How to challenge your dog [Canine Enrichment Tips]

Advanced class dogs in the rotunda

How to challenge your dog [Canine Enrichment Tips]

It’s time to change the way you think about meal times…and walks… and play…particularly if your dog is displaying destructive behaviour (digging, chewing).

By making a few minor tweaks to your dog’s daily routine, you can change your dog’s world. Not only will they be happier, but hopefully calmer and more eager to learn.

I promise, this isn’t some “too good to be true” miracle. It’s just about getting the dog thinking – and working for fun.

The Dreaded Dog Bowl

Dog with an empty dog bowl

If you are currently feeding your dog from a bowl – Stop. Immediately.

You are missing the perfect opportunity to get your dog working (and enjoying it!) and raise the value of food in the process. If you have a dog that inhales their dinner, this is how you slow them down.

Feed your dog (quality) dry food? You could spend some time making a snuffle mat with some recycled material. For the creatively challenged (like myself), you can place an old blanket in a box and sprinkle the dry food through it. Puzzle toys and slow feeders are also a great way to get your dog thinking, working and valuing their meals.

If you are training your dog (and they are highly food motivated), this is a great way to get your training done without thinking about it. Portion out the dry food at the start of the day and place in a bag. Over the course of the day, use the dry food to have 10 minute training sessions. I promise your trainer at your next class will be very impressed!

But what if you feed raw? You may not be able to use the food for training (unless you’re willing to get very messy in the process), but you can still find puzzle toys such as licky mats to get your dogs working. If you’re organised enough, you can also stuff toys and freeze your dog’s meals.

Walking – It’s not just to keep fit!

Illy working his magic with loose lead walking

We’ve all heard the story of the dog that runs 10km with their owner every morning but still has energy to burn. These dogs are often peak athletes with more energy because of their high level of fitness, but with nothing to keep their mind busy.

If you are not letting your dog stop and smell the roses (or that pole that you know every other dog in the neighbourhood has marked), it could be the reason they don’t seem tired after a walk. You can use your daily walk as another opportunity to do some dog training – practice heeling, sits, drops, staying calm around stimulants. You can also turn some walks into sniff walks and allow them to go at their pace and smell every tree, bush, pole and car wheel that you go past. These sniff walks are a great way to help calm dogs and build confidence.

Plan Your Play

Pug tugging with owner

Play time with your dog is a great way to build that bond. While it can be entertaining to razz up your dog and watch them do zoomies around the house, play can be used to build communication, trust and confidence.

For dogs with high instinctual drive, play is also an outlet for them. For example, the fast movement of a “flirt pole” is great entertainment for a terrier. Tug of war with a rope is a great outlet for dogs’ natural desire to grab and shake. You can set up hide and seek games around the house so your dog can use their strong ability to smell to find you.

Tailor the Enrichment

Not all dogs will like to play fetch, just as some dogs are not as food motivated as others. It’s important to ensure that the enrichment activities you select suit your dog’s individual needs. If your dog is displaying an instinctual behaviour that is becoming a problem behaviour, figure out what kind of enrichment will give them an outlet.

Need help training your dog?

If you need help finding the right enrichment activities to suit your dog’s needs, get in touch! Reach out on 040 638 9506 and we will be sure to help you and your dog reach your training goals.

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