Did you know that cognitive enrichment is equally as important as physical exercise for your dogs' overall wellness and stress reduction? Cognitive enrichment can include things like games, nosework or learning new tricks! Here are 3 super EASY and fun enrichment activities to help cure boredom and mentally stimulate your pup during isolation or anytime.
1. Muffin Tin Game
This is an oldie but a goodie which I was recently reminded of by Annenberg Pet Space here in Los Angeles. All you need is a muffin tin, some treats ( broken up into small bite size pieces) and some tennis balls. If you don't have enough tennis balls on hand you can substitute with size appropriate toys to cover the muffin spaces.
Simply place a few treats in the empty spaces and cover each space with a tennis ball. Encourage your pup to hunt for the treats and watch as they discover them and work to remove the balls to enjoy the treat!
2. Snuffle Mat
Another great activity to stimulate your dog's natural foraging instincts is a snuffle mat. This one here by PAW5 is sustainably produced and machine washable. If you enjoy DYI you can throw one together easily by using yarn or fleece. All you need is the mat and treats!
Break up several treats into small pieces and hide them throughout the snuffle mat to allow your dog to forage and discover the treats. This is a great activity for a dog of any age. The added bonus of this snuffle mat is that it can also be used as a slow feeder (more on slow feeders to come) to help slow your dogs eating and help to ease stress on their digestion.
3. Treat Dispensing Chew Toys
This last easy enrichment activity I learned many moons ago when volunteering for a local animal shelter. It can be used not just for boredom but to help soothe a puppies teething gums, to keep your dog occupied while you are trying to get some work done or to provide a positive association to things like guests in the home or a new crate . In addition it can help to ease the stress of separation anxiety.
In the shelter we used a traditional Kong but this West Paw design is made from non toxic, dishwasher safe and recyclable materials. Simply fill the toy with peanut butter ( please make sure it's pure peanut butter with no added ingredients like xylitol which can be toxic for your dog) a few of your dogs favorite treats and place in the freezer!
Freezing the toy can make it more challenging for your dog to get the food out and in return provide a greater opportunity for mental stimulation.
Once frozen, give to your dog to enjoy!