Ditch the Bowl: Enrichment for dogs
Updated: Mar 5, 2019
Did you know that mental stimulation is just as important if not more important than walking your dog? Yes I said it! MORE important than the walk!! Don't get me wrong taking your dog out for daily walks is important and your dog needs physical exercise but too much physical exercise can be a bad thing.
You would think if your dog was hyper then taking them out on a long walk is the best way to tire them out. However the more exercise your dog gets the fitter they become. To begin with your dog might be absolutely shattered after an hours off lead walk, but after a few weeks you notice that an hour just doesn't cut it any more and your dog is still climbing the walls. So then you end up taking your dog on a long walk, a run and 30 minutes of ball chucking!
Instead find a suitable balance between giving your dog some physical exercise and some metal stimulation. Dogs are scavengers and like to hunt, use their nose and problem solve. A healthy mind is a happy one. Mental stimulation tires dogs out more than physical exercise.
Below are a few ideas on how to use enrichment activities in your dog's life. You will find that your hyper dog will be able to settle after their enrichment brain games rather than get more energised from the adrenalin that physical exercise gives your dog.
I love using stuffed kongs as they are the easiest way to keep your dog mentally stimulated and entertained with minimal effort. It's as simple as filling it with your dog's daily dry food and adding some water. Is your dog new to Kongs? Check out my video on Kongs for beginners to help your dog get started.
A stuffed kong can keep your dog busy up to 20 minutes! They are great for hyper dogs as the licking tires the dog out and helps them settle down for a nap.
Not sure what else you can stuff in the kong? Check out Beyond the Bowl for over 50 healthy Kong stuffing recipes.
These are great for helping dogs problem solve as they need to work out that knocking the wobbler a certain way will dispense the food. Again another super easy enrichment toy to set up. All you need to do is unscrew the lid of the Kong Wobbler and pour in your dog's dry food.
A snuffle mat is basically a rubber mat with lots of fabric strips tied to it. They are designed to mimic grass and give your dog a fun yet challenging way to sniff out food. They encourage your dog to use their natural sniffing and scavenging abilities. (great for rainy days)
Don't want to invest in any enrichment toys just yet? Scavenger feeding is free!! All you need is a fenced garden, or you can do this while out in the park (as long as there are no other dogs around) and your dog's food. Chuck the food out into the garden and let your dog find it by using their nose.
You can get a little creative and make food trails in the garden or throw small handfuls food randomly throughout the walk. Make sure your dog is looking at where you are throwing the food when out on their walk. Make sure its a quite country park as you don't want other dogs stealing the food. This could course dog fights or another dog might be allergic to your dogs brand of food.
Using your dog's daily meal in a training session is a fantastic way to give your dog mental stimulation and a chance to brush up on your dog's skills. For ideas on what to teach your dog subscribe to my YouTube channel for some free dog training tutorials
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