5 types of enrichment for a happy dog
What is enrichment?
When you work with enrichment, you add or change something in the dog's life so that it has the opportunity to perform natural behaviours to a greater extent. Even though our dogs are adaptable and easily blend into our everyday life, they retain their original needs and behaviours. These needs are not always met in a modern dog's life.
Add a golden edge to your dog's life with enrichment
Working with enrichment in everyday life doesn't have to be difficult. There are many different types of enrichment, and you'll quickly notice what your dog appreciates. Some breeds have a greater need to perform certain behaviours, but this can also vary from individual to individual.
Enrichment is usually divided into six different types; Food enrichment, physical enrichment, cognitive enrichment, scent enrichment, environmental enrichment and social enrichment.
Simple everyday enrichment to start with
1. Let your dog look for their food
When we serve our dogs food in bowls, we deprive them of the pleasure of looking for it. It is a natural behaviour that they would otherwise spend a lot of time and energy on. A simple way to enrich the dog is to throw out a portion of food on the lawn, or hide it in the house. Then let let your dog sniff it out in peace and quiet. This gives your dog an outlet for the need to search for food.
2. Venture off the path
Our dogs are not really built to move straight ahead on flat ground at a steady speed, as many everyday walks look like. Their bodies are made for forest terrain, and for crawling, jumping and balancing. A simple way to offer your dog some movement enrichment is to turn off the path and head to the forest together.
Balance on logs, crawl under large branches and climb a height. This was, your dog gets to concentrate and use small muscles that may not normally be used on a walk round the block.
3. Give your dog a real leg
Dogs' jaws are originally designed to allow them to eat whole animals. A natural behaviour for them is therefore to gnaw on tendons, pull off pieces of meat and chew on bones - which requires concentration and time. Try giving them a real meat bone that it can chew on in peace and quiet.
4. Give your dog a chance to run
All dogs have traces of hunting behaviour left. To varying degrees, they have a need to scout, track, pursue, rush and "attack", which are examples of different kinds of behaviour that are all linked to the dog's hunting code. Even if you can't let your companion dog hunt, you can accommodate some of these behavioural needs.
Many dogs, for example, have a great need to sometimes rush and really stretch their bodies at high speed. A simple way to enrich your dog is to enable that behaviour in a safe way - for example, by letting the dog loose in a large fenced field.
5. Take a nose walk
A dog's most important sense is their sense of smell. Dogs experience their world primarily through their nose, something we humans often forget because we ourselves largely experience the world through sight.
Dogs have a great natural need to investigate their surroundings via their noses. A simple way to enrich the dog is to give it an outlet for that behaviour at regular intervals by taking a nose walk. Let your dog decide the direction and pace of the walk, and let them sniff as much as they want!
Emelie Björkman, licensed animal nurse, tells about her best tip for a happy dog:
"My very best tip for a happier dog is to let the dog try different kinds of activities. Even if you have an activity that you and the dog love to do together, there may be other activities that the dog would appreciate where it also gets to use its brain to try something new!"
Questions and answers about enrichment
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