Enrichment is defined as ‘something you add to your dog’s environment that they choose to interact with and that has a positive impact on their psychological or physical well being.’
Although this sounds complicated, enriching your dog’s life is actually really easy to do and just involves adding some simple but fun activities to your dogs day – it can be as easy as scattering your dog’s food on the floor instead of feeding them from a bowl!
Providing our dogs with adequate mental stimulation can be just as important as meeting their exercise needs and can help to prevent a wide range of problems that occur when our dogs become bored and under-stimulated, such as excessive barking, destructive behaviour and hyperactivity.
To provide the best possible activities for our dogs, to enrich your dog’s life, we need to look at the natural behaviours and activities they enjoy. This will vary from breed to breed and from dog to dog. For example, if you have a scent hound, providing some activities that involve sniffing are going to be really popular, whereas a border collie might prefer a puzzle type activity.
So what kind of activities do our dogs naturally enjoy? Here are a few examples of some natural behaviours that we can use to create enrichment activities.
We all know how much our dogs love to sniff – there’s always that one spot on a walk they just can’t tear themselves away from! Our dog’s sense of smell is their primary sense and they way that they explore the world around them. Their sense of smell is over 10,000 times better than ours – they have 2 chambers in their nose, one for passing air to the lungs and one entirely dedicated to smell. The part of their brain that processes all the information they receive from the olfactory receptors in their noses is 40 times larger than ours, so letting them sniff really does give their brain a workout!
Chewing is a natural behaviour for dogs that extends way beyond the dreaded puppy teething stage. Alongside being a great way to redirect chewing of items you’d rather they didn’t such as furniture or your favourite shoes, there are also some huge benefits to letting our dogs chew:
• It’s a stress-relieving activity creating a release of endorphins, leaving your dog feeling calm and relaxed
• It’s great for their oral health, helping to keep teeth and gums clean and healthy.
• It’s a great boredom buster