5 easy ways to ensure a calmer and happier dog
What is enrichment?
Simply put, enrichment is how we ensure all of our dog’s mental and physical needs are being met on a daily basis. There is no one size fits all, this is because all dogs have different breed needs and different individual needs too. When it is done well, enrichment is an incredibly powerful tool and can be enough to cause a reduction in behavioural issues alone.
What enrichment will my dog enjoy?
What does your dog love to do? Do they get their nose down to the ground and follow a scent trail backwards and forwards without lifting their head up on walks? If so, nose-work based enrichment would be great for them. Or do they love digging up the garden and making holes all over the place? Then a sandpit with toys hidden in it would be great for them.
Most breeds were bred to work and they gain huge enjoyment from doing so. Unfortunately pet dog homes don’t provide many outlets for working instinct so we need to use our imaginations to provide opportunities to express these innate behaviours.
Will this not make them perform these behaviours even more?
It is a common misconception that if dogs are encouraged to perform activities that they have drive to do that it will cause an increase in these behaviours in general. However, this is not the case; in fact if we regularly provide our dogs with opportunities to perform these innate behaviours they are less likely to go looking for them in inappropriate places.
What can I give my dog as enrichment?
If you feed your dog from a regular bowl, lose it! Make your dog work for their meals in any number of ways. And this doesn’t have to be two meals a day, weigh out their allowance in the morning and split it into multiple small enrichment opportunities throughout the day.
When dogs sniff, lick and find food their brain releases happy and calming hormones. The more they practice each day the calmer they become over time. In fact dogs enjoy food searches so much that it is even more rewarding to them than actually eating the food!
Lick mats and Kongs are great to give when it is our mealtime as it keeps them busy and takes away the desire to beg for our food. Put them in the freezer filled with wet food, dog peanut butter or even mashed banana and they will last much longer!
Cardboard boxes and tubes filled with shredded paper and treats are great for dogs who enjoy destroying things around the house or who get frustrated easily as an outlet for their stress.
And for those that are super sniffers, scatter feeding and snuffle mats provide an outlet for scent tracking in the safety of your house and garden.
Fur or sheepskin chaser toys are a fantastic outlet for dogs with high prey drives or who grab at times when they become frustrated or excited. Click the link here and use code RACHAEL to receive a discount on a chaser toy.
Trick training is also great mental stimulation for dogs of all breeds and ages and is especially beneficial for dogs with low confidence levels as they get a little boost each time they learn a new trick.
To get started with an easy trick, use a treat to lure your dog round by making a large circle with your hand above their head, this is how you teach a spin!
And for adult dogs with particularly high energy levels agility and hydrotherapy sessions make a change from the same exercise each day.
Finally, never underestimate the power of play! Studies show that dogs who are played with each day have lower incidences of behavioural issues than those whose owners don’t regularly incorporate playtime into their daily routine. Tug, ball and even hide and seek are fantastic enrichment activities for humans and dogs alike.
Enrichment doesn’t have to fit a mould, get creative and use your imagination to unleash it’s countless benefits!