By Suzanne Denk, Dip FBST, Animal Enrichment Specialist
Boredom can be a contributor to many common behavior challenges and trying a new activity for enrichment can provide variety to your pet’s daily routine. Enrichment is an opportunity for your pet to think, explore space, make choices and spend time with you. A mentally stimulating activity can decrease stress levels and provide an outlet for pent up energy.
An easy and common choice for an enrichment game is to use a muffin tin! When first introducing a new enrichment item like a muffin tin, make it easy for your pet to succeed and get treats from an open cup at first. This allows them to get used to the feel of the tin. Choose items to place in the cups which can be pushed by your pet’s nose. Balls are commonly placed in muffin cups but may not be the best choice because they must be lifted out of the cups. Lifting is not a natural movement for most pets and balls may fit too tightly causing frustration and flipping of the entire muffin tin.
Gradually add different items to make the game more challenging. Set your pet up for success by gradually increasing the level of difficulty in small steps. Fill all the muffin cups, layer fleece ropes on top or turn the muffin tin upside down for an extra challenge.
When working on an enrichment game, it is important to let your pet decide when the game is over. They may choose to sniff and investigate even when all of the treats are gone. If they are still engaged, the activity is still enriching for them. Let your pet enjoy the activity as they choose and you will enjoy it too!