Dogs are very clever animals and like to use their brain or they can get bored. Bored dogs often engage in problem behaviours as they start to make their own fun. Here are some simple things you can to do to keep your dog occupied and help them have fun.
Activity toys and food
There are many easy ways to keep your dog and one of these is with food. Before dogs became domesticated they would hunt and forage for their food, and most dogs still have a desire to do this and get a great deal of satisfaction from it.
Activity toys are great for when your dog is left home alone and also useful for when your dog needs some time out or a chance to calm down if they’re over-excited. The process of playing and thinking about activity toys will help tire your dog out.
For every meal try replacing their normal bowl with one of the following. These can also be given as an extra treat. Start off so the food is easy to get out and teach your dog how to use the toy so that they find it interesting and worthwhile from the beginning.
Kong – place something tasty like dried liver, ham, or cheese into the hole at the top and fill the cavity with your dog’s daily dried food that’s been soaked in water. Leave a titbit out of the opening to provide an immediate pay off and entice your dog to get stuck in
Activity ball – place all your dog’s dinner in the ball for your dog to knock out.
Cardboard box – wrap treats in an old towel or inside a toilet roll tube and close inside a box. Your dog will love finding the treats!
Plastic bottle – hide treats inside these but make sure the plastic ring and lid are removed. This is best given to your dog when supervised, just in case they decide to chew the plastic.
Scatter feeding – throw your dog’s dinner in the garden or over the kitchen floor for him to forage out.
Long lasting chews – like antlers and pigs ears.
Think about what your dog was originally bred to do. For example, terriers were bred to hunt vermin and labradors to retrieve. Knowing this information will help you when thinking about the types of games they might like to play. Most dogs still possess the desire to perform the behaviours they were bred to do, even if they’re just a family pet. Here are some ideas your dog might enjoy:
Dog training classes
Dog training classes are a great way to get your dog’s brain working. There are many different classes to try, including:
Finally, remember to give your dog plenty of toys and chews to help keep them occupied. Rotate these regularly to keep them interesting and try different activities each week. Most of all, whatever you do, make it fun.
More enrichment ideas can be found in the book 'Canine Enrichment' by Shay Kelly, which can be purchased here.