We are currently in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak in the US. Those of us who have dogs might be struggling to give them appropriate amounts of physical exercise during our quarantine or shelter-in-place orders... and as a result, they're driving us nuts.
The good news is: there is hope!
Mental enrichment is always something I recommend to my clients, but it's never been more needed for our sanity as dog owners than it is now.
What is mental enrichment?
It's a "job" for your dog. Whether you provide this through stuffed food toys and puzzles during regular meal times, shredding, or scavenging, you're providing a workout for your dog's brain.
If you're interested in some more insight on this, check out my page on The Value of Decompression & Enrichment. T H E V A L U E O F
Here are some awesome, easy enrichment ideas I do with my own dogs on a regular basis or have gotten from other trainers I know via social media! Click on pictures along to way to open Amazon links to the products pictured!
First and foremost... Training!
Whether you're working through that problem behavior you've been dealing with or just learning some fun new tricks, training is always a great way to work out your dog's brain. A few 3-5 minute sessions a day will hit the spot!
Here's my friend Reasha working on a more advanced agility trick with her border collie, Mac. If you're interested in entry-level trick training, look into the book 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance in paperback or on Kindle.
Food Toys, Puzzles, and Appropriate Chewing
Kongs, or other stuffable toys, are one of the easiest ways to conveniently keep your dog engaged in something that's... well, not annoying you. They can be prepped "in bulk," frozen to keep your pup at them longer, and easily given when you need a break. I have a great handout that I give to all my clients on ingredients that you can use to stuff food toys!
Food puzzles and slow feeders are equally useful and there's so much variety to choose from! Start your day off by participating in the #ditchthebowl movement during breakfast. I usually recommend that you own at least three slow feeders and/or food puzzles. Rotate them randomly so your dog doesn't get bored.
Here are a few links you can use to buy food puzzles, or learn about making DIY puzzles!
search "food puzzles for dogs" on Amazon and take your pick!
search "DIY dog food puzzles" on Pinterest
Chewing is a really natural behavior all dogs do - if you've found that since quarantine your dog has become more mouthy with you, your furniture, or items around the house, it's time to invest in a few appropriate chewing items. Find what your dog likes! Some dogs prefer harder chewing items like Benebones while others prefer softer options like tug ropes or rubber toys. Some dogs like both, but chew heavy and go through softer options too fast for our wallets to keep up with.
There are some cool monthly subscription boxes like BullyMakeBox or BarkBox that can provide options for soft or power chewers! BullyMake & BarkBox's Super Chewer both have a 2-week guarantee that if your dog destroys a toy too fast, they'll send you a different one for free.
Shredding, Scavenging, and Sniffing
Shredding, scavenging, and sniffing are all important things for dogs to have access to because of how enriching to our dog's lives they are.
Sniffing and scavenging can fall into the same category. This includes activities like the use of snuffle mats for meals or treats, throwing kibble into your grass for them to search for, or hiding food around the house or yard while your dog remains in another room and then turning them loose to allow them to sniff everything out! Allowing our dogs to sniff on walks (#letthemsniff) ensures that mental energy through olfaction is being used. This is another movement that is taking the dog world by storm - the time of expecting our dogs to stay in a perfect heel on our walks together is over and now giving way to polite leash walking allowing them the opportunity to sniff all they want on outings.
Shredding is exactly what it sounds like: allowing our dogs to intentionally destroy things!
Packing paper, egg cartons, the cardboard from toilet paper or paper towel rolls, old Amazon boxes, empty cereal boxes, junk mail. You can add value to this experience by hiding treats and/or your dog's meals inside.
Are you planning some new at-home enrichment with your dog now? Tag @alohomoradogtraining in your social media posts about it!