Enrichment for your dog

A dog left in an enclosed backyard with nothing to do is equivalent to you being locked in a small room all day. Prolonged periods of boredom may lead to destructive and sometimes obsessive or repetitive undesirable behaviour such as pacing and tail chasing.

To keep your dog amused and physically and mentally happy – implement some enrichment. Ensure that the enrichment that you provide your dog is safe.

There are several types of enrichment – some of which are listed below with examples of each.

Environmental enrichment

  • Buy two kids swimming pool /sandpit bases. Fill one with sand/dirt and every day bury toys, bones or treats in it. The second one should be filled with some water – somewhere for the dog to submerge and cool off.
  • Place a small amount of water in an empty, large ice cream container. While your dog is watching, hold a treat between your thumb and forefinger and hold at the surface of the water. Give this to your dog. As your dog becomes more used to getting treats from the water, submerge your hand and the treats more and more, until the dog is submerging its nose and possibly face in order to get the treats of its own accord. This will keep your dog amused for hours!
  • Provide your dog with shade, covered and sunny areas as well as areas of differing textures and height.
  • Take your dog to several different places – beach , markets, river, for coffee.
  • Hang an old knotted tyre tube or a squeaky toy from a tree – at a height level with your dogs head.

Dietary enrichment

  • Throw a handful of kibbles, diced apple or pear randomly around the back yard. The dog will spend time hunting for these.
  • After you cook a roast or have a tray of meat, juices or blood collect in the tray. Use this fluid to lay a trail around the back yard or in summer make your dog bloodcicles by placing blood in a container and freezing it.
  • Place some treats in an empty milk carton or un lidded bottle and watch your dog manouvering the container in order to get the treats. This should only be done while you are watching.
  • Give your dog a nice meaty (always raw) bone. You should ask your vets opinion on this one, as some do not agree with giving your dog bones.
  • Provide your dog with a kong type toy. Food is placed in these toys which makes the dog work and use its skills to get the food. Pet shops are now selling hard plastic kongs that are indestructible. The lid screws off the top of these kongs revealing a lipped, sand weighted base which you fill with dry food. The food will come out of a hole on the side of the lid.

Behavioural enrichment

  • If your dog is destructive – try giving it a coconut – either whole or split in half (leave the flesh in it).
  • Teach your dog some ‘tricks’ (complex skills) or get a trainer to.
  • Invite a friend who has a dog too, to come and visit so that the dogs can play together.
  • Play hide and seek with your dog.
  • Provide your dog with a toy from each of the following groups – a squeaking toy, a tug toy, a fetch toy, a chew toy and a toy that makes the dog use its brain.
  • Give your dog a large cardboard box to tear up – what fun and all ready to go in the bin!
  • Play with your dog and vary the games. Don’t just play the same game all the time – this = BORING!!! and can also result in the dog obsessing over the toy.
  • While you are supervising – place your dogs favourite toy under a clothes basket or similar (something that your dog can see through). Your dog will have to use its intelligence to get to the toy.
  • Let your dog smell one of its toys .Make your dog sit in one spot – place the toy in the dogs view and give command – “find”. The dog has to get the toy – you may have to help at first. Place the toy in a more hidden place each time .When your dog finds the toy reward your dog – voice or pat.
  • Show your dog a treat or a small toy. Place the object in your hand a make a fist. Do the same with your ‘empty’ hand. The dog has to indicate which hand the object is in .When correct – it gets to play with or eat it.
  • Make a SAFE obstacle course for your dog and teach your dog how to use it.


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