Enrichment is a very powerful tool that works at enhancing your dog’s psychological well-being and is equally as important as taking your dog for a run or playing a game of fetch. There are lots of great toys on the market like kongs, snuffle mats and other games but they can get expensive so here is a list of some of the enrichment we give to our dogs that utilises items from around your house, rather than spending money, and are relatively long lasting (depending on your pooch!)
Start by ditching your dog’s bowl and if you have a backyard/ courtyard or balcony, simply throw their breakfast or dinner out the door and watch your dog use his/her nose to find all the biscuits. Engaging their sense of smell consumes more energy than they would if it was all placed in front of their nose. If you don’t introduce enrichment to your dog from a young age, you may have to work with them or train them to use it but once they get the idea.. they will have the time of their lives.
If you have more time, try some of the following:
(Always supervise your dog with new enrichment for the first time.)
#1 – Recycle everything through your dogs:
Cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, cereal containers, plastic bottles e.t.c. are all fantastic, free toys for your dog. Put their breakfast in 1, 2 or 3 items and place them around your yard/balcony just before you go out for the day. It will keep them nice and busy and unaware you have left them alone. If you are feeling extra creative and have lots of recycled stuff to dispose… try a ‘pass the parcel’ style enrichment. Place an egg in a toilet roll, put the roll in a small box, then into a bigger box e.t.c.
#2 – Call upon your neighbours:
If you are friendly with your neighbour, (and they have access to throw something over the fence to where your dog is), ask if you could drop off some of the above items with treats in them to lob over the fence at random times throughout the day. This is a brilliant way to randomly reinforce your dog with enrichment if you have a long day at work.
NB – Tell them to avoid throwing treats over if your dog is barking, digging or pacing as we don’t want them to think they were getting the treat for exhibiting those behaviours.
#3 – Scatter feed with obstacle:
Palettes and tyres are (awkward and somewhat heavy) but easy to obtain for free from local mechanics or hardware stores. Scatter your dogs biscuits or treats in and around these objects to increase longevity of the activity.
#4 – Stick smear:
Find sticks relative to your dog’s size and smear them in beef fat, dunk them in stock or rub peanut butter on them and leave it in your yard for your dog to discover.
#5 – Plastic bottle with treats and toy:
Inspired by Nando Brown. Remove the ‘O’ ring and label from a 1.5L plastic bottle and place some treats inside. Find a piece of old clothing or material, tie a knot in the end and force it through the bottle top until the knot is inside. Start by leaving it on the ground for your dog to work out and then and then increase difficulty by hanging it from the tree. This activity kept our Malinois entertained for an hour. Longest record yet.
#6 – Frozen home made chicken stock on a bungy cord:
We regularly slow cook chicken carcasses and use the broth for enrichment, especially frozen enrichment on hot days. Place broth, stock kibble or favourite treats in a container and then put the end of a bungy cord or rope in creating a J shape in the water (for extra strength). Once frozen, attach to a strong branch in your yard on a hot day. A 1L tub will generally last about 30-40 mins depending on the heat. Make it just able to touch their nose if they stretch, encouraging them to jump.
#7 – Frozen treat ball:
My favourite. Rather than freezing treats in square containers, head to your local $2 shop and buy a reusable, sphere shape mould or cast, (Balloons work as well). Fill it first with some treats and then with water. Once frozen, you have the perfect, slippery, rolly, delicious toy that results in zero mess when you get home form a long day! The bigger you make it, the longer it lasts.
#8 – Tyre enrichment for large breed dogs:
Coming up with indestructible, strong toys for our mal is never ending. Old tyres are a great option. (Clean thoroughly before use). Put treats or peanut butter smears on the inside of the tyre and just leave it in the hard or hang it from a tree. Rafa will pull it, charge at it and jump of it.