The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Canine Enrichment

canine enrichment

The term canine enrichment sounds a bit complicated, especially if you are new to dog owning but here at Ruffle Snuffle we are going to demystify it and give you some great ideas for enriching your dog’s life and environment.

Canine enrichment, what is it?

First, let’s get to the bottom of it: What exactly do we mean by ‘canine enrichment’

Canine enrichment is any activity your dog finds innately satisfying.  

Engaging in behaviours which are innate to canines, such as sniffing, fetching, digging, chewing and licking are incredibly satisfying for your dog. You can make your dog happier by providing lots of different opportunities for these activities.

So, as owners what can we do to provide mental stimulation for dogs to ensure they are as happy and healthy as possible. This is what we call canine enrichment.

The beginners guide to canine enrichment

We’re going to explain the 5 main categories of enrichment for dogs:

Physical Enrichment 

If your dog becomes to acclimatised to the physical environment and you don’t provide alterations to the environment, then your dog will become bored and that’s when unwanted behaviours can start to creep in. Add new features to your dog’s physical environment such as things like a dig-pit or a pop-up tunnel. Tug toys are also a great way for your dog to get physical stimulation. Who doesn’t love a game of tug-of-war? You will probably give up before your dog does.

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Cognitive Enrichment

Mental stimulation for dogs is as important as it is for humans to keep their brains healthy. Puzzle toys such as Treat Balls and our popular Challenger Cube are a great way to get your dog’s brain working on how to get to the treats. You could also play hide and seek with your dog or hide treats in different places around the room.

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Sensory Enrichment

Sensory enrichment is anything which stimulates one or more of the dog’s senses. It could include nosework games for dogs (training to track scents), any activity that encourages sniffing and licking or even using music/noises to stimulate your dog. Have you ever seen a dog jumping up to pop bubbles – so funny!

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Social Enrichment

Social enrichment includes anything where your dog will meet new people or other dogs, so includes trips to the park, beach, going into dog-friendly pubs or cafes, going to work with you or you could even take your dog to the pet shop. The change of location will stimulate your dog’s innate behaviours so you should expect lots of sniffing (which is a great way for a dog to burn calories by the way) and probably some pulling on the lead as your dog tries to explore the new environment. You could even create a doggie playgroup in your town with other compatible dogs and their owners so that all your furry friends can play together.

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Food Enrichment 

By hiding your dog’s food in your garden, in boxes, rolled up towels, toys or our best-selling Ruffle Snuffle mat, your dog can turn dinner time into play time which will enhance their mental stimulation. The mat can also be a great way to slow down your dog if they are a fast eater. Treats that encourage normal behaviour in dogs such as licking and chewing are also good for your dog’s physical and mental wellbeing. Be careful with bones though as cooked bones are not suitable for dogs – stick to large raw bones that your dog can lick and chew safely.

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Check out our list of 100 tricks to teach your dog which will provide plenty of mental and physical enrichment for you and your dog.

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