Dog Fun and Enrichment Activities
Sometimes, dogs start misbehaving when they’re bored. They’ll often start making their own fun in the house when they’re not being sufficiently entertained, and this can be a real headache for owners who have to mop the whole mess up off the kitchen floor.
Before their domestication, dogs had to hunt and forage for their own food, and while your dog probably doesn’t need to do this anymore, he or she will likely find the exercise of hunting a lot of fun and take great satisfaction from it regardless. These tips are the equivalent of knocking the dustbins over and digging out the scraps, but owner-friendly and much less stinky.
Every now and then, you can try switching out your dog’s regular food bowl for one of these interesting foraging exercises. Even the laziest of dogs tend to find food an engaging plaything and it’s a good way of getting some light exercise into those lazy bones, too.
Kongs are great dog toys that can be filled with wet-mix meals, treats or even be smeared with dog-friendly food spreads. These durable conical containers can be bashed around, bitten, chewed and flung from place to place, all in the name of doggy fun.
Alternatively, hide a meal in an open, empty cardboard box filled with scraps of packaging materials like cardboard and tissue paper or, better yet, some dried leaves! Encourage your dog to sniff out their dinner and let them fumble through the makeshift foliage to find their prize. You can do a similar thing with treats on your walk if you happen to go through a forest with a lot of fallen leaves. If you can sneakily hide a small amount of treats under the leaves when your dog is off sniffing, oblivious to your crafty plans, they can find it really satisfying when they return to you and find them there. Good job, dog!
You can even scatter your dog’s dinner around the garden or across a patio if you want, but some dogs might not like the added dirt in their food. Each to their own. Long-lasting chews like pig ears and rawhides are also very enjoyable and can be offered quickly if you don’t have time to hide things.
Fun exercises that don’t require food involve digging pits, paddling pools (if your dog likes water) and trick training. It’s a great idea to think about what your dog was bred to do and go from there. For example, Labradors were bred to retrieve and terriers were made to hunt vermin. Your dog might not ever participate in these activities anymore, but there’s a good chance they will still have the instinct when the situation arises. For example, scent games are wonderful for hound dogs as they love to use their nose. They’re a bit less likely to bring what they find back to you than Labradors are, perhaps, but it’s no less fun for this.
Simply make an object extra smelly, whether it’s with a food smell, your own scent or something else. Show it to your dog and let them get a good sniff of it, then, without your dog seeing, leave a scent trail and hide the object. Reward with extra petting and some treats if they return it to you.
Alternatively, dogs do find behavioural and skill classes a lot of fun. It gets their brain working, their legs moving and with all those new dogs to meet, it teaches them a lot about socialisation.
Whatever you choose to do, remember to rotate your games around and keep them varied. Start off easy and guide your dog through the game, then make it harder and add more variation to the routine. Remember that your dog is a pack animal and the more you get involved, the more fun they’ll have. Lots of positive praise, pats on the head and the occasional encouraging kick of the Kong will make your dog really happy.