the Kong Wobbler and a snuffle mat I got off Esty. I also always keep frozen Kongs stuffed with wet dog food in my freezer, which keep my dog busy for 45 minutes. These are great for an unexpected bad weather day. A simple Google or Amazon search for “dog enrichment toy” will bring up a zillion options.
DIY Enrichment Toys
DIY toys are a great way to save money and reuse items in your home that would typically go straight to the landfill. For example, before recycling, you can put food in an empty water bottle with the cap off and let your dog work it out. Another favorite of mine is to put food at the bottom of a box and fill the box with old junk mail and empty toilet paper rolls. This is especially fun for Terrier breeds or any dog who likes to dig and work in the ground. Even something simple like rolling treats up in a big towel and letting your dog get them out can be loads of fun.
You don’t need to use a toy or food to enrich your dog’s day. Activities like allowing your dog to lead the walk and sniff whatever it’d like for however long it’d like can be extremely fulfilling and fun for a dog. Car rides to new places, training sessions and experiencing new sights and sounds are also options. This is where you can lean into your dog’s specific breed – if you have a hound, let them track scents in a park. If you have a bird dog, take them to a place with birds to let them birdwatch. If you have a Husky, go for a run. Research your dog’s breed purpose and that will lead you in the right direction.
My favorite resource for discovering new products on the market or activities I can do at home is the Canine Enrichment group on Facebook. The group has over 5,000 members who consistently post ideas and product reviews. It’s also a great place to go to ask questions if you’re unsure what your breed of dog would love to do.