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Types Of Dog Enrichment And Why It’s Important

When snuggling up on the couch with your dog or rubbing their belly as they fall to sleep, it can be easy to forget that, at their core, dogs are animals. With this in mind, while dogs may be incredibly loving, loyal and kind, they have also retained their animal instincts.

When these instincts aren’t being effectively utilised, dogs act out. They may spend hours barking at seemingly nothing. Some dogs may decide to chew their way through items in your closet. Others may become aggressive or closed off.

As dogs are incredibly loving creatures, no owner wants to see their dog engage in destructive behaviour. Making time for enrichment activities can work wonders. Mentally and physically stimulating your pooch and exponentially improving their wellbeing.

Defining enrichment

Bringing a dog home is a wonderful experience. However, what many people forget to tell you is the importance of enrichment to your dog’s overall health and well-being. With this in mind, a great place to start is by understanding the term itself.

Enrichment is an all-encompassing term. This is because enrichment is focused on providing your dog with activities that can engage them mentally and physically. By utilising both their brain, body and senses, dogs are less likely to experience boredom.

Benefits of enrichment

Providing your dog with access to a variety of enrichment activities is extremely beneficial. In fact, enrichment is known to prevent boredom which may result in behavioural issues. These issues could range from destructive behaviour to attention-seeking behaviour.

Another benefit of enrichment is the fact that it not only stimulates but also assists in brain growth. This is vital for developing puppies and also older dogs looking to keep their minds sharp.

By improving problem-solving skills, enrichment also helps to build your dog’s confidence and social skills. This results in a happy dog that is playful and yet respectful of other dogs’ boundaries.

Finally, there is a link between dogs lacking stimulation and experiencing depression. By embracing enrichment activities, you can help your dog harness their natural instincts. All of which help them feel happy and content.

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6 types of enrichment + activity ideas

As enrichment helps stimulate both the mental and physical parts of the body, there are in fact six different types of enrichment. While it may seem overwhelming, implementing enrichment activities into your dog’s day-to-day life is actually quite simple.

1. Social enrichment

The first type of enrichment is social enrichment. This is incredibly important as most dogs are highly social animals. They love to be around people and they love to walk up to different dogs on the street.

By making time for your dog to be social, you can indulge this natural instinct. Therefore, social enrichment activities are as simple as taking your dog to a dog park or maybe even a doggy play group. Human social interaction is also important so consider inviting friends over.

2. Nutritional / Feeding enrichment

It’s within a dog’s nature to want to hunt for its food. To allow your dog to express this natural behaviour, consider using puzzle feeders for mealtime or hiding snacks around the house.

3. Physical / Environmental enrichment

It’s important to note that physical enrichment is not just about exercise. In fact, it’s about enhancing your dog’s living space in order to keep the environment new and interesting for your furry friend.

Examples of activities might include setting up an obstacle course in the backyard. Physical or environmental enrichment can also extend outside your house. With this in mind, change your dog’s walking route so they can experience new sights, sounds and smells.

4. Cognitive enrichment

Cognitive enrichment involves activities that encourage dogs to problem solve or make decisions on the run. This could mean hiding toys under upturned washing baskets or sitting down with your dog and teaching them new drills or tricks.

5. Sensory enrichment

Sensory enrichment should be focused on stimulating your dog’s senses, ranging from sight and sound to taste, touch and smell. Dogs naturally possess these instincts and should be encouraged to use them to expand their mind.

Activities relating to sensory enrichment can range from encouraging digging in a sand pit to blowing non-toxic bubbles for your dog to burst. Sensory enrichment can also be achieved on walks by letting your dog sniff patches of grass.

6. Toy enrichment

Dogs love to use their paws and their mouth. Providing opportunities for toy enrichment can help your dog engage in activities that they love. Consider using chew toys or kong toys filled with peanut butter. Just remember, treats add up and can cause your dog to gain weight.

Providing your dog with enrichment

Dogs provide their owners with love and companionship. As humans, we try to do everything we can to repay the favour. One factor we may be overlooking is enrichment. By providing dogs with opportunities to play, explore and forage, we can ensure their total wellbeing.

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