Pet superstores are crammed full of toys and amusements for dogs but are they really necessary? After all, you feed them, take them for walks and love them. That’s enough, right? Just as humans require mental stimulation, so do animals. Environmental enrichment is the key phrase that’s heard around zoos, animal parks and shelters. We’ve all seen those poor zoo creatures that do nothing but pace back and forth. The main reason for this is that they have no mental stimulation. The reputable zoos now give their animal’s toys and puzzles to solve, including working out how to get their food. This has made a significant difference to their wellbeing. Your dog needs enrichment too, especially if it’s at home alone. Here are a few ways to give your pet the stimulation it needs.
Kong is King
There are a number of hollow, rubber chew toys on the market but Kong is the most popular. Collars and Tags have a great selection in their on-line shop. Although dogs enjoy chewing and fetching a Kong as is, they particularly enjoy working out how to get to the tasty treats you can stuff it with. Dog biscuits are fine or try spreading peanut butter inside. If you think that’s too easy and need the game to last longer, load up the Kong with treats, then hide it somewhere safe or put it inside a cardboard box. Your dog’s sense of smell should take over and they’ll work hard to find that food. If you’re available to play with your dog, tie a string to the loaded Kong, then slowly move it around and stop. If you repeat these actions, Fido will concentrate and learn stalking techniques.
Tug of War
There are numerous tug of war toys out there which dogs certainly enjoy, however clear ground rules must be established. Dogs will growl and look like they’re being aggressive, however it’s usually just play. If the dog gets over-excited and snatches the rope from your hand, then play time should end. The rope should always be put away after each session, so the dog knows it’s a treat. If real aggression is exhibited, then this activity is not suitable.
Dogs with Visual Impairment
Don’t think your blind dog has to miss out on the fun. They will rely heavily on hearing and smell, so toys that can be stuffed with strong smelling treats are suitable, as are toys that make noises, such as a chiming ball. Most blind dogs will play ‘hide and seek’, just like a sighted animal, and you’d be amazed at how accurately they can follow a squeaky toy.
Play is absolutely essential for your dog’s overall well-being and if you leave your pet for extended periods, then it’s of paramount importance to provide environmental enrichment to alleviate stress and loneliness.