Why dog enrichment matters – and three easy things you can do to enrich your dog’s days.
It’s a dog’s life
Today’s pets enjoy a much easier life than their wild relatives. While wolves must constantly forage for food and protect themselves from predators, the average house dog lives in a safe home and has all its meals handed to it at regular times. Although this life is a lot easier for pets, the lack of stimulation can leave them stressed and bored, and can be much worse for them in the long run.
With busy modern lifestyles – constantly going to and from work or school – it can be hard to make enough time for our pets, but giving them mental and physical stimulation can fix a range of common behavioural problems. What we see as bad behaviour in our dogs is often their response to boredom. Bored dogs chew destructively, bark and can even become aggressive – anything to get our attention. So, here are three easy ways to keep your dogs stimulated, happy and relaxed.
There is an old expression which says that a tired dog is a good dog – even a half-hour walk can provide dogs with much-needed exercise and stimulation. Especially for dogs that are kept indoors, the thrill of discovering a new place and new smells is a great way to get them excited and active. It’s also a chance for them to meet other dogs and socialise. Time off the lead gives dogs a chance to run free, keeping them physically fit, while on-lead training like walking to heel strengthens the bond between you and your dog.
Anyone who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks isn’t trying hard enough. With time and patience, any dog can be trained, and your pet will love the time you spend learning together. Start with basic commands like sitting. As your dogs become more confident you can challenge them with more advanced tricks to keep them interested. The process of learning a new trick is a great mental workout for your dog, and of course it’s great fun to show off a dog that can shake paws!
Make a meal of it
The way we feed our dogs is quite unnatural – dogs aren’t supposed to be handed their food without effort – so making a game out of mealtime is a very important way to keep your dog’s brain in gear. A feeder toy like the RuffleSnuffle™, which is big enough to hold a dog’s entire meal, turns a dog’s easy feeding time into a challenge as they have to root around between the fleecy folds to get to their food. Toys like this mimic the dog’s natural feeding habit better than scoffing food out of a bowl. In addition, they slow your dog’s eating down, feeding toys also keep pets engaged for longer.
Research has shown that dogs who have good mental and physical stimulation behave better and keep their cognitive functions for much longer. Older dogs who have had a good source of enrichment don’t get slow and dim-witted as they age. Looking after your dog’s mental and physical health means you will be rewarded with many more happy years of fun together.