Environmental enrichment for dogs involves providing mental stimulation through physical and social activities. Anything that breaks up their boredom will have a positive impact on your dog and his or her behaviour and mental wellbeing. Environmental enrichment can even help reduce some behavioural issues, such as decreasing the incidence of anxiety, stress, aggression, timidness and compulsive & destructive behaviours (e.g. digging, barking and destruction of property).
All dogs need mental stimulation. An enriched environment allows for dogs to create their own positive experiences and interactions in a restricted space, resulting in both physical exercise and mental stimulation for your dog. Ensuring that our canine friends have an enriched environment encourages increased activity and decreased boredom.
Examples of things that can enrich your dog’s environment include:
Providing your dog with fun things to play with is one of the easiest ways to keep them entertained. Make sure to provide a variety of different toys for your dog and ensure to wash and rotate them regularly to keep them new and exciting. Give a couple toys at a time rather than all of them at once. Aim to have something they can chew, something that squeaks, something that dispenses food, something they can snuggle with and something they can tug.
Examples of toys that provide mental stimulation include treat-dispensing toys (e.g. Kong®), sandpits, shallow paddling pools, durable tug toys tied up in the yard and frozen treats for the warmer weather.
It may sound simple, but with everyone having busy lives, be sure to interact with your dog as much as possible. Just being around people and having positive interactions will enrich their environment as well. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Make sure to make time for playing with your dog, having pats and cuddles, as well as regular walks together.
Getting your dog out and about, interacting with new people and new smells will help cure any boredom. Take them on adventures out of the house, such as the beach, a bushwalk, dog-friendly parks, visiting friends or even on a pet friendly holiday. Even when out on regular walks together, don’t be afraid to change it up – walk at different times of the day, change the direction that you walk, find a different park to visit so that they can be exposed to new smells and sources of mental stimulation while you are out and about.
Organise obedience training sessions for you and your dog. Whether this is done at an obedience club, with a private trainer that comes to your home or sessions done with just you and your dog, they are a great way to mentally and physically enrich your dog’s day. Varying where the training is performed also helps provide enrichment as it decreases the chances of your dog predicting what is going to happen, keeping them entertained whilst further developing your trust and bond. Please take note that training sessions shouldn’t exceed a couple minutes at a time, particularly with young pups, who do not have the greatest attention span!
Organising doggy playdates for your dog with other pooches they have befriended can help create positive social behaviours for your dog as well enrich their environment. Playtime with other dogs in a safe, fun, controlled environment gives them the opportunity to experience mental, physical and environmental stimulation. Be sure to monitor playtime carefully and remove any dog that appears uncomfortable.