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I have been talking a lot about enrichment in our newsletters. That is because I am so excited about the program and the effect it has on the dogs. At A Walk in the Park, we believe in providing more than just care; we aim to offer a fulfilling and enjoyable experience for all the dogs. Enrichment gives dogs the opportunity to engage in natural behaviors, which improves their physical, mental and emotional health. We recognize 5 types of enrichment, all of which have specific benefits for the dogs:

Mental Stimulation: To get dogs to focus and get them in a calmer mindset, we have puzzle toys where the dogs try to get treats or toys hidden in interactive puzzles, enhancing their problem solving skills. We play Hide and Seek, where dogs try to find hidden treats, toys, or people, stimulating their natural scavenging instincts. We play Brain Games: little training sessions where dogs learn new tricks or cues, keeping their minds sharp and teaching them focus. We use scent trails to let the dogs use their powerful olfactory senses, which helps reduce stress. We also use food dispensing toys, like Kongs and licky mats that challenge dogs to work for their food, preventing boredom and playing into natural foraging instincts.

Physical Exercise: to keep the dogs active, we set up agility courses, which helps with improving the dogs‘ coordination and fitness, while having a blast! We play Fetch and Retrieval Games, which helps strengthen muscles, promote vascular health, and creates bonds with our team. We play Tug-O-War, it provides an outlet for natural behaviors and builds muscle strength. We also let the dogs play with the giant horse ball: again, this improves agility and coordination as they interact with the ball.

Sensory Enrichment: we let the dogs play with sound emitting toys, like our piano mat, or let them listen to calming music and sounds to help reduce arousal and anxiety. We let the dogs explore different textures, like bubble wrap, sand, different mats, like yoga mats, all with different textures for sensory exploration. We use scent trails, using the smell of food, animal smells or dog safe essential oils to stimulate their mental faculties and provide a fun challenge. We provide some grooming and massage: gentle touch and brushing that enhances relaxation and bonding. And we create novel environments with different lights, bubble machines, sprinklers, moving items like pin wheels, or mirrors, to create a new and exciting environments to explore.

Social Interaction: dogs are social creatures and they love to interact with other dogs and people. We provide Group Play Sessions where we encourage healthy play behavior and where we learn about each dog’s play style. Our Brain Games again provide interaction with our team members and fosters companionship and trust. And simply petting the dogs and paying attention to them strengthens the human-dog bond and provides comfort.

Problem Solving and Learning: activities that stimulate focus and problem solving, help the dogs get in a calm state of mind. It is when they are using the front part of their brain. When they are in this state of mind, anxiety and arousal goes down, dogs learn better and are more comfortable. Different activities and items we use are the interactive feeder puzzlers, like Kongs, lickie mats, or simply rolled up towels with food inside or slow feeder bowls. Basic Obedience Training, where we use positive reinforcement techniques , enhances communication and mental engagement. Trick Training is a fun activity both for the dogs and our team members. It keeps the dogs mentally active and proud of their achievements. A Treasure Hunt plays into the dogs’ natural instincts by searching for hidden treats or toys and hones their problem-solving abilities.

Enrichment activities not only bring joy and excitement to your dog's life but also improve their overall well-being. At A Walk in the Park, we take enormous pride in providing a variety of enriching experiences that cater to each dog's unique needs. We look forward to continuing this journey of health, happiness, and companionship with your beloved dogs.

If you have any questions about our enrichment programs or would like to learn more about our services, please don't hesitate to reach out. We wish you and your furry friends an enriching and vibrant fall season!

Dirk Broersma and the team at A Walk in the Park

Dirk Broersma
https://awalkintheparkoftoledo.com