Dogs are very clever animals and like to use their brain or they can get bored. This is when you will see ‘bad behaviour’ as they start to make their own fun!
There are many easy ways to provide environmental enrichment for your dog and one of these is with food! Before dogs became domesticated they would have had to hunt and forage for their food, and most dogs still have a desire to do this and get a great deal of satisfaction from it.
For every meal try replacing one of the following for the normal bowl, or give some as an extra treat or when left home alone:
Kong – soak his dinner in a little water or mix with meat/tinned fish and shove inside! Try pushing treats inside to add interest, or smear the inside with cheese spread or peanut butter… the possibilities are endless!
Activity ball - place all your dogs’ dinner in the ball for your dog to knock out.
Cardboard box - wrap treats in an old towel or inside a toilet roll tube and close inside a box.
Plastic bottle - hide treats inside these but make sure the plastic ring and lid are removed.
Scatter feeding - throw your dogs dinner in the garden or over the kitchen floor for him to forage out.
Long lasting chews - like rawhides and pigs ears.
With all of the above, start off so the food is easy to get out and teach your dog how to use it so that he finds it interesting and worthwhile from the start.
Think about what your dog was originally bred to do, e.g. terriers were bred to hunt vermin, Labradors to retrieve etc, and therefore what sort of games they will like. Most dogs still possess the desire to perform the behaviours they were bred to do, even if they are just a family pet. Here are some ideas that your dog may enjoy:
Digging pit – turn over a bit of soil or place soil or sand in a special pit, encourage your dog over by placing treats just under the top layer. If you don’t have a garden try having a ball pool or collect some dry leaves and hide treats in here.
Paddling pool – great in the summer times if your dog likes water, also good for those who like digging.
Play hide and seek games – start easily and place treats in the same room for your dog to search out. Soon you will be able to hide things in a different room for him to find!
Scent games – make an object nice and smelly, let you dog sniff it then lay a trail for your dog to search out the item and return it to you.
Trick training - teach you dog basic commands like sit, down and paw and seeing how quickly it can do them in a row! Add fun new tricks to keep it interesting.
Fun for all
Dog training classes are a great way to get your dogs brain working. There are many different classes to try, including:
- Basic obedience
- Rally –O
Give you dog plenty of toys and chews to keep it occupied, rotate these regularly to keep them interesting, Try different forms of enrichment each week. But most of all, whatever you do, make it FUN!