I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s always a delight to watch my dogs just do their dog things and be dogs. One of my dogs is a big fan of water & swimming, digging, and rolling in dirt and mud. Ha! The smile on his face when he gets to do these things is worth the mess I clean up later.
Providing safe opportunities for my dogs to just be a dog is at the heart of my own enrichment plans. My dogs are happy and easy to live with most days, and I am certain the enrichment they get every day has a lot to do with that.
Don’t let the word ‘plan’ make you think that this needs to be a big production. It doesn’t have to be! Let’s start with a list of needs to consider along with some examples of enrichment activities:
Physical – jogging, chasing, fetching, agility
Mental – food puzzle, training, hide-and seek, sniff walk, snuffle mat
Social & Play – Tug, playing with another dog, meeting new people, hide-and-seek, time with a dog walker
Calming – massage, music composed for dogs, quiet time with a Kong or Lickimat
Instinctual – digging in a box, ripping up paper, foraging, chewing
Agency – choose the walking route, off leash time (keeping safety in mind), walks on a long line
Now that we have some needs in mind that need to met, let’s make a plan:
As you can see from this sample enrichment plan, which reflects some of the activities I do with my own dogs every day, you are probably already doing things that fit into a more complete plan!
If you’re ready to kick it up a notch, start small. Watch your dog and see what they like to do the most. Add in a game here, an activity there, and before you know it, you’ve got a truly stellar enrichment plan! Your dog will thank you with smiles, wags, and I would bet you a bag of bullysticks, better behavior overall.
Here’s two easy activities that take no time to put together: Digging in a box and destroying paper bags (they each had one little treat in them for interest!). And for the water-loving dogs, a relaxing soak in the tub (my dog asks for this by sitting in the tub and waiting for me to come turn on the water).
If you need ideas, I highly recommend the book Canine Enrichment for the Real World, by Allie Bender and Emily Strong. And of course, I’m always happy to help! Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org