Basic Training

Adding Stimulation and Enrichment to Your Dog’s Life

Your dog isn’t just a pet. He’s family. But, as in any family, sometimes there’s going to be trouble. And if you find yourself coming home to pillow stuffing covering every surface, including your shame-faced Fido, or if every visit with friends ends up with your spending more time chasing your little Max or Millie than actually visiting, then that can be a sign your dog needs more stimulation and enrichment. But how do you go about it?

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A Dog’s Life

You might think of your dog primarily as a cute and cuddly fur baby, but the reality is that your dog is probably a lot more intelligent than even you, her proud pet parent, might realize. And while that’s a big plus in a lot of ways, it can also make caring for your little one a bit more complex.

After all, an intelligent but bored dog is an unhappy dog. And they’re going to find a way to fill their days, a way to entertain themselves unless you provide that entertainment for them. Think about it: You have all this pent-up energy and yet your human companion spends most of their waking hours at work, leaving you home alone with precious little to distract you.

If your precious pooch doesn’t have plenty to do to expend their physical energy and keep their mind occupied, then they can act out in some pretty destructive ways, ways that can be dangerous for your pet and damaging to your home. 

The good news is that there are lots of ways to add a little excitement to your favorite fur child’s life. And, best of all, you’ll be making some great memories with your beloved companion in the process!

Enriching the Environment

You may have been one of the millions of Americans who decided to welcome a pet into your home during the pandemic shutdowns only to now be forced to spend most of the day away from them as workplaces reopen.

Or perhaps you get to work from home, but the ordinary responsibilities of daily life keep you out and about more than you and your four-legged friend would like. This can lead to some pretty unpleasant surprises when you get home.

However, you can help your pet keep himself well entertained while you’re away, and even when you’re busy at home, by creating an enriching space specifically for your fur baby. Your pet’s area should be outfitted with furnishings and textiles that can be easily cleaned and that can withstand the punishment that an active canine can surely give it.

In addition, you should trick out your pet’s space with lots of stimulating toys and games. Puzzle feeders, for instance, can be filled with treats that will only be dispensed once your Bruiser or Betsy has hit on the right combination!

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Old Dog, New Tricks

One terrific way to inject not only stimulation but also a whole lot of fun into your dog’s life—and yours—is to try teaching your dog a few new tricks. And we’re not only talking about the standard old obedience commands.

We’re talking about some hardcore fun and games, such as setting up an agility course in the backyard. This can be a terrific way not only to give your dog lots of mental stimulation but also to help him relieve some of the physical energy that might have built up while you were away at work.

And, best of all, you both will be getting some great exercise. Just make sure you and your canine companion stay well hydrated when you’re out mastering the backyard obstacle course, playing in the park, or taking a brisk evening run together! Be sure to pack lots of fresh, cool water both for yourself and your little one, and don’t forget to bring along a container your fur baby can drink from!

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Get in the Game

As much fun as you and your doggie darling may have playing outside, there may be times when you or your pal may prefer some quieter and gentler games at home. And, fortunately, it’s simple and easy to turn any time into playtime. For instance, no dog can resist a good game of hide and seek. You can do it either with food, treats, or toys. Just hide the item somewhere accessible and command your little Einstein to “find it.” When they approach the hidden object, praise them enthusiastically. They’ll not only have to use their own sense to root out the prize, but they’ll also learn to better listen to their human momma or daddy!

The Takeaway

You may be the proud pet parent of the perfect pooch, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t frustrations at times, especially if your Fido is feeling bored and restless. But with a little strategy and effort, you can add stimulation and enrichment to your dog’s life. And that’s going to lead to a happier, healthier, and better-behaved fur baby!

Jori Hamilton is a writer from the pacific northwest.
You can follow her on twitter @HamiltonJori and see
more of her work at writerjorihamilton.contently.com.

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