We see the term Canine Enrichment a lot, which is fantastic – but what exactly does it mean?
Canine enrichment literally just means enriching the life of a dog. It doesn’t have to be creating tasks for them to solve all the time though. Enrichment can be anything from safely exploring an open cupboard which is usually closed, going on a different walk, having a groom (if they like it) or just a morning cuddle with their human.
Solving problems is a great way to raise your dog’s confidence – using recycling, old socks, foraging and specific food retrieval toys. Every time a dog succeeds they feel like a success, their confidence grows and they expect to succeed again. This is why our dogs should only be given problems that they can solve (with some effort) because being unable to complete a task will leave them expecting to fail.
Dogs smell their world, so it’s really enriching for them to be able to use that nose in as many ways as possible. It’s always sad to see a dog pulled along on a walk when they really just want to smell the world around them. Creating opportunities to sniff and giving your dog time to explore on his walks with his nose is really life enriching, and it’s free – the only thing you need to do is slow down.
Finding interesting ways to feed your dog is another way to make their life more interesting. Scattering food around, hiding it in the garden is smaller chunks or using it to learn something with you are all ways to make food time more fun.
Avoiding too much frustration is really important. Working hard to enrich your dog’s life is great – but if they are doing tasks which don’t really suit them or that knock their confidence, it’s not enrichment. Similarly if the same exercise is completed every day it moves from being enriching to being normal. Newness counts, but always newness in a way that your dog can manage.
So have a good think outside of the normal things we see as Canine Enrichment. Consider what you can do to jazz up your dog’s life now. How can you set new tasks, live life a little differently today or give them something to do or somewhere to explore – that they may not normally have? .