Enriching Your Dog's Life
Making your dog’s life interesting and fulfilling and yours less frustrating
Enriching your dog’s life is simply meeting your dog's needs and making their life interesting and fulfilling with things they enjoy. A dog needs; attention, social interaction, exercise, mental stimulation, food, water, and an owner that cares for the needs of his animal. Having a good relationship with your dog is the first step to enriching your dog’s life. Variety for many dogs is the second key to an enriching life. Dogs need to have the opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors such as running, digging, following scents and playing. Engage all of your dogs' senses, to make their days more interesting.
Dogs that have a fulfilling life full of experiences to maintain their mental, physical, and emotional health are less likely to develop the inappropriate behaviors that are the result of boredom, stress, and frustration. Dogs commonly display behaviors out of stress, anxiety, and frustration such as, barking, jumping, spinning, chewing, among others. Boredom and loneliness are sources of excessive stress for both dogs and cats. Long-term stress reduces the immune system's ability to fight disease so it is important that stressors are reduced for our animals.
Unless there is a medical reason that prohibits it, exercise is important for dogs. Take your dog out daily for exercise and give them a chance to enjoy the outside world. Walks are great, but don’t turn them into a march or just a structured activity like heeling where the dog must be watching you. Your dog should walk with you and adjusting his pace to yours and not be pulling on the leash but other than that it should be something you are both doing together and it should be relaxed. Stop sometimes and give your dog permission to use his nose to sniff those areas that are of interest to him as long as it is appropriate and safe. Vary the route you take on your walk and go someplace new for a walk or find a dog friendly place to hike with your dog.
Play with your dog! Every dog should learn how to fetch and enjoy doing it with you if only for a couple of minutes. Some will naturally love to do this for hours, while others it will hold their interest for maybe 5-minutes. The key is that they enjoy the game with you. Some dogs enjoy running with their owners, but before you take them on a run, have them checked by your veterinarian first.
Give your dog an authorized place to dig, a digging pit. Build a sand box or get a plastic pool and fill with a safe children’s sand and teach your dog to dig in this designated spot to find special treats. Teasingly show your dog a favorite or new toy and bury it in the sand box and encourage them to find it. Rotate the toys hid each day so it is always a new adventure. Cover the digging pit each evening when it is not in use to keep it clean.
Freedom to Explore
For many dogs just the chance to freely explore a new area off leash is a great reward as long as it is safe to do so.
Dogs enjoy exploring the world with their noses and understanding on average a dog has about 220 million scent receptors and we humans have about 5 million it is easy to understand why. We go through life primarily using our eyes but they primarily use their nose to explore the world. When dogs are out and about they don’t need to be told to slow down and smell the roses.
There are nose work classes for dogs and their owners to develop your dog’s natural scenting abilities while at the same time being fun.  These structured scent work classes are a great way to bond with your dog, while at the same time providing mental stimulation, burning physical energy, and building confidence in dogs.
At home you can engage your dog’s nose by turning this activity into a game of hide and seek with treats or toys both inside and outside the house in the yard. You just need to figure out what your dog will be determined to find, since that is what determines whether it is a treat. If you use food treats they don’t have to be large. One piece of small kibble at each hiding place can be sufficient for many dogs. Treats can be hidden anywhere safe for the dog to explore; on a chair rail, on the ground under a chair, under, in or on a box, under a bush, tree, toy, etc… if you don’t want to place the treat directly on a surface, place it on a natural unbleached coffee filter paper when you hide it. While your dog is watching, pretend to place a treat in several places. After placing the treat continue to pretend to hide treats. Your dog will likely search the last place that it appeared you hid a treat. Then they will usually start to search the other areas looking for it. You can also place the treat in the center of a piece of paper that you crumble up and toss it for the dog to fetch or just hide it. Many dogs enjoy the act of tearing up the paper to get to the treat.
Some dogs are home-bodies, and others enjoy taking field trips with you. If your dog is well-mannered take them with you when you run errands to dog friendly places where they are permitted to enter but always check ahead of time. Some places that are often friendly to well-behaved dogs are; hardware store, pet store, and some outdoor shopping centers, and restaurant and coffee houses with outside patios often gladly welcome dogs.
Some dogs love to swim but be sure to supervise the activity like you would with children. Sometimes just a small plastic pool with a few inches of water can be a fun and enjoyable way to cool off for some dogs.
Toys, Toys, Toys
Young puppies should have toys to investigate and play with and have other novel items to explore. Toys can be as important to a dog’s development as they are for children. Toys can do more than keep pets entertained and occupied. They can assist dogs with their social and emotional development. Puppies gain more confidence exploring and interacting with new toys and novel items. Anything the dog considers fun can be a toy as long as it is safe and large enough that it cannot be swallowed, destroyed, or ingested. Toys should be rotated every other day so that the puppies have something new to explore and interact with. This also assists in keeping them from getting bored with the items.
