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Many dogs LOVE their chow, and making them work for it in fun ways is a great way to enrich their lives. But not all pups are all that interested. And it’s also not wise to be filling our doggos’ days with constant snacks. So to keep those waistlines healthy and those brains happy, here is a list of 5 paw-some enrichment ideas for dogs without food.
But first…why dog enrichment?
You might have heard the term enrichment mentioned heaps in the dog world. But what does it actually mean? How much enrichment do dogs need? And how can we provide it for them?
Enrichment is defined as the act of improving the quality of something, often by addition. In the context of dogs, this means improving their lives by adding positive experiences and natural behaviors to their daily life.
In practice, this means allowing them to engage in innate behaviors they have a strong drive to do, as well as providing stimulating tasks or experiences for them to enjoy.
This can mean facilitating things like:
To live a fulfilled, happy & harmonious life as part of our human families, dogs need to be enriched. They aren’t human, as much as they might seem human sometimes, and so watching TV all day probably won’t cut the mustard.
Even if you have the laziest couch potato pup in the world, It’s important to understand that all dogs need time to be dogs.
It’s also worth noting that often many undesirable behaviors we see in our dogs stem from a lack of appropriate mental or physical stimulation. And with good reason - nobody wants to be bored all day right?
While each dog is an individual case, the first response for most behavioral issues is to assess whether your dog is receiving enough daily enrichment.
All dogs will benefit from enrichment added to their daily routine, but to work out exactly how much your pup needs it’s best to observe them during the day.
In general, a content dog will be happy to laze around and enjoy their downtime. Whereas if you find your dog is whining, pacing, or generally disrupting your quiet time - they may be understimulated.
However - don’t be fooled into thinking your dog needs constant attention. You may be surprised to hear that sleep is as important, if not more important, than activity. Dogs’ sleep cycles are so different from ours - studies have found they move in and out of deep REM sleep around every 20 mins. This means they need a longer time to get deeply rested.
Around 50% of a dog’s day needs to be for sleep, 30% lazing around and the other 20% should be filled with activity. That means roughly around 4 hours of active time a day - walking, training, and enrichment activities.
Factor into this your dog’s breed and age, understanding that for a border collie the activity % here should be higher for sure, while a senior canine would want much more % devoted to sleep.
If your dog seems to haveendless needs for enrichment, try working on somecalmness protocol andcapturing calmness exercises with them. Finding their off switch is just as important as enriching their waking hours.
Now we know exactly what canine enrichment means, and how much we should be providing for our dogs, let’s look at 5 dog enrichment ideas without food to try with your pup!
Did you know that your dog has300 million olfactory receptors in their nose? That’s compared to about six million in us humans. Did you also know that the part of a dog's brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is about40 times greater than ours?
So using their nose is a fantastic way to add some dog mental stimulation exercises into your day.
You could simply take them to a brand new walking area, maybe into the city with you for chores, or to a brand new park, and allow them to explore at their own pace. Make sniffing the main activity here - so don’t expect to get anywhere fast. You could even take a blanket or a book with you and allow them to explore the scents while you soak up some sun.
Other fun nose work games can include hiding a new or favorite toy and encouraging your dog to find it, or teaching them to find household objects for you like keys. Handy, as well as enriching!
Ripping, tearing, shredding - these are all-natural dog behaviors. Especially in young puppies, ripping and chewing are some of the top items on their daily to-do list…
So divert that energy towards a healthy outlet with a cardboard challenge for them to enjoy. Store your empty parcels for a week, and then combine them into each other in intricate ways to create a stimulating structure for your dog to explore and destroy.
For extra excitement, you could add bunched-up packing paper or a new toy in the center as a final reward!
3. Get Flirty
All breeds have their own quirks and motivations. As sheepdogs love to herd & guard dogs like to patrol - many sighthounds love to chase.
Lots of dogs love to chase, but some seem to be born with a super high prey drive. You’ll know if your dog has a high prey drive if they seem to focus on nothing but squirrels and birds while you're out and about.
So to engage their senses and activate their instincts, invest in a flirt pole. These amazing toys are specifically designed to move enticingly, tiring out your dog in as little as 10 minutes. Having a high drive toy like this really helps to train a strong 'drop’ command too!
Just be sure to warm up your dog first, and keep sessions short and easy for young dogs who are still growing, to avoid any injuries.
4. Pool Party
Socializing and swimming - two fantastic ways to keep your dog entertained. In fact, swimming is one of the best activities to build strong muscles, without impacting your dog's joints. While socializing with other canine friends is some ofthe best mental exercises for dogs.
Why not host a pool party play date? You could invest in a small portable pool with low sides, or meet up at a safe local river, and let the pooches enjoy the cool refreshment in between play sessions.
Just be sure to read up about behavioral cues and intervene if you see any doggos in need of a break, especially if you have a rambunctious youngster on your hands.
5. Hide & Seek
If you have a dog that laps up attention, then this game is a great training & bonding exercise. Simply hide somewhere in your house or yard, while someone holds your dog or they are in a stay so they can see where you have gone. Then call your dog and allow them to find you. Once they do get low and use a silly voice, rewarding them with a ton of praise.
Rinse and repeat, only now make things harder by having your dog wait out of sight. Up the difficulty too, hiding in closets or behind doors.
Not only do they have to use all their senses to find you, but it’s a fantastic recall game to work on too. Young puppies will usually excel at this, and it can help them build a strong foundation for returning to you when they hear their name.
There you have it! A breakdown of dog enrichment ideas without food. Great ways to mentally stimulate and physically exercise your dog without adding to their waistline.
What are your best enrichment ideas for dogs without food? Are you excited to start using these 5 tips? Let us see your enrichment activities by tagging us @pottybuddy.co on Instagram.
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