Dog Enrichment

Enrichment creates an environment that is varied and stimulating for your pet. Try these fun and engaging activities that will allow your dog to explore their own home in a new and exciting way!

Blowing Bubbles

Everyone loves bubbles! Bubbles can provide something interesting and new to look at for your cats and dogs. Moving bubbles will stimulate the animals’ minds and the adventurous pet will pop them!  If you feel like splurging, check out “PetQwerks Doggy Incredibubbles” at Amazon. These bubbles land without popping, easily wipe up, and are edible!

Cardboard Tube Puzzle

A simple puzzle feeder can be made from a cardboard paper towel tube.  Cut random holes in the tube, add some treats to the tube, and press in the ends to close.  Covering the tube with paper and twisting the paper ends adds extra challenge.

Bottle Party in a Box

Drop treats or stuffed toys into a large cardboard box filled with empty water bottles. The dog must search in the box to recover the treats/toys. Because the bottles move and make noise, the game can help build confidence.

For a fearful dog, try crumbled newspaper in the box instead of bottles. Leave some treats/toys visible on the top of the newspapers to encourage the dog to search.

Cereal and Egg Carton Puzzles

Dogs enjoy tearing up cereal boxes and cardboard egg cartons to find hidden treats. This activity allows the pet to use his mind and nose.  Tearing the cardboard does not encourage destruction! If a dog has a variety of appropriate activities to channel his energy, he will not destroy the sofa!

Easy Scent Games

Dogs are great at detecting smells! They can find lost people, locate land mines, diagnose cancer, admire your new perfume and find suspicious luggage content. Those superior sniffing noses should have some fun!

Scent games allow a dog to use his instinctive skills. Using his nose makes your dog think and requires him to concentrate. Scent games are fun for a dog but do not over stimulate him. A few minutes of a calming scent game can help a dog relax. Each game only takes a few minutes. Try a game while you are on a walk with your dog.

  • Seek and Find: Randomly toss treats or kibble into grass, snow, leaves, a room or on to a blanket on the dog’s bed and let the dog sniff and search. The challenge is greater when the treats are not easily visible requiring him to use his nose.
  • Scent Trail: Lay out a trail of tiny treats, Hansel and Gretel style. This game may be played inside or outside and in any size space. Some treats may be placed on a bench, around a tree, up on a branch, on the bumper of your car, around the perimeter of a room or under a couch cushion. Use your imagination. A jackpot (a small pile of treats) should be placed at the end of the trail.
  • Twisted Towel Treat Puzzle: Place treats on a towel, roll the towel up, and twist. Let the dog work the towel open to find the food. Too easy for your dog? Place the treats in a Kong and then roll up the Kong in the towel.
  • Interactive puzzle toys and KONGs: Puzzle toys provide challenge and enrichment for your dog. Provide a different toy every couple of days.

Octopus Toss Toy

Supplies:

  • Socks

Directions:

  • Arrange socks in a starburst.
  • Attach as many “tentacles” as you would like!
  • Use the sock on the bottom of the starburst to tie up the “tentacles”
  • Hide treats among the “tentacles.”

Magic Shell Game 

Scent games are mentally tiring for dogs and stimulate their brain in a way that physical exercise does not.

  • Rub the inside of a clay pot marked “Treat” with smelly treat (Natural Balance or Red Barn food rolls treats, peanut butter or hot dog). (Large yogurt containers work also).
  • Place a treat on the floor and cover it with the “Treat” pot. Ask the dog to “find it.”
  • When the dog touches or nudges the “Treat” pot, say “good,” and lift the pot to let him have the treat.
  • Repeat this simple steps 2-3 times until it appears that the dog knows there is a treat under the pot.
  • Now, hide the treat and hold the pot down to keep him from tipping it over. Lift the pot when he touches it with his paw and let him take the treat reward. Practice this, rewarding for soft paw touches. Sessions should not last more than 10-15 minutes.
  • Once the dog is tapping the “treat” pot with a soft paw, part two of the game can be introduced.
  • Add two more pots. Tap each pot to direct the dog’s attention to each. When interest is shown in the “treat” pot say “good” and let him take the treat.
  • If multiple pots cause him to lose interest, show the treat quickly and cover the treat up again.
  • Always hold the pots to keep the dog from knocking them over.
  • Shift the pots around for added interest and to challenge him with slight of hand. No betting is allowed!
  • End on a positive note.

