What is enrichment and why is it so important?
Animal enrichment, also known as behavioural enrichment, is the process of providing animals with some form of stimulation that encourages their natural behaviours. Enjoying these natural behaviours leads to an improvement in physical and mental health and can even reduce problem behaviours in your pets!
Enrichment should be enjoyed by every dog, but it is especially useful for those who are showing behavioural issues such as separation anxiety, destructive behaviour or excessive barking. There are many types of enrichment that can be used to improve your dog’s health and happiness; Sensory, Social, Nutritional, and Behavioural. You will find that some activities fall into more than one category.
Sensory enrichment is things that dogs can smell, feel, hear and see. Giving your dog new sensory experiences can be as simple as adding some dog friendly herbs to your garden, creating a sandpit or pond for them to play in, blowing bubbles for them to chase or playing music.
Social enrichment is spending quality time interacting with your dog. By spending time together you give your dog interaction with you, your friends and family or other dogs in a positive way. There are many other ways that you or others can give your dog meaningful social interactions. Try trips to a dog park, employ a dog walker or treat them to a day at a doggy daycare centre.
Nutritional enrichment is providing new and novel foods or different ways for your dog to eat them that encourage foraging, digging and sniffing.
This leads us into the broader category of behavioural enrichment. This category includes things like physical exercise, items in their environment, toys, training and novel activities that all encourage your dog to use natural behaviours like sniffing, digging, exploring and scavenging.
What can you do to enrich your dog? Ryan showed you one of the simplest ways to get started with enrichment- through food! By using a food toy at meal times your dog is not only getting more physical exercise, but they are also sniffing and foraging – meaning they are getting a mental workout too!
Don’t have a food toy? Read this post to see what you can do with items at home.
Another incredibly easy way to start your enrichment journey is to take your dog on a sniffari!
Sniffari’s are just slow, scent walks for your dog. The aim of sniffari’s are to let your dog lead the way, at their pace and let them sniff anything and everything they want to.
These are best done with a long leash and a harness, in a natural environment with plenty of trees. As you walk, you can scatter a few treats around to encourage additional foraging. Don’t expect to go very far! It’s important to remember that these walks aren’t so much for the physical exercise, but the mental exercise.
Tag us in photos of your #Sniffaris