Variety is important to many dogs so leave a number of safe toys out for your dog each day to play with and chew on, but rotate the toys daily so they do not become bored with them. If they have a favorite by all means leave it out for them every day if they are not getting bored with it.
Games with toys helps strengthen social bonds, and exercise both minds and bodies. So don’t just give your dog toys, but also take time to play with your puppy and your adult dog. The toys themselves have no magic. You need to be fun and make games with a toy fun for your puppy or adult dog.
Your dog should have a set of toys that have access to all the time to entertain themselves with and to put their teeth on, and another set of special toys that they only get when you are playing with them. A third set of toys should be treat dispensing interactive toys to provide your dog a treat, and / or a challenge and mental stimulation. Download the Buyer's Guide.
Rules for toys
- No dog toy is indestructible.
- Your dog’s safety is your responsibility.
- Supervise until you are confident the dog won’t destroy the toy.
- Replace any toy with cuts, tears, or rips.
- Choose toys that are the proper size and shape for your dog.
- Anything the dog considers fun can be a toy if it is safe.
- Toys must be nontoxic, large enough that they cannot be swallowed, destroyed or ingested.
Treat dispensing Interactive Toys
Interactive treat dispensing toys are a great way to stimulate and engage all your dog’s senses. There are all types of treat dispensing toys available for dog owners but choose those items that are sturdy, well made, and relatively easy to clean. There are two types; dry kibble treat dispensing, and products that can be used to stuff and/or freeze treats inside. The rubber Kong was probably the first popular dog toy people stuffed with differing foods treats to keep dogs entertained. Kong’s can be used with just dry kibble, or a small amount of peanut butter, yogurt, can pumpkin, or similar paste or spread type of moist food. The Kong is a longtime favorite for many dogs but some dogs’ loose interest quickly because the treats inside can be difficult to get at. When using treat dispensing toys remember to adjust your dog’s regular meal time food allotment so they don’t become overweight. Dog Treats We Like to use with our favorites dog toys below.
TreatStik is a treat dispensing toy that will offer your dog hours of mentally stimulating fun.
As your pet nudges & rolls the toy it randomly dispenses its hidden treats
It is a deterrent from destructive behavior & can stand up to strong chewers
Screw cap designed for easy filling of treats
Easy to clean, just place in your dishwasher
A unique and fun treat dispensing dog toy proudly made in the USA
Canine Genius "LEO" treat release rubber toy.
The Canine Genius is one of our favorite dog products. Stimulating for dogs, and is easy to clean. Plus its made in the USA.
Leo - The original connectable treat-release toy! The durable, hollow-core construction, open neck and two cross-cut holes allow Leo toys to be stuffed with treats. Great fun on its' own or connect two, three, or more Leos to create customizable treat-release puzzles (treats can travel from toy to toy). Feed dinner from a Leo to slow down gulpers, and exercise your dogs mind by giving them a "hunting and foraging" challenge at mealtime. Leo is a great way to help obese dogs lose weight too - extending the duration of a meal can help them feel more satisfied with less food. For dogs 10-200lbs. Weighs .8 lbs., 8"h x 4"w. Dishwasher safe and also great for fetch, tug-of-war, and water sports (they float too)! Made in the USA.
Place a special dry kibble into the Leo with a piece of dog jerky. Or you can feed your dog all or half of its meal in a Leo.
Freeze a piece of American sourced and made dog jerky or other treats in a large plastic cup with water and a 1/4 cup of chicken/beef broth. (Take the ice block out of the cup first! Rinse the cup with water to loosen)
Paper Towel Roll Treat
Use a paper towel roll and place treats, a special kibble, and/or a piece of dog jerky inside and hide for your dog. Place about a tablespoon of kibble, and a piece of jerky or other treat your dog loves.
Learn what your dog places on his best things in life list. Dogs that have their mental, physical, and emotional health needs meet are less likely to develop the inappropriate behaviors. Excessive stress can leave dogs susceptible to depression, frustration, dietary disturbances, and even compromise their immune system. Long-term stress reduces the immune system's ability to fight disease so it is important that stressors are reduced for the dogs. (It is the same for humans)
Variety is the key to an enriching life for your dog. Engage all five of your dogs' senses, to make their days more interesting. Anything that is unchanging is no longer unique and loses it value quickly. Download the Buyer's Guide.
Play with your dog, walk your dog and change your walk each time even if it’s only going the opposite direction. If you have trained your dog well you should be able to let your dog be a dog while still maintaining control. A fulfilled dog, is a happy dog. Make your dogs life more interesting and stimulating.
 Canine and Feline Nutrition Third Edition Linda P. Case, MS
 The New Holistic Way for Dogs and CatsPaul McCutcheon, DVM and Susan Weinstein