Have you ever heard of canine enrichment? If not, it’s time to get familiar with it. This has been a big topic in our house recently and here’s why we LOVE it.
Just like us humans, your pup needs a variety of activities to spice things up and keep them happy, healthy and stimulated. Walks are a great way to provide physical exercise for our pups but it’s important not to forget that they also need plenty of mental stimulation to exercise their brains.
So what is canine enrichment? According to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Indoor Pet Initiative, Enrichment is defined as anything that modifies an animal’s environment to encourage physical activity and mimic behaviors that animal would do in the wild to satisfy their physical and mental needs. Enrichment can improve your pups mental state by using different activities to challenge their brains and encourage them to problem solve and engage in their instinctive behaviours such as playing, smelling, chewing, licking and scavenging. Enrichment has also been shown to reduce stress in pets and even improve the human-canine bond by making them a more congenial companion. Great on those days that we know we won’t be able to provide them with the physical activity they need or for dogs on restricted activity.
Listed below are a few different enrichment techniques that we love to do with our own pup Juno.
Food Puzzles, Interactive feeders or Snuffle Mats
Hiding treats in a food puzzle, Interactive Feeder or Snuffle Mat is a great, interactive game that helps your pup problem solve, initiate the sniffing and foraging area of the brain and creates mental stimulation for your dog (great for dogs on restricted exercise). Our own pup Juno loves her food puzzle so much so that she will go and grab the puzzle out of her toy bin when she wants to play!
Don’t have a food puzzle or snuffle matt? Not to worry, you can create your own puzzle with a muffin tin and tennis balls. Here is how:
Grab your dogs favourite treats, a muffin tin and 12 tennis balls or toys that can be put into the muffin tin. Place treats in each of the muffin tins with the tennis ball over it. Set the muffin tin on the floor and let your dog check it out. If they need a little help, remove a tennis ball and show them there is a treat inside.
Stuffing Kongs or Toppls
This is probably one of our favourite things to do right now. It’s not only great stimulation for your pup, it can also help slow down those really fast eaters.
How to begin Enrichment Stuffing? You can start with your dog’s meal or spice it up by adding a range of different foods to keep it interesting. I like to stuff my toppl with some of Juno’s food and then freeze it, this not only is a great interactive toy, it also stops her from eating too fast. I then like to add some frozen treats like bone broth or goats milk and then finish it off with her favourite treats, our single-ingredient beef lung.
Our favourite toppl is from West Paw because its super durable, easy to clean and dishwasher safe. You can check it out here!
Lick mats are another great idea for your pup. Lick mats are great because it encourages the act of licking which releases pleasure endorphins in your dog’s brain. It is especially beneficial for dogs with anxiety as licking can help alleviates stress. These mats are made with textures and patterns to keep the food in place while your dog licks. Lick mats are also a great calming tool for nail trimmings and baths and can provide positive reinforcement during these times. You can get creative with your lick mat by mashing up some berries, creating a superfood vegetable pure or spreading peanut butter (be sure to use an all-natural that does not contain xylitol).
Have fun and be creative! Your dog will LOVE it!
Written by: Venessa Laudi, Cert.C.N.