If you follow dog pages on social media you’ve probably seen posts talking about canine enrichment and might have wondered what it’s all about. In this short blog, I’ll explain what canine enrichment is, what’s good about it, and how you can do it with your dog.
What is canine enrichment?
This fancy named thing that so many people are talking about which has increased in popularity in recent years as people think of creative ways to entertain their dogs.
Arthur sniffing a pile of wood on his walk
It’s not as complicated as it sounds, in fact, enrichment is a basic sensory need for dogs so tasting, seeing, hearing, smelling and touching is enriching. It’s a way of describing stimulating activities, which makes them happy and enhances their wellbeing.
In human terms, I would liken it to having a box of chocolates in a beautifully wrapped box. You must unwrap the box before you can eat one, it’s not too difficult but the unwrapping increases our anticipation and then you smell them and have to decide which one to eat. How rewarding is that to our senses when you finally put that chocolate in your mouth?
What’s good about canine enrichment?
Imagine how you would feel if you ate the same dinner every day. If you couldn’t go outside and could only see a brick wall from your window. Imagine never being able to hear the birds singing or feel the touch of another person. Ok, I know not everyone has all these senses, but it gives you an idea of what life is like for some dogs.
We all have busy lifestyles and with the introduction of modern technology, unfortunately, it’s the dog who tends to lose out.
We’re late for work and the dog gets dragged along not being allowed to stop and sniff. They’re left alone for a large proportion of the day and when the owner comes home, they’re too tired to do much. Baby comes along and playtime ends and is replaced by the sound of a baby crying. We sit at home on our smartphones instead of interacting with our dogs, you get the idea.
We have so much to entertain us in our lives and our dogs only have you.
Now think about how lucky we are as human beings to be enriched daily and how amazing it would be if all dog owners did canine enrichment. Our dogs would be much happier with less behavioural issues and it would increase your bond with them too.
The good news is, it’s not too difficult and there are lots of simple things you can do each day which will enrich your dog’s life.
How you can do canine enrichment with your dog
Activities that are great for your dog’s senses include
I’ll give you some examples of things I do with my dogs every day for the above categories.
Bertie foraging for hidden treats in his sandpit
Sniffing – My dogs take however long it takes to do a walk. Some days they want to run and some days they want to sniff every blade of grass, so I let them. I always add at least 10 minutes into my schedule to accommodate them and allow them to take their time if they wish.
Licking – I love Kongs and will fill them with lots of yummy treats which they have to lick to get out. This can be a quick canine enrichment activity or can be made into a long-lasting one by freezing the Kong. You can also put your dog’s food in there for a fun way to have a meal.
Kongs and pate being prepared for canine enrichment
Foraging – This is one of my favourite things to do with my dogs which they absolutely love. It’s also a great way to get them to ignore the crazy barking dogs that live in my village. I always walk them with a treat of some kind and throw a handful into some long grass, so they must sniff them out to eat them. In the spring we forage Blackberries, Bertie my Border Collie will pick them straight from the bush himself too. This is really calming for dogs so if they’re a bit reactive this activity will help them.
Touching – Brush your dog, it’s a simple as that. Providing they like to be groomed, even short-haired dogs that don’t require grooming as such will feel relaxed, happy and the comfort that the touch of their owner brings. I go one step further and massage doggy paw balm into the pads of my dogs. Arthur my Newfoundland often falls asleep and is snoring during his grooming.
Listening – Have you seen videos of dogs held tilting as they try and understand what your saying, it’s so cute. They may not understand what you’re saying but dog’s love the sound of our voices. I’m also a fan of playing music for my dogs and will often leave a music channel on for them when I pop out to the shops.
I hope this has helped you understand what canine enrichment is and why it is important as well as give you some ideas of how you can enrich your dog's life.
If you’ve enjoyed this you might like to buy one of my enrichment hampers which contains a fun treat dispenser along with natural treats you can put in it.