According to a 2009 study, “Non-domestic, stray and feral animals spend the majority of their time foraging for food.
- Emotional enrichment includes the love, trust and security of a safe and happy home. Social enrichment is met through bonding and play with both humans and other dogs. For human play, think things like fetch, tug, flirt poles, sprinkler games, bubbles and hide & seek.
- Physical enrichment is met through exercise. E.g., hikes, parkour, sniff walks, running, playing, and many different types of dog sports.
- Mental enrichment is an activity whereby a dog’s mind is exercised through cognitive and sensory stimulation. Mental and sensory stimulation can be accomplished through trick training, puzzles, music, nosework, play, new sights and sounds, etc.
- satisfies your dog’s natural instinct to forage
- slows down eating to aid digestion and reduce bloat
- makes meal times more interesting for picky eaters
- provides an energy outlet
- reduces stress and anxiety
- reduces inclination to chew, bark and dig, etc.
- calm a dog after a surgery, injury or spay/neuter when physical activity must be limited
Did you know that many professional dog trainers provide all of their dogs’ food through training? These dogs never eat from a bowl.
How do I get started with food enrichment?
Be Sure to Feed Only Dog-Safe Foods
Foods to ALWAYS Avoid!!
Grapes & Raisins
ANYTHING containing Xylitol
Food Enrichment Activities
Puzzle (Slow Feed) Bowls
Food Stuffer Toys
How to Stuff a Stuffer:
- If your dog is a beginner, start out by filling the cavity with kibble or dry treats. Cap it off with some wet food, squeeze cheese or peanut butter. The wet topper will keep your pup interested until they reach the kibble jackpot.
- Once your pup has the hang of it, try filling with kibble that has been soaked in water or broth. You can even just mix the kibble with wet stuff (pumpkin, yogurt, baby food, peanut butter, etc.).
- Pack it loosely at first and then start packing it tighter.
- Finally, once you have an advanced dog, you are ready to start freezing it. If you are not able to freeze the entire toy, you can freeze things in ice cube trays or small silicone molds. Add this to your stuffer toy, along with kibble or ingredients.
What do I use to stuff a stuffer?
DIY Stuffer Toy Enrichment Ideas
- Hoof/Horn/Bone: If you are like me, you have a variety of hooves, horns and bones lying around the house. Why not try using them as stuffing toys.
- Paper Towel or Toilet Paper Tube: Put kibble in a tube. Fold the ends over or cap the ends with packing paper. You can also fill the tube with kibble, cap both ends with wet ingredients and then freeze.
- Kitchen Items – muffin tins, ice cube trays, old measuring cups, etc.
- PVC: Pick up a pvc elbow or tee, stuff it and freeze it. Alternatively, you can just smear some peanut butter all around the inside surface.
- Try putting a few treats/veggies/fruit into ice cube trays and fill with dilute broth. Freeze. Give a cube to your dog, add one to his bowl, put one in a kong or even float a couple of cubes in a bowl of water or even in a kiddy pool on a hot day.
- Put treats/veggies/fruit and broth in a paper cup. Stick in a milk bone or carrot that will act as your pupsicle stick. Freeze, unmold and serve.
- Same concept, but with an ice cream container. Freeze and unmold in the yard on a hot day. If you have a large enough container, you can even freeze a ball or other toys into the mold.
Make Your Own Snuffle Mat
A simple snuffle mat can be constructed in an evening.
– plastic sink mat
– 1-2 fleece blankets or about 1 ½ – 2 yards of fleece
– scissors or rotary cutter
Cut the fleece into strips, about 1″ wide and 8 to 10” long. Thread a strip through each hole in the sink mat and tie it off. Make sure that you have tied a strip through every single hole. Viola! – snuffle mat!
Other DIY Snuffling Activities
Another great activity with boxes is to “sleeve” them inside of one another like a nesting doll. Take multiple cereal boxes and sleeve them into one another. Slip treats or kibble between the layer. Now let your dog have the time of his life dissecting your masterpiece.
Paper Towel and Toilet Paper Tubes
Turn these into little treasure packets by folding one end, dropping in a few pieces of kibble or treats and then folding the other end closed. You can hide these around the house or tuck them into boxes or baskets. If your dog tends to swallow large chunks, start with paper towel tubes for a larger packet. Teach him how to rip open the packet to get to the treasure. Do not use wet, oily or sticky food stuffs like hot dog, cheese or peanut butter. These encourage your dog to eat the cardboard that has that oily, sticky food residue on it.