What is dog enrichment? Dog enrichment is the process of making the animal’s living space interesting and stimulating so as to decrease boredom and its subsequent problems. Mental stimulation is at least as crucial as physical exercise. Many behavior problems are a direct result of under stimulated minds and bodies. Dogs are roughly as intelligent as a 2 year old child and quite social. Would your toddler be happy and quiet left alone in the crib all day? Never fear… dogs ARE more independent than human toddlers, and you are not a monster for going to work and leaving your dog at home. As with so much in life, it’s all a balance of individual needs.
A healthy dog needs a balance of social, mental and physical stimulation to be at his best. These can be intertwined; for instance, chewing is a great release of frustration or boredom, stimulates the mind(flavors and textures!), and is physically beneficial for teeth cleaning. Isn’t this a very important reason for providing appropriate items for our dogs to gnaw? Dogs like the boxer above often choose an inappropriate item if they are not taught what is acceptable and provided with alternatives. It’s pointless to be upset with our dog for seeking fulfillment if we have not made an effort to fill those needs for them. That said some dogs are simply going to find new ways to challenge us regardless of our carefully laid plans. But wait! There’s more!
If you’re like me, you don’t wake up dying to run five miles and train your dog before breakfast. Setting realistic goals is the only way to succeed. Ditch the food bowl and feed your dog from a toy instead! There are many types to choose from, but my preference is for toys that are easy to fill and will fit an entire meal in them. Kong makes a wide range of toys that fit the bill. Others resemble “puzzles” and can be a lot of fun for the dog, but might be easier to destroy or too small for your dogs meal. Those toys are better for one on one bonding with your dog. For more information, check out Kong toys.
Check in next week for more tips on dog enrichment! Consider scheduling a session for help troubleshooting your dog’s behaviors.