Environmental Enrichment

Are you struggling to keep your dog occupied while you’re out at work? Do they constantly find entertainment by digging up your yard and chewing your outdoor furniture? There are many ways to keep your dog occupied in the yard while you’re out. Here are just a few ideas that will make sure your dog doesn’t get bored by making meals a fun and time-consuming game. They will love you for it!

  • Designated Digging Areas
    Digging is a very natural doggy behaviour. If your dog destroys your lawns by constantly digging holes, the best way to deal with this is a designated digging area. Fill a clam shell pool or a specific corner of your yard with sand or soil different to your normal soil and hide their food and treats in there. They will have great fun digging around and getting treats out of it. Make sure the digging area isn’t near a fence which they could dig underneath and that you place treats every couple of days to keep them excited about the designated area.


  • Frozen Food Toys
    Chew toys like Kongs can be stuffed with food or treats and are a great way to keep you pup busy. They also decrease the chewing of other items like your outdoor setting. You can stuff these chew toys with peanut butter and treats or fill them with wet food (pretty much anything that won’t fall out straight away). In our Townsville climate it’s best to freeze these food toys and then give them to your dog during the day. It will keep them occupied for longer and also helps cool them down in the heat.You can also fill a little Tupperware container with chicken stock, add a few pieces of kibble or some vegetables (like sweet potato, carrot or pumpkin) and freeze overnight. Tip it out on a shady part of the lawn before you leave and your dog will have fun licking it until there’s nothing left! Ensure there isn’t any onion in the chicken stock as this is toxic for dogs. Don’t forget their old time favourite, raw bones! Make sure that any bones you give to your dog are big enough not to be swallowed. You can also freeze them to make them last longer.


  • Using Their Nose
    If your dog isn’t a chewer but likes to sniff for things, a great idea is to just throw their dry food over the lawn. This way they get to use their nose and natural instincts to search for their food. It will take them longer to eat and also tire them out mentally. Start at a simple level by spreading their dry food over the patio so it’s easy to find. Then slowly increase the difficulty by spreading it across the lawn. Pay attention to not throw it where your dog goes to the toilet.


  • Self-Made Food Puzzles
    Almost anything that your dog won’t eat can be used as a food puzzle. Most dogs are big fans of chewing and ripping cardboard boxes apart. Here is a list of possible food puzzle items: egg cartons, soft drink cartons, plastic bottles (without the lid), other boxes of any sort, dog food bags, resealable dog treat bags, you name it. Put their dry food inside, close it up and let the fun begin! Some dogs need some encouragement and help in the beginning, others will jump straight into it. Please always supervise your dog when using these puzzles the first few times, as you want to make sure they don’t actually eat the cardboard or plastic and don’t get their head stuck in a box (yes that can happen)! Most dogs will absolutely love this game once they’ve gotten used to it. For one of my dogs I now put his food in a treat bag, the bag in a little box and the little box in a bigger box, like a babushka doll.


  • Hide & Seek
    All of the above-mentioned food games can be combined with a little hide and seek. Put your dog inside while you hide the food toys outside, they will become really excited when they are finally allowed outside to search for their food!


  • Physical and Mental Exercise
    All of these food games will require your dog to use their brain and will tire them out mentally. If you have a very physically active dog, think about adding early morning walks to your routine before you head to work. Dogs love going out for walks and engaging all of their senses, it’ll burn some of that energy that otherwise goes into destructive behaviours. Remember it’s not all about the walking, for your dog, it’s more about the smells, so let them sniff!