Behind Enrichment for Dogs

Behind Enrichment for Dogs

Why is it important to exercise your dog’s mind?

How would you feel if you got up in the morning, went to work, came home, and went to bed every day? Without ever meeting new people, trying that restaurant for happy hour, or watching Netflix. Just the same basic routine practically every single day. Sounds depressing, right?

The term “behavioral enrichment” refers to interesting and stimulating changes in the environment where an animal lives that support their physical and mental wellbeing. In humans, enrichment might look like trying different food, playing a challenging video game, or reading a new book. It keeps us active, gives us choice over how we spend our time, and exercises our powerful brains. 

The enrichment itself looks different, but this is true for other non-human animals as well. The idea of enriching animals’ lives was born in the context of caring for animals in captivity. Animal care experts are trained to provide species-specific enrichment, like puzzle boxes for primates, assorted scents for big cats, and foraging puzzles for bears. Next time you’re at the zoo, keep a lookout for enrichment-related informational plaques!

The same principles apply to pets, and that’s why scent work is an excellent way to exercise your dog’s mind. Since dogs’ primary sensory experience comes from their sense of smell, providing scent-based enrichment universally benefits dogs of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Regular enrichment reduces stress and separation anxiety in dogs, and helps maintain their overall wellbeing.

Enrichment also means getting your pets physically active in new and interesting ways. One type of enrichment is mental: dogs use their brain to access treats or kibble, which most dogs are more than happy to try. Food rewards are generally a universal hit during training and play.

Enrichment activities are often easy to DIY at home without breaking the bank. You can place strong-smelling treats inside nested boxes to give your dog an opportunity to sniff out a treat reward. Or you can cut your old fleece into strips and layers with small dry treats to give your dog a snuffle mat.

The Longsock scent enrichment doesn’t involve food and can be a good option for providing exercise for dogs on a restricted diet or challenging dogs not motivated by food. 

Methods of enrichment change often as we learn more about how different species experience the world, so there’s always room for creativity in providing mental and physical stimulation for animals.

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