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I’ve talked about how we use enrichment in our daycare, to provide mental stimulation and how a balanced schedule of physical and mental exercise benefits the dogs’ emotional wellbeing. Enrichment activities are activities that are meaningful to the dogs, it gives them pleasure, it fulfills them.

You can also do this at home and feeding time is a great opportunity to insert some enrichment.

Why is this important? Dogs are intelligent animals and need challenges to keep them engaged and curious about the world. Food can be a great motivator and this is a great opportunity to insert enrichment activities that keep them mentally stimulated.

Enrichment can also provide physical stimulation for dogs, which can keep them healthy and active. You could use puzzle feeders or provide food in interactive toys that require physical activity to obtain the food. Or you can scatter feed.

Providing these kinds of activities and challenges can prevent boredom. Boredom can lead to destructive behavior in dogs, such as chewing and digging.

The opportunities are endless, there are so many ways you can change up enrichment. Some examples of what you can use are puzzle feeders. These are toys that require your dog to solve a puzzle to get the food, such as treat dispensing balls and maze feeders. Another great tool is a snuffle mat. This mat has strands of cloth that food or treats are hidden throughout. There are Kong toys that you can fill. You can also use items you find around your house, such as empty plastic bottles, empty cereal boxes or paper towel rolls. Or you can scatter food in an area for your dog to find.

If your dog is a picky eater or doesn’t seem that interested in food, turning feeding into a game can make food more interesting. You also might want to make food a more valuable resource for your dog by not leaving it out all day but only make it available during meal time.

As always, it is all about relationships. Spending time with your dog, engaging your dog, playing with your dog is what helps your dog be a well-balanced, happy and well behaved dog.

Dirk Broersma