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Enrichment Ideas to Wear Out Your Pet

If you have a high-drive dog or a dog with a lot of energy, then you know it can be next to impossible to wear out your pup. You will almost never be able to tire out a dog who is made to be active all day long with frequent walks and other physical activity, although this is still important. Enrichment works your pet's mind, which will tire them out much quicker and with much less effort on your part. Read the articles below to learn about a few different types of enrichment that your can try with your pet. This article is geared towards dogs, but many of the ideas below can also be adapted for cats or other pets.

Food Puzzle Toys

Brown dog using a food puzzle

Food toys and puzzles are probably what comes to mind for most people when you think of enrichment. For these enrichment activities, you can use treats or your dog's meals. You can buy many different puzzle toy types online and from pet stores, including puzzle balls and interactive feeders. You can also make DIY puzzle toys at home from your recycling. You can make an easy DIY puzzle feeder with paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Fill them with some food or treats and close both ends, then cut small holes in the sides so the food can come out when the roll is pushed around. You can also do this with disposable water bottles and small boxes. Just make sure you keep an eye on your dog with any toy to make sure they do not eat anything they aren't supposed to.

Interactive Games

Geman shepherd dog chasing a flirt pole

Games are not only a great way to wear out your pet, some can even help strengthen your training. Playing hide and seek with your dog can help strengthen their recall. "Find it", where you hide the treats or kibble and have your dog search for them, is also a fun game to introduce scent work to your dog and quickly wears them out with little effort. Chase and catch games such as fetch, frisbee, and flirt poles are also a good option for you and your dog. Positive reinforcement training sessions, especially shaping games, are an excellent way to help tire out your dog while also building manners in the home, important skills for everyday life, or just for the sake of learning and training. Just remember to keep it positive and set your dog up for success so they enjoy every second of it.

Foraging Toys

Merle dog using a snuffle mat

The most common foraging toy you will hear about is the snuffle mat. This mats are full of pockets and shag for your dog to nose through to find treats or food. You can buy one or make your own at home. An easy way to make your own snuffle mat is to take an old towel, sprinkle treats and food across it, and then twist it until it is balled up. Another option is to skip the mat altogether and scatter their kibble on the floor or in the yard for them to find and pick up. More options for foraging toys include taking an old muffin tin and fill the tin with treats or kibble and covering them with toys, small bits of balled-up paper, balls, etc. for your dog to nose through. You can also take a box, sprinkle kibble or treats on the bottom or wrap them in paper, and fill it with paper and/or toys. Remember it is ok for your dog to interact with these toys not as expected; they will decide what is most enriching for them.

Environmental Enrichment

Brown dog carrying a large stick on a forest trail

Environmental enrichment is how you change your pet's environment to be stimulating for your pet. This can be as simple as rotating toys so your pet does not have the same toys out every week or taking your dog to a new place or to a park to smell and explore. You can also create a pet-safe garden for your pet to sniff and explore. Take your dog out for a 'sniffari' walk and let them take in the smells of the neighborhood. A sandbox where your dog can dig is not only a great way to get their energy out, but it also keeps your dog from digging up your yard. Just make sure to cover it when it is not in use. You can make the sandbox or garden more exciting by hiding toys or treats there to be found by your pet. When coming up with environmental enrichment for your dog, think about how to engage not only their senses but their natural instincts. If your dog has a healthy way to engage in these, it makes them less likely to do them in inappropriate situations.

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