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How Dog Enrichment Can Help Your Pup Thrive

The more intelligent an animal species, the more stimulation the animal needs to be fulfilled — and we all know how smart dogs are. Our highly perceptive and clever companions are happy to engage in just about any activity.

Providing sensory enrichment for your dog is critical for maintaining their physical and psychological health. Without it, they can develop problem behaviors or show signs of boredom, stress and anxiety. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of sensory enrichment for dogs, as well as five areas where you can shake up your dog’s everyday experiences.

Why Is Sensory Enrichment Important for Dogs?

Think about all the dogs you’ve ever seen and how they differ in size, proportion, personality and physiology. Countless generations ago, dog breeds were developed for specific tasks. Whatever kind of dog you have, their DNA is still compelling them to do something. They have energy and drive, and it’s now your job to provide enrichment that lets them exercise their instincts to hunt, herd, chew and dig.

Sensory Enrichment Ideas for Dogs

Dogs are typically easy to please, which makes sensory enrichment simple. With such a wide range of options, you can try different techniques and tactics and rotate the ones your dog loves to keep the action fresh.

1. Toys and Games for Your Dog

Look for toys that encourage chasing, tossing and retrieving — all activities your dog loves anyway!

Excited to learn more? Get details on each of these sensory enrichment activities:

1. Toys and Games for Your Dog

If you have a dog, you have toys. However, if you want to focus on items that provide enrichment, look for toys that encourage chasing, tossing and retrieving. You want toys made with safe, rugged, cleanable materials that can stand up to chewing and tugging. Indulging all these instincts through play can help avoid behaviors such as excessive digging, barking and property destruction. In addition, a fun game like hide-and-seek is an excellent opportunity for your dog to work on scent tracking and searching — and you can make your hiding places progressively trickier to really challenge your dog’s problem-solving powers.

2. Dog Food and Dog Treats

What dog doesn’t love food? Using your dog’s favorite foods and treats is a great way to promote hunting and foraging behaviors and provide cognitive stimulation. You can buy one of the many commercially available food puzzles or make your own with basic household items.

For example, place NUTRO™ Crunchy Treats or Mini Bites in a few cups of a muffin tin, cover all 12 cups with tennis balls, and then let your furry friend sniff out the tasty snacks. Even simpler: Scatter NUTRO™ dry dog food in a large cardboard box and cover with crumpled packing and tissue paper.

3. At-home Agility Course

Build your own agility course with stuff around the house. If you don’t have yard space, a large room or hallway will do — just clear out anything breakable. Arrange cardboard boxes, folding chairs, buckets and so on to create jumps, ramps, weaves and tunnels. Make sure the obstacles match your dog’s size and abilities. Walk them through the course a few times first and reward them to reinforce the correct moves. Activities like this help build proprioception, which is your dog’s spatial awareness and ability to balance.

4. Socialization with People and Other Dogs

Dogs are social creatures, so proper socialization is crucial. This includes building and reinforcing your bond with them, but also familiarizing them with other people and animals to help ward off behavioral issues. Visit a dog park, arrange playdates and take your pup to dog daycare to safely enhance social interaction. Formal obedience training is also an ideal method of exposing your dog to other pets and people in a supervised setting, and one that helps you manage your furry friend’s behaviors.

5. Multisensory Activities

Variety is what truly keeps your dog fulfilled, and the more of their senses you can engage, the better. When you’re creating your own experiences, such as food puzzles, consider how your material choices and arrangement can maximize sensory input. On any walk, you know that scents are on your dog’s radar, but try a route that includes sounds that might be new to their ears or a path that crosses multiple surfaces for varying tactile sensations (concrete, asphalt, dirt, grass, wood chips, rubber matting, etc.). You can even find somewhere you can both relax and watch interesting parts of the world go by.


Our dogs are intelligent and capable animals, but they need us to help make living among humans as robust and rewarding as possible. Providing your dog with the right kinds of sensory enrichment sets up the best possible life for you both.

 

 

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