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  • Writer's pictureToby

Enrichment is not an 'extra'.....

Enrichment is mentioned by trainers but the importance of enrichment

is not often emphasised.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute : 'Enrichment gives animals a creative outlet for physical activity and mental exercise, as well as choice and control over how they spend their time' and 'Enrichment keeps an animal's day interesting and is just as essential to animal welfare as nutrition and veterinary care'

Dogs in our domesticated environment often have choice and control removed or restricted. They can no longer free roam, choose their playmates, choose where and when they want to sleep, what they want to eat and so on. Providing enrichment can help give back some sense of choice and control over their environment.

There are different types of enrichment including sensory, food, environmental, toys , cognitive, and social.

Some options might include:

Sensory - allowing dogs to sniff when walking, structured nose work activities, hiding different animal scat/smells, putting in a sensory garden or taking your dog on a hike.

Food - scatter meals in different places to encourage foraging, hide food under accessible objects like empty plant pots, Lickimats, snuffle mats, Kongs, boxes, towels.

Environmental - different heights, surfaces, textures, sleeping places

Toys - tugs, balls, stuffed toys, Aussie dog toys, chew toys

Cognitive - puzzle toys, nose work, training - manners, agility, parkour, tricks, Rally O, dog diving ...

Social - play dates with known dog friends, other animals in the house, human time, smelling different areas where other dogs have been walking/urinating

It is up to our dogs to determine what they find enriching. We cannot tell our dogs what is enriching to them. I love chocolate and country music but many people would find these punishing and not reinforcing at all - particularly the country music part lol

The idea is to think outside the square and be creative! I love trying new enrichment activities out on my dogs. It doesn't have to be expensive. Boxes, plastic bottles, toilet rolls and scatters are quick and easy using items you already have at home in many instances.

Safety always needs to be considered when implementing any new enrichment activity. Monitor your dog to ensure items are not a choking hazard and there is no evidence of guarding behaviour around other dogs or children. I recommend separating dogs for higher value items.

Try something new and have fun. Your dog will love you for it !

Cheers, Toby xx


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