To be happy and healthy, dogs need mental enrichment and socialization as much as physical exercise. Enrichment activities build dogs’ confidence and strengthen their bond with you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Serve meals in food puzzles. Feed your dog her meals in Kongs (check out recipes online) or snuffle mats or in other food puzzles (Tug-a-Jug, Atomic Treat Ball, Buster Cube, etc). Or hide her food around the house so she has to hunt to find it. Dogs love this so much.
- Make your own food puzzle using empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls. Just put some kibble or treats inside and crimp the edges. Or put some smelly food in a cardboard box and close it up. Or cut up a blanket, put it into a cardboard box and hide treats among the folds.
- Other dog toys: ropes, balls, chuck-its, stuffed animals, or make your own: empty plastic gallon jugs, small plastic bottles inside a sock, old t-shirts cut up and braided into tug toys, etc. (Not all toys are safe for all dogs, i.e., soft toys are not for dogs that swallow stuffing)
- Hollee Rollers are great for dogs who like to shred stuffed animals. Just cut a fleece blanket into strips and stuff them inside, along with a few treats, so the dog can pull them out.
- Buster Activity Mats have a variety of fabric puzzles snapped to a durable mat. They can be ordered online and are great fun for both people and dogs.
- Snuffle Mats are an interactive dog toy, enrichment activity, boredom buster, food puzzle, and slow feeder, and they tire out dogs as much as physical play. Make your own, or if you’re not the DIY type, order from www.BestDogOnTheBlock.etsy.com.
- Beef marrow bones Give the bones to your dog while they’re still frozen. Save the empty bones and smear peanut butter or cream cheese inside. (We like Dogs Gone Wild Raw Meaty Bones but any raw marrow bones will work, including those from a grocery store.)
- Other long-lasting dog chews Antlers (store them in bag of kibble or dog treats to make them smell more appealing), Sherpa cheese (available at pet stores, the hardest cheese you will ever find; dogs love it), and bully sticks (come in wide variety of sizes and lengths).
- Play games like Hide and Seek, Box Game and Find It. Great fun for you both.
- Flirt poles are a good way to teach your dog impulse control as well as “drop it!” and “leave it!”. They also make it easy for you to tire out your dog from the comfort of your couch. You can make your own. Or if you’re not the DIY type, Eileen makes them and sells them.
- Blow bubbles. You can buy chicken-flavored bubbles that you blow just like kids’ bubbles. Dogs like to chase them and pop them as much as kids do.
- Agility: You can get a mini agility kit from Outward Hound and set it up in your living room or back yard.
For more information, reach out to Eileen!