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Enriching Your Dog’s Environment

Do you ever look at your dog and think “Have you even moved today?” While they might seem content to just lounge around on the couch or their bed all day it is important to remember that we do need to stimulate our pets daily in order to keep them healthy and well behaved.

Lack of stimulation can cause or exacerbate a number of behavior problems including hyperactivity, destructive chewing, lick dermatitis and many other undesirable behaviors.

So how do you engage your pet? Here are several tips and tricks to allow your canine friend to stretch that brain and burn some energy at the same time.

  1. Feed your dog all of his meals from a food toy like a Buster Cube or Roll-A-Treat ball. This changes a 5 minute meal to an activity that could last closer to an hour. Puzzle toys are great too; they allow your pet to think about how to get that treat or food out of it which will mentally stimulate them.enrichment toys
  2. Try to wear your dog out by getting it outside. Take them for a drive in the car or a fun walk or run. Make their outdoor environment exciting- hang rope or inner tubes from a branch or other item in the yard for the dog to play tug with. Give the dog old water bottles or milk jugs.
  3. You can increase the dog’s interest by putting food items inside. Some dogs will play with old tires either loose on the ground or hanging from ropes. Scatter food out in the grass in the yard to make the dog search for each piece.
  4. Training sessions and other dog sport activities (fly ball, agility, tracking, Frisbee, etc.) are also forms of enrichment.
  5. Schedule doggie play dates. There is nothing like off-leash dog play to wear a dog flat out. Be careful about taking your dog to dog parks. It is much safer to simply schedule play dates with friendly dogs.
  6. Change out your dog’s toys every few days; keep the old ones out of sight for at least 5 days before reintroducing them. Try to buy many different types of toys and determine which type your dog likes best. Be sure your dog has both toys (e.g. squeakies, rope toys, stuffed animals, rubber toys, balls) and chewing items (Nylabone, Galileo bones, rawhide bones). These two types of toys serve different purposes.
  7. Stuff Kong toys full of various food items (or the dog’s meal) and freeze them overnight before giving them to the dog. Check out the recipes on Kong’s website-
  8. Make them use their hunting abilities and hide food inside the house or use novel scents like spices or synthetic animal scents.

The bottom line is to be creative and have fun and get them thinking and moving!