How to create fun enrichment activities for your busy dog or pup!

Some puppies (and dogs) never seem to run out of energy! Attempts to calm them sometimes have the opposite effect. Even after exercise, they are ready to get up and go quickly again.

Enrichment activities can help dogs (of any age) calm down as they pursue natural behaviors and solve problems and challenges.

Sniffing, chewing, playing, cognitive exercises, and exploring natural areas can be enriching for dogs.

Today we will talk about sniffing and chewing exercises.

Ensure that the dog has the skills to match the challenge, so the dog is not frustrated or overwhelmed. For example, give a puppy the appropriate size food toy filled with room-temperature food that the dog likes rather than a toy full of frozen food initially.

The following are some fun activities that dogs like. If you check out the attached video, you'll see some puppies enjoying these activities. The pups are increasing their confidence; learning to problem solve; tiring themselves out and keeping themselves occupied.

  1. Fill a child's wading pool full of empty plastic bottles (no water). Put treats underneath those bottles to encourage dogs to get into the paddling pond to find the treats. Puppies learn to explore different surfaces and push the bottles aside to find the treats.

  2. Use clean cardboard boxes (so no boxes with chemicals or food like pizza in them). Spread between 9 and 11 boxes out either inside or outside. If your pup is nervous, you could use a flat piece of cardboard or a box lid and put a treat on that. I used to words "go hunt" and encourage the dog to search through the boxes or explore the tops to find the treats.

  3. Stuff a Kong or similar food dispensing toy with something the dog loves and give the dog the Kong. As the dog gets more proficient at getting the food or treats out of the toys, you can freeze the stuffing of the kong into the kong and make it last that bit longer. For an inexpensive food dispensing toy, I use a PVC pipe with a cap at each end and drill suitable size holes in it. Clean it well and put kibble or treats inside. You now have something inexpensive that'll go through the dishwasher and will keep a dog entertained for quite a while.

  4. Buy some food puzzles where the dog has to move layers away or pull out pieces and reveal the treats or food underneath. For an inexpensive alternative, you could also put treats in each section of a muffin tin and then put a tennis ball in each mold. The dog has to move the tennis ball to get the snack.

  5. Buy or make a 'snuffle mat" (they look like little shag carpets) and stuff treats at the bottom of the piling. The dog has to search through the pile for a treat. Check out this post on instructions for making a snuffle mat.

Check out the attached video on how to provide sniffing and chew enrichment for your dog.

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