Canine Enrichment and fun ideas

Canine Enrichment and fun ideas
By Lucy Scott, Veterinarian, Anexa Vets Raglan

When we find there is less time for us to walk our canine friends, they must be on crate rest or the weather turns poor, they can build up energy, which is then spent on ways we do not want it to be spent!
The natural dog behaviours of exploring, sniffing, digging and chewing can be used to provide exercise, mental stimulation and reduction in frustration-type behaviours.
Some independent ideas include:
  • Give them appropriate items to chew eg. Kongs with food smeared on the inside.
  • Food dispensing toys (even a bottle with holes punched in it for biscuits to fall out)
  • Put treats in the bottom of a muffin tray and cover with tennis balls!
  • Scatter treats through cardboard boxes to encourage them to dig through.
  • Rotate your dog’s toys so the novelty does not wear out.
  • Feed your dog his food in a wrapped-up towel or scattered on a fluffy bathroom mat to slow them down and make them work for it.
  • Freeze some treats/biscuits in water or meat stock for them to lick.
Or if you want to be involved in your dogs fun, training or nose-work games can be used:
Training- 10 minutes of mental stimulation can be as or more exhausting for your dog than physical exercise. Check-in on your sit, stay, wait and heel, then start teaching new tricks like wave a paw, spin, bow, hi-five or nose touch (see our article on this, here:

Nose-work games- these are super fun exercises that use your dogs’ natural talents-their sense of smell!
Which hand? – this is the simplest game and a great place to start. With a treat in one hand, present both closed hands to your dog. When he/she noses or paws at a hand, open it, showing an empty palm or treat. He will soon be picking which hand the treat is in!

Find it!- use a favourite toy and after a few moments of play, ask your dog to sit and then throw it into a dark room or cupboard (take care not to make it too hard at first, and that you can get to it if they struggle!) release your dog with “find it!” and stand back to watch. You can also play this outside by tossing the toy into some grass or a bush.

What a Klutz!- as you are walking, drop a glove (or another fabric object as it holds your scent well) from your pocket. After 10-15 steps, stop, pat your pockets and ask your dog, can you “find it!”? begin walking back towards it, encouraging your dog to sniff around with pointing and “find it” cues. If he needs help, kick at the object while pretending not to notice it. When he indicates at the object, make a huge fuss, with a treat or toy!

To increase the difficulty, increase the period between dropping and cueing, throw the object off to the side, or even drop multiple objects.

Hide and seek- this is a doggy favourite, best played at night or in a darkened house. As per normal hide and seek, one person hides while another cue the dog to find them, and off you go. Keep cupboards/curtains/doors partially open at first to help the smell escape. If they pass you, on the third time past, make a short sharp sound to get their attention.

As they get good at this, you can make it harder by hiding under a blanket, not moving until they touch you, or even hiding off the ground.

Date Added: Friday, 26th March 2021