Enrichment for your Dog

When I am meeting with clients many haven’t heard of enrichment or have some misunderstanding about what it is. Enrichment is a way to allow dog to exhibit natural behaviors to allow their needs to be met in a way that is safe and appropriate. Dogs were not designed to live in our houses and human centric world. They are animals that were designed to run around, bark, forage for food, dig, etc. Many behaviors that make dogs, dogs aren’t always acceptable in the human world, especially if you live an urban or suburan enviroment.

Many problem behaviors appear in dogs because they are expected to just hang out on the couch all day and not do anything. All dogs need an enrichment to stay happy and healthy. It is a basic need just like food and water.

What does enrichment look like thought? Ideal enrichment varys dog to dog. Different breeds are bred for different purposes and different dogs have individual preferences. Looking at your breed history or the problem behaviors your dog exhibits might give you an idea of some natural behaviors they enjoy preforming. Adding enrichment as outlets for problem behaviors can often reduce those problem behaviors. Here are some common dog behaviors and how to add enrichment for it.

Foraging for Food

Dogs in the wild would need to spend the day looking for their next meal. We often see this as a problem behavior at home as counter surfing. This is normal behavior for dogs to do but we also don’t want them stealing our whole pizza off the table. Here are some ideas to help.

  • Puzzle toys
  • Kibble scatter in grass
  • Snuffle mat
  • DIY Food puzzles
  • Hide and go seek with treats


Digging is another behavior we don’t often like our dogs doing. They might dig up your yard or your flowers. Instead if we give them an appropriate place to dig, it is easy to teach them to dig there and not in your yard. If you have a yard you can get a sandbox and put treats and toys in it to let them dig. You can also take them regularly to place where they can dig like a beach or volleyball court. Just make sure to fill in holes so others don’t trip.

Chasing animals

Dogs like to chase birds and squirrels and other animals. Sometimes we have a safe place to do that like your dog chasing a squirrel out of your yard but it isn’t always safe to let our dogs chase animals and we also don’t want to let harass wildlife and many places have laws about it. Instead we can find a way to let our dogs play a chase game that is safe and we can control so our dogs learn to listen better. Games like flirt pole or fetch allows us to use toys to allow our dogs to chase and teach our dog to listen.

There are many more forms of enrichment. For more ideas and ways to help your dog contact us.

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