“While many dogs get sufficient walks, exercise and even some training, they do not get enough stimulation of their innate senses and abilities. A lot of the training we do with our dogs includes speed, excitement, precision, and control, but very few activities require calmness and concentration.” -Anne Lill Kvam

Muffin Tin Treat Game

A puzzle activity can provide enrichment by stimulating your dog’s mind.

Supplies:

  • Muffin tin or cardboard beverage carrier
  • Tennis balls
  • Treats

Place a few visible treats in the muffin cups and let your dog find them. When he is easily getting the treats out of the cups, cover a couple treats with a tennis ball to increase the challenge. Place treats or kibble in muffin tin cups. Top them with a tennis ball to cover the treat and provide extra challenge. A cardboard beverage carrier with a tennis ball in the cup holes also works! Muffin tin games can be found in the 1st Adoption meet and greet room.

Wading Pool Enrichment

Anything new and interesting in the surroundings is beneficial to a dog. An assortment of objects to discover can give the dog an opportunity to think, explore, use his senses, stimulate the brain, and provide fun.

The Wading Pool Enrichment Activity features different discoveries each day. A child’s wading pool can be filled with different items to explore each day, with or without water, and placed where the dogs can discover it while on a walk or in the yard.

  • Herbs: Dogs are great at detecting smells! The nose is the #1 sense for dogs touching the most important part of their brain. Allow the dog to sniff the herbs in the pool. The plants are all safe if the dog should choose to munch on some. The herbs may include basil, parsley, rosemary, mint, oregano, sage, and thyme.
  • Ball Pit: Balls are irresistible. Toss some treats in the pool and let the dog search through the balls to discover the treats.
  • Ice Bar: The coolest thing to do in the Burgh is to check out the sensory excitement of the ice.
  • Toy Land: A pool full of stuffies – take a minute and let the dog tear one apart!
  • Duck Pond: Rubber ducks floating in the water are a favorite of children and now, dogs!
  • Splash Pond: Just the basics! Add water bottles for a bottle pool party.
  • Leaves: Scents of the outdoors and crunchy under the paws. Toss in treats to be found.

Sniffing Mat

Dogs love to sniff!  Spending a few minutes searching for treats on a fringed mat can stimulate your dog’s mind and help them relax.
The sniffing mat can be a rag rug, fleece or t-shirts strips tied together, a groovy shag carpet square, or any fringed mat in which treats can be hidden.  Scatter the treats throughout the mat and let your dog search.

Try the following smelly treats in the mat:

  • Kibble
  • Food treat roll pieces (Natural Balance, Red Barn, Happy Howies)
  • Grated Cheddar cheese
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Dried liver treats
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Cheerios

Make a Sniffing Mat from a T-shirt:

  • Cut straight across from underarm to underarm on t-shirt, separating the collar and sleeves from the body of the shirt. Cut the t-shirt front and back apart to make two rectangles/squares.  One rectangular piece will be the mat.
  • On the “mat’, cut 1”slits in multiple rows. The closer together the slits, the fuller the mat will be.
  • With the all the remaining piece of t-shirt, cut or tear 5-6” strips.
  • Tie the strips into the slits making fringe.

Cups and Bowls

Plastic cereal bowl and juice cups can provide a puzzle challenge for your dog.  Place a treat in one or more bowls and let your dog search by using his nose.  The game can be as challenging as your dog likes and it is easy to vary the game.  Stacking bowls, cups in the bowls, upside down bowls, bowls on the cups, and refilling bowls already searched can all create a new twist for the activity.  Mental stimulation and variety can help direct a pet’s energy and stimulate the mind.