Canine enrichment. It’s a term frequently used in the pet industry. Whether it be in boarding, training, or socialization, enrichment is any activity that helps dogs engage in natural behaviors. Playing, chasing, smelling, chewing, and scavenging are all examples of enrichment. Enrichment leads to a happy and healthy dog that is physically and mentally satisfied.
Let’s talk about decompression walks. Decompression walks are often off-leash (in a safe and secure area) or on a long line leash. These walks generally take place in a large open area like the woods, a field, or anywhere away from the business of the city. During this time dogs are free to sniff, explore, roll around, and just be a dog. The walk is unstructured and has a calming and decompressing effect on your dog. Let your dog sniff, it’s how they see the world!
Another form of enrichment involves food dispensing toys or holders. Puzzle toys such as the Kong Wobbler, burrow toys and WestPaw toys offer a fun way to feed your dog their favorite treat or dispense their meal. Working with these toys allows dogs to use their foraging and scavenging skills while being awarded for their perseverance. In our experience, scent work seems to be the most popular and rewarding form of enrichment. No food toys handy? No problem! You can DIY your own food puzzles at home easily. You can use empty boxes filled with shredded paper, paper towel tubes, or egg cartons to hide a few treats in. Using these recyclable items also allows for your dog to rip and shred, furthering their satisfaction! With any new enrichment item, we suggest your pup is supervised to avoid any accidental ingestion of paper or plastic.
Chewing and licking also offers an outlet for dogs. You can stuff and freeze food puzzle toys with ingredients like peanut butter, yogurt, and pumpkin for healthy food fun. Stuffed frozen Kongs do the trick, but you might also consider chews like beef trachea, pig ears, antlers, or bully sticks. Lickimats (silicon or plastic mats with grooves to put in spreadable treats) are also a great option and can keep your dog stimulated for up to an hour when frozen!
At Happy Pets Palace, we understand how important it is for dogs to work all of their senses and be happy, well-rounded pups. Dogs receive lots of enrichment in the play yard when here for daycare and boarding. They socialize with other dogs, play with toys, and get snuggled and brushed by our Pet Care Specialists. In December 2020, we introduced our enrichment program. If dogs arrive by 10 am for daycare, they get one FREE small group canine enrichment session. What’s included in an enrichment session? It depends on the dog. Some shy dogs start out with easier enrichment activities like lickimats or snuffle (foraging) mats and work their way up to harder activities like our FitPaws balance peanut and K9 Klimbs. This equipment allows for balance practice, core strengthening, confidence building and physical exercise. For the confident pups, we have a treadmill to help burn those calories! Additional one–on-one sessions are available for only $10!
We have had such great success from the dogs involved in the enrichment program. They have gained confidence, social skills, group manners, foraging techniques, and so much more! No matter the breed, age, or size, all dogs can find benefit in our program. When you pick up your dog from daycare or boarding, you can take comfort in the fact that your dog has had an enriching, fulfilling, and satisfying day full of fun!