Enrichment is the process of providing animals with structured activities and experiences which enable them to perform and express natural behaviours. It is of vital importance that all animals are allowed to do this, especially those as intelligent and sentient as dogs. Owners can provide much of the enrichment a dog needs at home, and this blog will offer some easy ideas for how you can do this yourself.
As deeply social animals, dogs thrive off companionship with humans and other animals they have bonded with. A simple but often overlooked way to improve your dog’s quality of life is just spending more time together, and less time leaving it alone. Even if you feel that your dog does not suffer from separation anxiety, it would still benefit from and enjoy sharing more time with you. Having dogs live together goes some way in providing additional companionship, but is not a substitute for spending quality time with your pets.
Scent is a dog’s strong sense, which when engaged is incredibly mentally stimulating. Dogs should always be encouraged to use their scent and easy ways to do so at home include hiding treats which can be sniffed out and placing plug-in smell diffusers in rooms they spent the most time in. The mental stimulation scenting causes is as important as physical exercise, so if you can see your dog is interesting in sniffing something it is usually best to let it do so until its interest has passed.
Enrichment can also be tailored to a breed’s particular characteristics which reflect the work they were developed to undertake. For example, Labradors are likely to enjoy access to paddling pools and water features, whereas a Jack Russell Terrier would benefit from squeaky chew toys which mimic the rodents it was bred to hunt.
With a little imagination, owners can provide their pet and working dogs with a range of different enrichment activities without ever having to leave their home. This offers a range of benefits, chiefly happier and more fulfilled dogs. For more advice, please consult a dog trainer or behaviourist.