Dogs are very clever animals and like to use their brain or they can get bored. Bored dogs often engage in problem behaviours that are less desirable 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.
Activity toys are great for when your dog is left home alone and also useful for when your dog needs some time out or a chance to calm down if he is over-excited. The process of playing and thinking about activity toys will help to tire your dog out.
For every meal try replacing their normal bowl with one of the following. These can also be given as an extra treat.
Kong – to stuff a Kong, place something really tasty like dried liver, ham, or cheese into the hole at the top and fill the cavity with your dog’s daily dried food that’s been soaked in water. Leave a titbit out of the opening to provide an immediate pay off and entice your dog to get stuck in.
It is important for dogs to succeed at their work so make it easy to remove the stuffing at first. As they become more experienced, make it more challenging by packing them tighter or freezing them.
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. Your dog will love finding the treats!
Plastic bottle - hide treats inside these but make sure the plastic ring and lid are removed. This is best given to your dog when supervised, just in case they decide to chew the plastic.
Scatter feeding - throw your dogs dinner in the garden or over the kitchen floor for him to forage out.
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.
Long lasting chews - like antlers and pigs ears.
Think about what your dog was originally bred to do, for example terriers were bred to hunt vermin and Labradors to retrieve. Knowing this information will help you when thinking about the types of games they might like to play. 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 – 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 if you fill it with ball pool balls.
Play hide and seek games – start easily and place treats in the same room for your dog to search out. Once he gets the idea of the game you will then 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 by dragging it along the ground so your dog can search it out 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.
Dog Training Classes
Dog training classes are a great way to get your dog’s brain working. There are many different classes to try, including:
- Basic obedience
- Rally – O
Give your dog plenty of toys and chews to help keep it occupied, rotate these regularly to keep them interesting and try different forms of enrichment each week. Most of all, whatever you do, make it FUN!