It's pretty normal to assume that your dog will require lots of long walks and adventures outside, particularly if he's a high energy breed such as a Viszla. But did you know your dog can get just as much if not more canine enrichment through some simple activities you can do at home?
Fun Fact: Approximately 10 minutes of sniffing and/or brain games gives as much mental stimulation to your dog as up to an hour's walk - depending on the breed, age and individual needs.
From a photographer's point of view, I'm often told by clients that their dog has slept the rest of the day after their photo shoot - this is because we're asking them to use their mental skills & self-control by sitting, staying and posing for their photographs. It's just like humans doing a crossword and working those little grey cells!
There are times that you may need to entertain your dog at home rather than being able to go out, such as if they are recovering from an operation such as neutering, or if you are unable to go out through illness. So here are five quick and easy ways to enrich your dog at home without the need for any expensive equipment:
Before you put out the recycling, consider how you can use it to dispense your dogs food in new and interesting ways:
- Toilet Roll Inners can be folded into kibble-containing parcels which your dogs can undo to get to the treats.
- Plastic bottles are great as a treat dispenser - just make a few treat-sized holes in the side, fill with a handful of dry food or training treats and put the lid on. Your dog can have stacks of fun pushing the bottle around to get the treats out.
- Egg Boxes and plastic biscuit trays can be used for wet or dry food divided into portions - or maybe try different types of food to see what they like best!
Find an old towel and lay it flat on the floor. Scatter kibble or training treats across the town and then roll it up, leaving a little bit unrolled with a few treats showing. Your dog can use their nose to sniff out the treats and unroll the towel.
If you want to make this more challenging, you can roll 2 or 3 towels up together, overlapping them in different directions or folding one inside the others.
TOY HIDE & SEEK
Hide and Seek is a great game to play to get your dog's grey cells working!
All you need to do is take a favourite toy and hide it somewhere in your home, then ask your dog to find it. Once they bring it back to you, reward them and repeat a few times.
This is also a great opportunity to practice releasing or leaving the toy for you to pick up when they bring it back to you!
The key to this game is to keep it simple until your dog gets the idea and then you can progress to more tricky hiding places for your dog to discover.
LICKIMATS & KONGS
Lickimats and Kongs are both inexpensive feeding aids which will keep your dog amused for AGES. Both licking and chewing are relaxing, stress-relieving activities for your dog, so these are great for keeping them occupied.
The Lickimat is a silicon mat which can be spread with things like cream cheese, peanut butter (xylitol free only) or complete wet food and will keep your dog busy for ages. Prices start from about £3 and are available from many pet shops and stockists, including Amazon.
Kongs come in various shapes and sizes and are designed to be stuffed with your dog's favourite food, which your dog can then lick out in their own time. They can also be frozen to make them last longer. Kongs are a little more expensive starting from around £10, and various options are available for puppies, older dogs and super tough chewers.
LEARN & PRACTICE TRICKS
A great way to keep your dog amused is to learn and practice new tricks! Whenever I see Dave and Remus, I find out what new tricks they've been learning, grab a handful of treats and give it a go - they've soon learned that Auntie Sandie time is fun time! Simple tricks we do together include: high-five, weave, peekaboo, spin and twist.
My friends at Potter Paws Dog Training have a selection of courses and short trick trainings which you can purchase and access online - check out how to teach your dog to do a Peekaboo for just £4.99 on their website.
All these activities are aimed at providing enjoyable stimulation for your dog without becoming frustrating or annoying - so start small and work up to more challenging options!
What are your tips for providing canine enrichment at home?