By NEADS staff members Tori Allen, Paige Palen, and Bailey Sullivan
Enrichment is really important for all the NEADS puppies and dogs that we care for in the Canine Center and Early Learning Center. It provides mental stimulation and keeps the dogs happy. Enrichment examples include snacks that might require a little work, like Kongs filled with kibble, as well interactive toys and games like the muffin tin game and interactive feeders. Non-food related enrichment examples include canine massage and music.
Without dogs on campus during this coronavirus pandemic, we’re working from home and are using many of these techniques to keep our own pets busy. We thought you could use some of these ideas with yours! We'll be adding enrichments to this page over the next few weeks, so please check back.
Thanks to staff pets Astrid, Hiccup, and Summer for helping out.
In the NEADS Canine Center, our dogs get 3 snacks daily. One of those snack options is interactive toys - food dispensing toys that can be as easy as a maze bowl, or as difficult as a puzzle. Some dogs even get interactive toys for their meals, to make their food time last longer and make it more interesting.
Muffin Tin Game
One of the games we play that you can try at home uses just a muffin tin and some tennis balls. Place a couple of pieces of your dog’s kibble into a few of the muffin seats and then place tennis balls over the treats. Your puppy will have to move the balls to find the kibble.
Stuffed Kongs are a great form of enrichment you can do at home. One option is to use some soaked kibble in the Kong. Freezing the Kongs can make them more challenging for your dog.
Audio enrichment is a great way to give your dog mental stimulation. In the Canine Center we play calming music or audio books for the dogs to enjoy. For young dogs this is also a great way to introduce unfamiliar sounds in a comfortable setting. Quietly playing audio of fireworks or sirens can introduce these sounds to your dog in a positive way. It is important that any audio you play for your dog is low in volume.
Outdoor Play and Exercise
If you are able to safely do so, it is important to continue playing with your dog outside. Since we cannot bring our dogs to the park or have doggy play dates, we need to make sure our dogs still get exercise. Think of your dogs play time as both their cardio and your own!
Going for walks with your dog is getting trickier to do, so we have to get creative. If you are not able to bring your dog for a walk wherever you normally do, try bringing them for a walk throughout the house or simply walking around the exterior of your house. While it may not be a new area for the dog, it is still mental stimulation and breaks up the day.
A word about food: Maintaining a proper weight is critical for the health of any dog. Rather than adding more food to your dog’s regular amount of kibble for these exercises, we recommend using some of that daily kibble for treats and socializations.
If you do want to give your dog additional treats, they should be limited. Treats we recommend include Charlee Bears, Blue Buffalo Blue Bits, freeze dried liver, Natural Balance food roll, low fat string cheese, and Kosher hot dogs cut up into tiny pieces.