Things to consider
Enrichment ideas to add a little creativity and fun to an animal’s life
Many dogs can spend hours each day left to their own devices, sometimes leading to social and behavioural problems. As we learn more about animals it is increasingly apparent that mental health is of enormous importance to their wellbeing and lifestyle. The following is a list of suggestions to provide Environmental Enrichment or Entertainment for those times when your dog is left home alone. As dogs are social animals it is vitally important that you spend quality time with them each day, so these ideas should be used in addition to your normal family interaction and an appropriate exercise regime. You should take great care to ensure that there is no danger to your dog or others in any of these activities.
Toys and More Toys
There are many great toys on the market that are designed to keep dogs occupied; individual dogs will have different preferences. Dogs get bored very quickly with the same old toy so put out a few at a time and ROTATE them daily.
Take your dog for a ride in the car when making those short trips such as dropping the kids off at school or going to the post office. It offers them a change of scenery. Even better if you stop at the park on the way home and give him a quick run. NB. Remember the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars.
Hanging an old tyre from a tree can be a great way to entertain a boisterous dog. Place toys or treats in the tyre to ensure interest and rewards for the game. Make sure that the anchor point can take the weight, the abuse and that your dog cannot get caught up in it and become injured. Check out www.aussiedog.com.au for the “Home Alone”, a robust interactive dog toy.
Empty milk cartons, cardboard rolls, egg cartons, cereal boxes and even pizza boxes can be used to entertain. Place some treats in them and let your dog find the treats and have fun destroying the boxes. The bonus is that you are provided with exercise picking up the pieces afterwards!
Before you go out to work in the morning or out for dinner at night, instead of giving your dog their regular dinner in a bowl take a cup of dry food and go out into your backyard and throw it all over the grass. That should keep him busy for a little while. Also try hiding their stuffed Kong so when you go off to work they is busy hunting for his food.
The Treat Ball
You can place dry food into the opening and dogs roll it around to get the food out again. Some dogs take all day and some take five minutes! Suitable for most breeds, but there are a very few that have the jaw strength and capacity to destroy these.
You may be familiar with the Kong, a refillable rubber snowman available from good pet product suppliers which can be stuffed with food and left for your dog to work on during the day. Be aware with multiple dogs that using food games may cause some problems. For more information on Kong’s and some recipes, check out www.kongcompany.com
Recycle Plastic Bottles
Be sure to remove the bottle top and the plastic ring for safety. Punch some holes in the sides of the bottle, large enough for pieces of dry food to fall through. Fill the empty bottle with dry food for hours of fun.
Place some suitable scraps of food into an ice-cream container or Kong, fill with water and freeze. You could even freeze a knotted rope into it so it could be hung somewhere or maybe bury it – as the ice melts the interest is renewed as treats come to the surface. Try making ice blocks with chicken stock - a cool idea for the hot weather!
Window or Viewing Platform
There are some dogs in this world, as with some people, who just love to know what’s going. If your dog is one of these help out by placing peepholes in the fence or providing a raised viewing platform. If your dog is highly excited by movement this probably will not be an appropriate activity.
A Digging Pit/Sand Pit
Some dogs love to dig. Provide an area where they can dig and reinforce this natural behaviour. Choose an area that is hidden by shrubs so they can dig to their heart’s content and you need not have an unsightly hole in the centre of the lawn. Children’s clam shell pools can be used as a sandpit (or pool) where you bury bones, treats and toys.
A Wading Pool
Some dogs adore water so why not encourage it. You can purchase shallow moulded plastic children’s pools (Clams) quite cheaply or alternatively make your own pond. Ensure that they can easily get out of the pond and that it is just paddling depth, then drop some toys or treats, even vegetables such as carrot pieces or whole apples which will float and encourage them to play.
If you have busy schedules then consider the services of a dog walker. Be sure to thoroughly check references, insurance and get details of how many dogs are walked etc. Ask the walker to vary the route to make for more interesting walks.
Maybe your dog has some friends they could visit once a week, or who could come to visit them. Spending a day with a compatible friend is a great way to enrich their life and provide some valuable socialization. Is there a Doggy Day-care in your area? This can be a great time if you have a social butterfly dog.
Dogs that have access to inside the house often spend much of their day inside feeling safe and secure and SNOOZING!
Do you need more help?
If you would like some help, contact the behavioural trainers at the Animal Welfare League on 83481331. We run private lessons or refer you to professional positive trainers in most areas of South Australia.