Canine Enrichment

Many of you have been witness to an active dog having to have down time while recovering from injuries or just simply a board dog.  You all have also been a party to what can happen if your dog gets board.  This is a very important and potentially dangerous time for your canine.  When a dog is recommended rest for recovery it is often hard to get them to stay calm and rest and that is just when you are dealing with the physical side of things, what about there mental health during these times. 

As a rehab practitioner often one of my recommendation is rest and controlled exercise but for an previously active dog this can be the end of their world.    If they don’t get extremely aloof from their rest period they can become destructive to themselves and/or things around them.  When your dog is recommended a rest period from physical activity you as their owner are challenged with the task of finding them something to do to pass the time.  With exercises out of the equation or on a strict controlled plan that leaves mental stimulation to challenge them.  Challenging your pets mind can be extremely stimulating for them and can offer them and you the release they need from their human imposed prison time due to a healing injury.  Give your pet 20 minutes with a mentally challenging game and you will see that this will calm them.  Getting your pet “out of their head” can achieve calm in their mind and their body.  Now, with a pet on rest we will also have to be calorie wise as they will not be burning the calories they consume.  A great way to achieve both goals is to use their food as part of their challenge, they can focus their mind intensely on finding their breakfast and diner.

There are many ways to achieve canine enrichment if you use your imagination.  There are also a number of products and games that you can purchase for improved canine focus and creating mental exhaustion.  I will outline a few homemade games that I have created for my own dogs and I will post links for some store-bought ideas also.

First off, what about meal time?  We can change this event not only to slow down a super fast eater but we can also make mealtime a fun focus game of “how am I going to get my food”?  There are store bough bowls you can purchase that can present these challenges for your pet, for instance the slow feed bowls.  These come in a variety of colours and designs.  You could also use some at home genius and create your own slow feeder by using a cookie sheet, some small obstacles like toys, balls, etc. and sprinkle their meal around these obstacles.




What if we are looking to just have fun with our dogs?  Here are a few games you could play with your dog at home using things you find at home. 

Where’s the treat (or kibble) à  using a couple of muffin tins and tennis balls your dog could use their strongest sense (their nose) and find the treats that are strategically placed under a tennis ball or other objects.  Turn the muffin tin upside down and put the kibble/treats underneath.  You can place it on a rubber surface so it wont slide or leave it on the slippery surface so it moves around on them.  This will depend on your dogs’ immobilization and abilities.

You could also cut some holes in an old shoe box, slip some treats or kibble into the box and let them loose on it.  They will have to tip it over and get the lid off to get the reward.


A home-made snuffle matt is always fun!  Use a rubber mat you get at the hardware store, you can buy individual squares, get some fleece and tie the fleece to the rubber mat.  Sprinkle the treats/kibble on the mat and watch them search and sniff and scratch.

Some times its nice to have a few games that your can add into the mix that are perhaps a little more challenging, have a few more steps and can take them around the room working the treat loose.  There are a number of these games on the market and you can find most of them at your friendly pet store.   I personally like the Kong Wobbler, I have beagles and they chase this thing around the house.  There are also more intricate games that involve lifting and sliding of the device to reveal the reward.  Use only one or make your dog an obstacle course of search and reveal games, this will entertain them for upwards of 30 minutes and leave them mentally exhilarated and ready for some quiet time.

 The mind is an important part of total canine fitness and it shouldn’t be forgotten.    One must implement a total body approach to fitness for a complete outcome.  The five key components to total body fitness are cardiovascular, strength, balance, mental and flexibility.  Without all you will not be able to achieve a sound body and mind. 

I hope you enjoy this blog, canine enrichment has so many applications and it is so important for your dog.  The growing puppy, the mature adult, the aging senior and the convalescing, they can all benefit from some metal stimulation and FUN!


Below are some helpful links for canine enrichment.  Enjoy!



You get the idea.  Make your own, buy some along the way but make sure you and your dog are having fun.