9 Fun & Free ways to Enrich Your Dog’s Life

Posted On March 24, 2020

In times where you can’t get out of the house, you’re going to need to do something with that puppy, these are great to get them working and engaging.

So, with things being pretty scary right now, I want to arm you guys with some fantastic ways of keeping your dog busy and never having to leave your home. Yes, if you have a particularly bright dog, you might have to do a lot of these, but they will enjoy it. Even if the weather is rubbish! It’s a great way of expending that energy without – say – taking them out into a blizzard or huge storm (Hi Dennis! Hi Ciara! Good to see the back of you both).

I want these to help you to make your dogs more stimulated, they’re not just great for when you can’t get out, but adding in some of these to your dogs day, can just help them to feel more fulfilled, so it’s fantastic to help grouchy dogs, badly dogs, nervous dogs, etc! Basically, every dog will benefit from these.

1 – Hide & Seek
Like the main image on this post!! In essence, get your dog to settle somewhere for a minute whilst you hide a toy (or treat) somewhere. Start off easy if they’ve never done this before, praise heavily when they find it, then start getting more inventive. I’ve been known to hide Indie’s toy under beds, in boxes (just barely peeking out) and on top of doors – this one was super tricky for him, he could see it! But sussing out how to get it down was a real puzzler! We use one of Indie’s Fluff & Tuff toys, the crocodile is one of his favourites, he is looking a little tatty now though… maybe, just well loved

2 – Scatter feeding
Love this for kibble fed dogs and really makes me wish I die could stomach it! If the weather is good, use the garden, if not, scattering it around the kitchen is doable. In essence you’re throwing their regular bowl of food around… this makes them walk, sniff, find, and self reward. Their regular meal is all you need, it’s just taking an opportunity to make them work harder to get their breakfast. You can also do it with treats, but please be conscious about over feeding your puppy!

3 – Obedience/trick training 
I find this one really fun, so does Indie! In essence you’re testing their brain by teaching them something! Start with the easy things (as always!) like sit, lay down, paw, stay (you can do this in sit and lay down), touch, and then work up to things like beg/sit pretty or crawl. Don’t spend too long on this in one sitting, dogs (like kids!) lose focus. A few times a day can be great fun though. Need some inspiration for new tricks? Why not check out our pinterest board for trick training? Hopefully when I get some more outside time I can do a video of Indie’s repetoire!

4 – Box Search 
You know that over sized cardboard box that you get from amazon when you ordered a new phone charger? Keep it! Scrunch up some paper, throw in some toilet roll tubes (from all that toilet roll you’ve been hoarding) and let them get to work! Hide some treats in there and watch them paw through it trying to find yummy, yummy treats.

5 – Blanket Search
Similar to Box Search, but use a blanket, start small, and work them the next time to a larger blanket, and then eventually, tie the corners together or tie some string around it to make it really tough!

6 – Dig Pit 
This is really fun if you have a dog who loves to dig, have some soil, sand, gravel or wood chips (maybe?!) choose something your dog is going to have fun with – you could even use leaves in autumn! You may need to pick up one of the kids sand pit plastic yolks, or if you have some wood at home – it may need a little DIY – but it can be super fun! If you have some chuck-it balls, or other harder plastic toys, you can throw them in there and cover them up before you send your dog out, or treats? Talk about Buried Treasure!

7 – Impulse Control
You know that dog that cannot resist a ball? That one that goes nuts, jumps, barks, cannot even control themselves?  This is great for that too! But basically, it’s a leave or a wait… command. You can do it with treats, toys, whatever you want! Start slow, it’s definitely not going to be easy, but Skye makes it look easy. Start with something that’s not going to be insanely difficult for them to leave or wait for – work up to the ball or the cheese! Start easy, get them used to the command and then let them have what they want.  You can do it with a ball throw too! Make them sit and wait quietly and calmly before you throw the ball! I think these sorts of things are great – not just for enrichment – but for every day manners!

8 – Which Hand?
Paw or high five is a good predecessor for this as is impulse control, though you can do it without. But basically, the same principle as when your cousin used to steal your nose and hide it in their hand? Put a treat in one or both hands, and ask your dog to pick! I do this by getting Indie to sit, and put his paw on one hand. I let him sniff at them and make him pick where he thinks it is! Simple stuff, but you’re asking them to think and to puzzle things out whilst keeping their control. All of which are good things!

9 – Pot Game
Similar to the above, just another step up as you can put as many pots (I actually use some small bowls) pop a treat under all of them, shuffle them around (Slowly!) to encourage your puppy to watch which pot it’s under. When you stop (after a couple of moves at first) ask them to give a paw to the pot they think it’s in and then you can reveal whether it is or isn’t under there. Of course at this stage, it will be! But as you increase the difficulty by decreasing the number of biscuits, or increasing the number of pots, or the number of movements.

Why does this work? Well, we selectively bred dogs to do jobs once upon a time. They had a role in our lives whether it was a collie for herding, a golden retriever for retrieving, or an English bull terrier for ratting – most breeds had a purpose. To do that? We bred them for activities they enjoyed doing – consciously or not! That’s why most labradors will be hippo-pup-tamuses! It’s why a lot of German shepherds get anxious easily. So, don’t leave them without things to do. These sort of activities make them work, work they enjoy, and make them have fun in the way they want to. Stimulation and enrichment. 

So! What do you think? Have you tried any of these? Are they things your dog enjoys? Do you have any other free ideas that you’d like to share? Why not let us know! 

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