Enrichment: Dogs, Cats and Horses!
Enrichment is all about keeping your pet’s brain active. It is very important for all animals, providing them with mental stimulation to develop their confidence and optimism, and gives them the opportunity to have some fun! There are so many ways you can enrich you pet's lives, here’s just a few to start you off…
1. Ditch the bowl
It’s time to ditch that bowl. Meal portions can be split up and used randomly throughout the day to give your dog plenty of fun little activities with plenty of rewards. Using enrichment can be a great way to use your dog’s brain and ensure they’re getting a reward for figuring the puzzle out. No need for fancy treats you can use their own food, start simple and the better your dog gets the harder you can make the puzzle.
Examples could be: Kongs, wobble Kongs, Licki mats, scatter feeding, slow feeders, other alternatives you can make from home can be used, but please ensure it is safe and do not leave any enrichment with your dog unattended.
2. Get them sniffing
A great way for your dog to use their brains is through the power of their nose! Using their nose provides a lot of mental stimulation and helps relax your dog using one of their natural behaviours, sniffing. Scent work can be mentally challenging without getting your dog over excited, it even has a feel-good factor by triggering a release of endorphins for your dog.
Does your dog have a snuffle mat? If yes then great, you can use this as a passive calming activity to keep them mentally stimulated. If not don’t worry, you can easily make one... Click here for instructions!
3. Treasure hunts
Grab your dog’s food and get hiding. Start with small areas, if your dog has never played before, (once they realise there's rewards for finding them they’ll be more motivated to play) and build up to larger spaces, before long you’ll be utilising the whole house.
1. Cardboard boxes!
It cannot be stated enough how much cats love a cardboard box! Get creative with these – cut holes in the sides, add feathers, toys, create a network of rooms and tunnels, and add some scrunched up newspaper. There’s a lot you can do with cardboard boxes to occupy your cat.
2. DIY whack-a-mole
Cats love to hunt, so what better way to keep them mentally stimulated than this fun game. Simply take a cardboard box and cut some holes in the top. Attach a feather to the end of a stick and poke it through the holes in a random order. Great fun!
Games involving food help occupy your cat’s minds and give them more of a challenge to prolong feeding times. Licki mats, ball feeders and puzzle feeders are just a few examples (they can all be bought in the Oak Tree shop!). But if you want something you can try today, here’s a simple video to show you how to make a cat treat box… Click here to watch!
1. Apple bobbing
All you need to do is put some apples in their water trough or in a bucket of water and your horse/pony will try and pick the apples out to eat them! It can be a fun way to keep your equine entertained while also encouraging your horse to drink more water. You should supervise them while doing this just in case they try to paw the water bucket or trough.
2. Treat nets
Treat nets are a great addition to the horses stable. If you have a very small net (with small holes) you can fill it with fruit and vegetables and depending on the time of year you could also chop them some yummy plants they can enjoy! Plants that horses enjoy and are safe for them to eat include- rosehips, nettles, moss, wild geraniums and hawthorn.
3. Carrot stretches
A great way to get your horse/pony moving and stretching out while listening to you and thinking about what they have to do to achieve the reward of the carrot. It is important to remember to start off small with your stretches and not ask for too much without warming up, as this could hurt your equine. Simple stretches include to the horses chest, shoulders, side and in between the front legs.
Animals have preferences just like humans. It is always important to work with the animal in front of you, and what may work for one animal may not for the next. Try to observe how each animal responds to the enrichment given and find out what sparks the most joy for your pet.
We have had cats that were completely uninterested in any toys offered but when thrown a scrunched up bit of tin foil burst into play like a kitten on catnip! So get creative and think outside the toy box!