Enrichment; what is it & how to achieve it

Enrichment is a word that is being thrown around a bit lately so what does it mean? Simply put, enrichment is to improve or enhance the quality and/or value of something. So what does enrichment look like to a dog’s life? To provide enrichment for a dog is to improve their quality of life, to improve both their physical and mental health, make their lives better, happier, just to give them more. Whether that “more” is interaction, entertainment, experiences, or love, it is about making their lives better and more fulfilled. 

Simple right? But the question is how? How can we enrich the lives of our dog’s? What can we do to provide them with a life that is full and rewarding both physically and mentally? Here are some top tips on how to enrich your dog’s life;

The number one tip for providing enrichment for your dog is to think like a dog! Think about their natural instincts. What would they have done in the wild when it comes to food, exercise, play and socialising. 

Dinner served differently in a slow feed bowl.

Food is an essential part of life, you have to feed your dog so why not make it interesting and provide them with some mental enrichment and stimulation. No matter what type of diet your dog is on you can make meal time a more enriching experience. Dog’s were born to hunt and sniff out their food, it wasn’t meant to all appear in front of them in a bowl, so keep this in mind at feed time. There are a number of options for feed time enrichment including different bowls or mats that you can put their food on or simply spread their food around the yard or house so they have to sniff it out. Slow feed bowls and snuffle mats have obstacles in the way that the dog has to work around to get their food. Puzzle and treat toys are really good for making the dog use different techniques to get to the food plus you can place them in different places around the house and yard for your dog to find. 

Appropriate bones are another great option for dogs, not only are they great for teeth but dog’s have to think of different ways to pull and tear the meat of the bones and then moving the bone around to bite and crunch at it, just like if they were eating an animal they had caught. There are a number of dehydrated treats like whole fish and different body bits that are not only nutritious but more closely resemble the foods that dog’s wild ancestors would have been eating. 

Exercising your dog is important for both their physical and mental health and development. Taking your dog for walks is a simple and easy exercise option and you can make it a much more rewarding experience for your dog by doing a few simple things. Let them stop and sniff things or follow a scent seeing where it takes them and let them pee on everything (within reason). Yes it might mean the walk takes a bit longer but these are natural behaviours for a dog, it stimulates their mind and senses, it lets them be a dog! Change the walking route that you take and even the time of day that you walk them, enabling them to have different experiences and keeping it interesting. Take them to interesting places for a walk, like bush walking, parks and beaches. 

Play time is really important for a dog. It is a time where they can bond with you, other people and other dogs. There are a lot of toys available for dog’s so you are sure to find something that suits your dog’s needs. Toys for tug-o-war and fetch are always popular as are treat and puzzle toys which are great for boredom relief and mental stimulation. Also think about what you can use as a toy around the house like hiding treats in a rolled up towel or in a pile of washing making them hunt for them. Rotate their toys around so that they aren’t seeing the same thing everyday and becoming bored with it. Training your dog is also a form of play for them. Teaching them basic commands is mentally stimulating for your dog and using treat rewards makes it fun for them.

Socialising with other dog’s is really important for their mental and social development. Interacting with other dog’s teaches dog’s that they are dogs, not people. They can learn a lot from each other and refine some natural skills like sniffing, hunting and chasing, all of which are important for their mental stimulation. Playing together with other dog’s teaches them socialisation skills and about their place in a pack and where they fit in. 

So basically enrichment is all about making your dog’s life better and more fulfilled which ultimately should make them happier and even healthier. Enrichment is a great thing because after all we all just want our dogs to be happy! 

Until next time,

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Author: Bec

From a very young age Bec has always had a great love and appreciation for all animals. Bec is a qualified Veterinary Nurse and also has a Bachelor in Applied Science Animal Studies with special interest in Wildlife and Recreational Animals. Her studies have been put to good use working in various animal industries including small and large animal veterinary clinics, horse studs and the family cattle property. Horses have played an important part in her life, living on a horse stud and caring for horses throughout breeding, foaling, spelling, racing and retirement. Bec is the proud mum of two gorgeous girls, a beautiful Cocker Spaniel, a cheeky cockatiel, chickens and many horses including a naughty little pony.