9 easy ways to enrich your dog’s life
To feel fulfilled and happy, humans require more than the bare necessities. In addition to the basics for survival, we seek out relationships, hobbies, entertainment, and even challenges to enrich our lives. The same is true for dogs. Like us, our pups need physical, mental, and social stimulation to thrive. But unlike us, they can’t simply register for a yoga class or meet friends for dinner.
1. Go for a Walk
While walks may sound obvious, many dogs don’t enjoy regular strolls. In fact, a study on dog owners in the United States and Australia found that up to 40 percent of people don’t routinely walk their dogs.
Basic as they may be, walks provide numerous physical and mental enrichment opportunities. “A really good walk is fantastic for dogs,” says Lubeach. “They’re getting good exercise, they’re encountering new sights and smells, and you’re strengthening that human-animal bond.” Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate walking routine based on your dog’s breed, age, and health.
2. Try Agility Exercises
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Dogs need mentally and physically stimulating experiences—and neither will be found in a yard that is always the same old, same old.”
Read also: 5 reasons why dogs make great pets
For an enriching backyard activity, try agility training, suggests Trott. Home equipment including weave poles, tunnels, and jumps are readily available online.
3. Use Food Puzzles
Of course, we’re not always available for walks and play sessions. For those times when your dog is home alone, consider offering a food puzzle to keep his brain busy.
4. Serve Dinner Differently
For creative pet parents, even mealtime can provide mental enrichment. Instead of serving your dog’s dinner in a bowl, try using a snuffle mat, which requires dogs to “hunt” through the fibers for their kibble.
5. Train Train Train
Dogs of all ages benefit from training. A 2018 study by researchers in Vienna found that when taught even one simple trick, senior dogs showed increased cognitive function and improved engagement.
6. Play a scent game
Dog noses are natural wonders. Uniquely structured and extremely sensitive, these super sniffers can pick up the faintest of scents. In addition to tracking smells, a recent study found that dogs can actually detect heat thanks to infrared sensors in their snouts.
Read also: 10 tips for taking care of your dog
7. Play fetch
Toys are fun—but they’re more fun when you have a playmate. “Being home alone with a few toys isn’t very fun,” says Lubeach. “Toys are best when they provide an opportunity to play interactively.”
8. Meet new friends
Like us, dogs benefit from active social lives. “Dogs are social beings and like to interact with—or at least watch—other dogs and people.
9. Turn on the TV
According to a recent survey of pet parents, many people worry that their dogs will be lonely when they leave home. Up to 88 percent said they take measures to provide “company,” including leaving on the TV or radio.
Contributed by Monica Waymouth
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