Your dog may love the snow, so you’ll have no trouble going on a long walk and getting all that energy out during cold wintry days. But for those of us with more fair-weathered pups, now’s the time to learn some easy indoor enrichment activities. It’s easier than you think. All of these can and should be done regularly too, not just when it’s yucky outside. Sad fact is that most dogs are not getting enough mental stimulation. Adding some of these things into your dog's daily routine with adequate exercise will help curb any behavioral problems caused by boredom and will just make your dog happier in general. Here’s five ideas to help that. Try one today:
FOOD PUZZLES AND BOWLS AND MATS OH MY: instead of feeding your dog out of a bowl, put all the kibble into a food ball or puzzle. Now let your dog work for it. This will provide some mental stimulation and a sense of accomplishment when done. It’ll also make it so it take closer to 30 minutes for your dog to eat rather than scarfing everything in three seconds.
HIDE FOOD: dogs love love love to use their noses. Not sure if you've noticed this as they sniff every square inch of your block on walks. By hiding treats around the house, whether you’re home or not, this gives them something to do and it's really fun for them. Start with something a bit easier to sniff out so they'll catch on to the game, and eventually you’ll be able to switch to kibble. They will love it and won’t mind you leaving as much if you’ve left surprises and things for them to do.
KONGS FILLED WITH STUFF, all sorts of delicious STUFF. Think of a dog chewing like you reading a book. And think of their snouts or muzzles kind of like hands. They like to explore things with them by nudging, touching and of course smelling. They also like to keep their muzzles busy. Imagine if you just had to sit around all day and not use your hands for anything. But instead, you could stare at the wall or sleep. Frustrating, right?? Chewing allows dogs to calm down, to focus on something, and to get mental stimulation. You should ENCOURAGE chewing, just make sure it’s the right things, like a Kong instead of your
TUG OF WAR. Yup, you heard me, tug of war. Some “trainers” surmise that tug of war teaches aggression and say if you must play it, then NEVER let your dog win because then your dog will thinkhe’s the boss. Um…FALSE. None of this has any scientific validity. Tug of war can be a great confidence builder and also is a great way for you to bond with your dog. IF you let your dog win once in a while, it’ll even be a positive confidence boost. Again, the important part is that you pick when you play and that your dog only tugs on appropriate things.
SHORT TRAINING SESSIONS. Commit to doing two or three 15-minute training sessions with your dog a day. It can be doing things your dog already knows, or teaching something new. The important part is to remain positive, make it FUN. Your dog should feel challenged, but not frustrated. When your dog starts to shut down because he/she doesn’t understand or is frustrated, it’s time to take a break. ALWAYS set your dog up for success. A good rule is to go back to something your dog knows and you know he/she can totally do 100% of the time if he/she fails three times in a row with something new. Do not get mad or frustrating with your dog if they aren't catching on right away. 15 minutes is usually plenty to get some positive enrichment without stressing or overwhelming your dog. Of course every dog is different, so the more sessions you have, the more you’ll realize his/her limits. You’ll find this positive interaction will strengthen your bond as well as your dog’s confidence.
Thanks for reading, we're ready to get enriched!