10500 Little Brier Creek Lane, Raleigh, NC 27617 | (919) 544-2226

Environmental Enrichment for Dogs

Wild Dog Environment:
• Most of the day spent foraging for food
• Many animals to chase
• Grass to hide in
• Room to run
• Ponds to swim in
• Rocks and hills to climb
• Plants to eat
• Barking, chasing, running all day
• Places to dig

Domesticated Dog Environment:
• Food in a bowl
• Walk to potty 2-3 times daily
• Stuck in the house all day and all night
• Same old toys around the house, nothing new
• Getting yelled at for begging at the table
• Getting yelled at for barking

What can we do to enrich the environment in pet dogs?

Feed to simulate foraging:
(remember to calculate treats as part of the daily calorie allowance and to make sure non-food items are not ingested)

• Put out 3-4 toys at a time, rotating toys every 3-5 days to keep things fresh, new and exciting
• Feed in a food toy such as a Buster Cube, Roll-A-Treat Ball, Kong (can even put some dry and canned food frozen for a few hours)
• Put some dog food or treats inside a cardboard box, old towel/rag, plastic jugs and let dog tear apart to get at food
• Scatter food out in grass or yard or floor for hunting or put small portions of the meal in Tubberware containers around the home
• Put fruits or veggies (ie strawberries, apples, squash, bananas, peppers, blueberries, carrots, celery, broccoli, melons, etc) in the yard or bury in sand box or float in wading pool (no grapes or raisins!)
• Put low sodium chicken broth, Gatorade frozen in ice cube trays or Tubberware containers and freeze. You can even add pieces of food items (ie blueberries, strawberries, peas, green beans, carrots, dog food, treats, etc) to them before freezing.

Make the environment interesting and exciting:
(remember which toys to use depends on your dog and your dog’s tendency to ingest foreign items as well as preferences)

• Buy a child’s wading pool and fill with water or sand (you can keep the pool above ground or bury it), or have 1 pool with each, or alternate between water or sand
• Place novel scents in the home or yard using small amounts of spice, herbs, extracts, or synthetic animal scents (ie squirrel, rabbit, quail- from a sporting goods store)
• Hang rope or inner tubes from branches or fences in the yard to play tug with (alternate types often)
• Old water bottles or milk jugs of cardboard or plastic or 5-gallon water jugs. (empty or with treats)
• Old tires loose or on the ground or hanging from ropes.
• Switch out toys every 3-5 days- keep only 3-4 toys out at a time. Use both toys (squeaky toys, robe toys, stuffed animals, balls, etc) and chewing items (nylabones, greenies, rawhides, West Paw bones, etc)
• Music, windows, TV
• Tactile stimulation through petting, massaging, brushing

Exercise and Play:
• Walk your dog for 20-30 minutes 1-2 times daily. (note that letting your dog out into a yard is not a substitute for walking) (a 6 foot leash is required for this and let your dog sniff and explore the scents and environment)
• Running with your dog (it is important to let your dog have sniff walks and running walks for exercise)
• Play groups with 2-4 safe dogs that your dog gets along with (friends with dogs)
• Throwing a ball or Frisbee (a ball launcher can extend the distance)
• Tug-of war
• Sporting activities such as flyball, agility, tracking, etc
• Long hikes in parks and wooded areas (an 8-10 foot leash is appropriate to let your dog sniff- Flexi leads are not recommended as these leads do not allow you to forcibly remove your dog from dangerous situations)