As part of our Environmental Enrichment series, here is part 3 includes 15 tips on how to mentally stimulate your dog. Part 1 talks about how environmental enrichment can help reduce problems that contribute to dog aggression. Part 2 gives you an overview on how to incorporate environment enrichment into your dog’s life. In part 4, we will talk about the important of exercise and play.
Many of these suggestions involve food, since dogs would naturally spend a lot of time tracking down food in the wild (African wild dogs spend an average of 3 and a half hours a day hunting for food, and resting the rest of the time).
15 ideas for boredom busters for your dog
1. Let dogs try small amounts of new food.
2. For those dogs with no food or toy possession issues: use puzzle cubes and other toys that contain food such as:
a) Kongs, (rubber play toys that can be stuffed a a zillion different ways) Plus, fun for dogs to chase a thrown kong!
b) Buster cubes (deliver food as the dog rotates the cube),
c) Boomer balls (hard plastic ball the size of a basket ball or so that contains one or two holes at either end – used for zoo environmental enrichment – great for pit bulls!),
d) HomeAlone toys (Aussie Dog Toy) balls (dog pulls rope/bungee cord to release a small amount of food in the ball from above – expensive, but popular)
e) Inexpensive plastic bottles can be used – put some small amounts of food inside and see what they do!
f) Make sure you supervise, especially when using plastic bottles – some dogs will crunch these too easily!
3. Introduce your dog to new smells (novel food, spices, second hand shops or garage sales can be good for finding items with different smells)
4. Teach them tricks (if they are not experiencing chronic stress). In fact any kind of positive-based training can be very enriching for dogs.
5. Play 101 Things to do with a Box
6. Go for sniff walks – the aim here is not physical exercise, but the opportunity to explore the environment with their noses
7. Groom your dog with different brushes, or even other things like sponges, towels, clothes if they like it. Take care that it is a pleasant exprience
8. Play different and unusual sounds (look for recording of animal sounds, musical instruments, different human sounds!)
9. Give your dog ice cubes or other frozen things such as meat juice, fruit juice, frozen mini carrots, or marshmallows. You can even freeze toys or rope all the way or partially inside. great way to cool down in the summer!
10. Scatter kibble or tiny food cubes in the back yard for your dog to hunt down. Try leaving scent trails with food.
11. Get your dog a plastic wading pool and throw toys or food into that
12. Hide treats in different places (on shelves, under pillows, in pails, etc.)
13. Provide a sand pit for digging – hide food in it! Rake it too from time to time – dogs like “disturbed” soil to investigate – one reason they get into your garden!
14. Different kinds of bedding to lie on, nest or “dig” (blankets, paper, leaves, old clothes)
15. Hang an old tire from a tree and hide some food in it. Make sure it’s strong enough to hold your dog’s weight and supervise to make sure he or she doesn’t become tangled.
Use your imagination for more! Don’t forget: Tips to remember:
- Avoid anything that might frighten your dog or make them more anxious
- Stimulation should be something they want to interact with on some level
- Supervise for anything that could get damaged or tangled, etc.
- If your dog has generalized anxiety, and environmental enrichment results in an increase of stress hyper vigilance, talk to your veterinarian about this.
This article is from our upcoming book. If you would like to be notified when the book is out, use the form in the Contact Us section to let us know.