Providing mental stimulation for your dog by Caroline Wilkinson

You may have heard the word enrichment being bounced around. What is it? What exactly does it mean for you and your dog?

Enrichment: the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something.

While keeping your dog physically active is a great way to improve their welfare, it isn’t enough on its own. It’s also crucial to provide mental stimulation for your dog, as well as an outlet for any natural breed traits. Enrichment covers both mental and physical stimulation, allowing your dog to act in a natural way and being completely fulfilled within their life.

Allowing animals to think and learn is a great way to not only enrich their life, but to also combat problem behaviours that can arise from boredom or anxiety.

Most family dogs will spend a lot of their day sleeping or lazing on the sofa. Boredom can set in and a dog that’s not mentally tired is more likely to have anxieties or frustration set in. You might see signs such as repetitive paw licking or tail chasing, barking, chewing the wrong things (like your furniture), pacing, or seeming low/depressed.

As owners, we offer as much as we can – walks, cuddles, attention – but busy lives get in the way and I’m sure there’s times you feel guilty about the length of time your dog has been left or lack of walks on wet, miserable days.

Here’s some of our favourite easy enrichment ideas:

  • Make more of mealtimes by using a slow feeder or kibble ball.
  • Try scattering your dog’s food or some treats in the garden to engage their nose and natural hunting / foraging behaviours.
  • Take a long walk, allowing your dog lots of sniffing time.
  • Play a game of hide and seek with your dog – hiding treats, toys or yourself!
  • Trick training is a great way to provide a mental workout for your dog, plus it’s fun to show off your dog’s repertoire when you have family or friends visiting.
  • Play dates! Invite a friend and their doggy pal over for some fun and games.

Want it to last longer, pop it in the freezer for an hour first.

If we allow our dogs to play, chew, and chase in a positive way then those natural behaviours won’t appear in a problematic way. So how are you going to enrich your dog’s life today?

Over at Ruff Shop, there is a fantastic range of enrichment toys, slow feeders and natural chews

Caroline Wilkinson is a Full Member of APDT, UK (01212), and Full Member of INTODogs, registered Accredited Animal Behaviourist (ABTC). She runs Barket Place an online training platform for pet owners, alongside Ruff Shop – an online dog shop committed to only selling positive training aids, enrichment toys, and natural treats.

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