4 Creative Ideas to Improve The Quality of Your Dog's Indoors Experience
‘Time at home doesn’t need to be time between walks’
If you think about it, our dogs are just hanging there waiting for us to do something. Because of this lack of independence, they are often left without the mental stimulation they need.
When it comes to canine enrichment, the first thing you need to consider is what dogs naturally love. What excites them? Consider your dog’s individual preferences and special traits. What makes their eyes sparkle?
When it comes to indoor canine enrichment the options are limited, but with your creative participation things can get interesting.
Below are some games and activities designed to stimulate the instinctual drives of dogs. They excite most dogs, but not every one will enjoy all of them. Here we go:
1. Play stimulating games
- Tug of war. Most dogs love tugging. It’s a great, collaborative, and fun way for them to get rid of excess tension. For dogs, tugging is a way to satisfy some long-domesticated but still present instincts and skills. Instincts and skills that their ancestors, the prehistoric wolves, developed to handle difficult tasks such as catching and fighting preys, and then ripping apart their flesh. Somewhere in there lies the beautiful reason why dogs still find pleasure in tugging.
- Scent games. Scent game or nose work is a find-it-game. You basically train your dog to find hidden treats or items. This way you take advantage of your dog’s most advanced sense, their smell. Earned food is highly stimulating for dogs and it goes back to their wild days when food was hard work. See here how to do it.
- Wrestling. Wrestling is a learning tool for puppies (as it is for many mammals including humans), and a good old fun way for adult dogs to bond and enjoy each other. They naturally know how to be as rough as they are allowed to be and keep it fun for everybody. Wrestling with your dog is fun, intensive, and safe, despite many people’s concerns that don’t want to mess with their dog’s jaws at any time. I recommend you ensure a trusting relationship with your dog before you engage in a wrestling session with them. After that, wrestling will not just entertain them and you but will strengthen your bond as well.
2. Play brain games
- Kongs. Kongs are special chew toys that you can stuff with tasty treats. The stimulating part is that it takes time and effort for dogs to get them out. It serves perfectly as a boredom buster. Kongs and kong-like toys are my dog’s favorite. I give her the kong stuffed with treats and veggies when I leave home to keep her busy for at least 30-40 minutes.
- Puzzle feeders. They are designed to sharpen your dog’s problem-solving abilities. Your dog will try to figure out how to get the treats. They have to push a button, roll, or toss to get a treat out. This will motivate them to continue until all treats are out.
- Snuffle mats. Snuffle mats are used to encourage slow eating. If your dog eats like a beast in a hurry snuffle mats can help. They are also used to stimulate the problem-solving parts of their brains as they try to sniff their way to the hidden treasures. See here how you can make a snuffle mat for your doggie.
Teach them your language
If you want your dog to reach celebrity status do it like John W. Pilley who taught his dog Chaser to identify more than a thousand objects by name.
Knowing the name of objects is an amazing skill for a dog and teaching them is a challenging process.
Play the cup game
A little magic trick for clever dogs.
Take three or more cups and place one treat under one of them. Let your dog see where the treat is before you mix the cups up. Let your dog select a cup -probably with their nose. Praise them when they select the right one.
If they pick the wrong cup continue without disapproval until they pick the right one. When they find it, they get to enjoy your praise and the treat. Fun.
To introduce the game, place a treat under each cup so that the win is guaranteed.
3. Let them chew their boredom away
What should they chew?
- Raw bones of any type that are bigger than the size of their muzzle. This way you make it impossible for dogs to swallow.
- Chewing toys made of hard plastic that is impossible to break. Often they come with a scent for instant engagement.
Ask your vet if you have doubts.
What shouldn't they chew?
- Rawhide bones. They are harmful byproducts of the leather industry, treated with chemicals, even bleach, to make them look raw and bone-like. Avoid them. Don’t fall for their convenience.
- Cooked bones. They easily break into small sharp pieces and cause injuries on their gums, esophagus, or rectum.
- Bone-like treats. Avoid them. They are treated in questionable ways before they end up in stores.
4. Indoors training sessions
Training is many things. Training is our way to communicate with dogs, a way to show them the human world they live in, or a way to teach them new behaviors. If done with positive reinforcement, training is also fun, rewarding, bonding, and stimulating. They enjoy your approval every time they do the right thing, and that they get to figure out how to earn the treats in your pocket.
Regular training sessions are a great way to enrich your dog’s life at home. Your home is a good place to introduce new behaviors, given the no-distractions environment, and carry on later outside to establish them in a more distractful environment.
See how dogs learn by consequences, for a better understanding of how dog-training works.
3 Bonus ideas
An activity that many dogs enjoy is ripping stuffed animals and other toys apart. The reason behind their love for stuffed animals and particularly their destroying them is cruel, but hey.. we don’t argue with Nature. It’s an activity as old as their DNA and the pleasure that comes from it goes deep to the core of their existence: Catching preys and ripping their flesh apart.
The pet industry took this a step further and added a squeaky sound to stuffed animals every time dogs squeeze their jaws around them. This sound resembles the sound of fearful, injured, or straggling small animals. Highly satisfying, that’s all they are left with.
Honestly, I get very amused when my dog tries to rip her new toy/prey apart. She finds peace only when the little toy/prey is completely lacerated.
If your dog is sensitive, picky, or allergic, finding the ideal food is a big deal and you should stick to it. But if not, variety will be appreciated.
How about a second dog?
This is the best way to keep your dog entertained and exercised at all times. Two or more dogs that live together will form their own little pack. If done right, their friendship will enrich their lives more than any fetch or tug session will ever do.
Last but definitely not least, the best way to know what your dog needs, or where there is space for improvement, is to know your dog. Nobody else knows your dog’s individual needs and preferences better than you. Get insights from their unique personality about what you need to do to improve their life.
Watch how it is they spent their days. Identify the areas that need work. Ask yourself how you can be a better leader and provider:
- Is a change needed here?
- What does my dog like?
- Is there a better way to do things in order to enrich my dog’s life?
- Do I make the best out of our shared time?
- How is my dog when I leave?
- Is this or that advice applicable to my life?
Observe your dog and let their preferences guide you. Give them what they want. Their individual preferences, along with everything that being a dog includes, will guide your efforts to improve their lives. Your dog will feel loved and taken care of, the greatest enrichment of all.
As always, complete this post with your recommendations, insights, or questions (they are all answered). And share the post with other dog folks if you feel like it.