How to keep your dog enriched and happy!

We all know that part of being a great dog owner means giving your pooch lots of love and attention, exercise and care but mental enrichment is just as important when it comes to owning a dog! Here we list the top dog enrichment ideas…

Keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated with enrichment!

Dogs need to be entertained and mentally stimulated or they can grow bored and start to play up. Boredom can also manifest itself in destructive behaviour or separation anxiety, particularly if you are out of the house for long periods of time.

Games, toys and fun activities you can make yourself are fantastic for enrichment and keeping your dog happy and mentally healthy at home, but dogs also need social and cognitive enrichment too, to stay happy and healthy!

What is enrichment?

Enrichment is basically anything that engages a dog’s senses fully. It’s sound, activity, scent and taste. Enrichment challenges your dog’s brain which in turn relieves stress and boredom.

Enriched dogs = happy dogs!

Training can also be enrichment as can walks, exercise and play. Even eating is enriching for dogs. So, think outside the box when it comes to stimulating your dog, there are things you can do every day to keep your pup enriched and engaged!

At Bark & Birch our philosophy is that mental stimulation is equally important for our dogs as physical stimulation. We believe that a dog should be worked for everything it wants; food, praise and toys.  By making a dog earn its reward for a certain action (in a fun way) the bond between you and your dog will be much stronger and both can lead to a happier and healthier life together.

Social Enrichment

Socialisation and play is so important for your dog.

Social enrichment is so important for dogs. This can be as simple as arranging play dates with other pups so your dogs can socialise and let off steam.

Try to shake up your dog’s routine too. A drop in from a friend or family member or dog walker can mix things up and provide stimulation and enjoyment which will add to positive behavioural traits. Dogs are sociable, so different people, places and activities will increase their happiness hugely.

If your dog gets bored and lonely throughout the day it is definitely worth considering doggy daycare.

At doggy daycare there will be plenty for your faithful companion to do from woodland walks to field runs, interactive play with trainers through to toy play, interactive treat finding, and more! It’ll be your dog’s idea of heaven- trust us!

With our daycare at Bark & Birch, we are conscious of the different needs that different breeds have – we know that the exercise needs of a working cocker spaniel are likely to be much greater than that of a chihuahua or other toy breeds. So your dog will have the option of resting when they want, or, tearing up the fields and adventure walks if they’re full of energy and raring to go.

Other than lots of play, at Bark & Birch, we offer dog walking, interactive tasks and stimulating environments so your dog has plenty of enrichment.

Cognitive Enrichment

Dogs need opportunities for thinking and problem solving to stay mentally challenged, stress free and stimulated in the right way! Below are some ideas for enrichment games you can create at home with your pup.

Puzzle Feeders and Enrichment Toys

Cognitive enrichment is so important for our dogs!

*Remember,  if you do decide to make your own toys and games or use toys you have purchased, double-check that they are safe for your dog to use and play with and always supervise their use!

If your dog is anything like a regular dog they will wolf their food down in record time! Why not try creating your own puzzle feeding by cutting holes in a box and putting their food in there or peanut butter or treats for some mental stimulation. This is a quick way of stimulating their minds and keeping them challenged and occupied. We just can’t guarantee they’ll figure out the puzzle super quickly and be snaffling all the treats!

Try cutting up an old box or stuffing high value treats in toilet rolls! Most things you already have in the house can be used to enrich and challenge your dog.

Rolled up yoga mats or towels with treats inside!

Downward dog- roll up treats in your yoga mat for a mentally stimulating game for your dog!

This is a great quick and easy game for your dog, that you can incorporate into your morning routine, when you have finished your yoga session or workout of course. sprinkle some high value treats in your yoga mat then roll it up and watch your pup have all the fun in the world!

Make your own lick mats/snuffle mats

Licking and sniffing is incredibly beneficial for your dog!

Why not put some peanut butter ( Xylitol free) in an ice cube tray then freeze or do the same on a chopping board with peanut butter or cream cheese, freeze and then voila! You can also create snuffle mats by hiding treats in an old bath mat or box filled with tissue paper or toilet rolls. Think of it like a mental treat maze for your pup. It also gets them using their noses which is so beneficial and can stimulate and calm then hugely. Sniffing is a known stress reliever for dogs.

Hide and seek

You may play this with your kids but don’t forget how much your dog loves this game too- inside or outside. Ask your dog to stay or wait then run and hide and call your dog to you! This game is also great for recall as well as cognitive enrichment. Have the treats on hand when your dog finds you of course!

Physical Enrichment

physical enrichment will keep your dog engaged and happy!

A bury/dig pit

Dogs love using their noses and seeking things out, so  hiding things in an empty paddling pool or kiddie pool will provide hours of fun! If you have access to an outdoor space, why not fill the pool with sand, or balls or hide toys for your dog to dig and find. Dogs love to seek and find and they will thank you for such a fun game!

Pop up tunnels

These are used in agility classes for dogs and are a fun way of letting off steam! Plus the videos you can get of your pups zooming in and out will keep you smiling for hours on end!

Sensory enrichment

Bubbles are great fun for dogs!

Bubble fun!

Dogs loved to be stimulated with textures and different smells! Did you know that dogs love playing with bubbles? You can even get different flavour ones! Playing with bubbles encourages dogs to use their brains and have fun at the same time! Make sure the bubbles aren’t toxic and are pet friendly of course.

Feeding Enrichment

Enrichment for your dog can be as simple as hand feeding your dog their dinner or hiding bits of food around the house for a game of sniff and find! Don’t underestimate how even the most simple activities can be hugely physically and mentally rewarding for your dog!

Puppy Enrichment

Enrichment is so great for puppies as it exposes them and teaches them about new smells, sights and sounds which can help their little brains develop!

Learning about problem-solving and using their brains with enrichment tasks and puzzles means they will grow into happy, stimulated and stress-free dogs. The skills they learn as pups will help their development on so many levels! Try to keep things slow at first so your young pup doesn’t get frustrated and destructive. Try making an activity course inside or in the garden and create mini adventure courses like your very own puppy agility class- fun for both of you!

Enrichment helps shelter dogs get adopted!

Did you know that enrichment is used in shelters to help the dogs stay happy and mentally stimulated! This can help them to get adopted in the future as they become relaxed and happier, ready for their new forever homes.

Remember, that enrichment should be tailored to each individual dog’s preferences, needs, and abilities. Senior dogs have different needs and physical abilities than adolescent dogs, and puppies need different things than adult dogs. Consult a trainer if you need tips and advice.

For information on our training and day care please visit our website

Want more information on Dog Enrichment?

If you would like more information and advice on dog training and enrichment contact us to discuss your dog's needs. We offer Basic Obedience Residential Courses, where your dog boards and trains with one of our expert trainers, one to one sessions in your home or doggy daycare, where your dog can socialise with other pups! Book a call today with Bark & Birch for a happier, healthier dog!
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