Dog enrichment games and activities
Here at PitPat we’re the biggest advocates of getting outside and exercising your dog, but what happens when you get home and you need them to be calm? Exercise alone isn’t always enough to ensure your dog relaxes when you need them to, and this is where enrichment activities come in.
Enrichment is a name for any activity that occupies your dog and makes them use their brain. These activities often use food to motivate your dog into playing a game, so make sure you account for this in their daily food allowance.
With that in mind, we’ve listed our favourite enrichment games and activities – many use household items and can be put together in a flash, whilst some use toys that we think are well worth the investment.
Kongs have got to be one of the most recognisable dog toys out there. The tough rubber Kong is hollow, with openings on either end so you can stuff or smear food into it for your dog to try and extract. There are different options available based on the size and age of your dog, and varying levels of toughness depending on how much they love to chew!
Try these fun options for stuffing your Kong:
- Take a portion of their daily food allowance (dry or wet is fine) and stuff it in the Kong. If using dry food, cap the ends with dog friendly peanut butter or something equally sticky to make it a little trickier for them.
- Mash up some bananas, strawberries and apples and mix with natural yoghurt – stuff it into the Kong and freeze.
- Take some cooked meat (or raw, if you’ve already been feeding your dog a raw diet), peas and unseasoned mashed potato – mix together and stuff the Kong for a doggy roast dinner!
Cardboard box puzzle
This enrichment game is easy to put together and super fun for dogs who love to tear things apart. Grab a load of cardboard boxes of various sizes and stack them inside one another, loose enough that your dog will be able to get hold of the boxes and tear them. Hide food in each of the boxes and in between the layers, so that as your dog works on tearing the boxes, they are constantly getting rewards. It’ll leave a bit of a mess, but your dog will love it and it’ll keep them entertained for a while.
Treat dispensing ball
Treat dispensing balls are pawfect for dogs fed on dry food. You simply fill the ball with a portion of your dog’s daily dry food allowance and let them go to work on it. They’ll need to roll the ball around using their nose and paws and food will drop out of the ball little by little.
It’s a great option for dogs who gulp down their food too quickly as it forces them to slow down, and is a good distraction if you are out.
Flip the bottle
Flip the bottle is a game that you can either make at home or buy ready made from pet shops. To make it at home you’ll need a few plastic bottles, a piece of string, and somewhere to tie the string between; a crate or play area is great for this.
Simply chop the necks off of the bottles (the smaller the opening, the harder it will be), and make two holes in the upper third of the bottle to thread the string through. Thread all the bottles onto the string, tie it up so they are dangling upright, and add a few bits of food to each bottle.
Your dog will need to learn to flip the bottle to get the food out – a fun game that will get their brains working and provide plenty of entertainment!
Scent work and hide the treat
Even if your dog isn’t a scent hound, they’ll still enjoy this fun little game. Take a handful of food and hide it around the area you’re playing in, such as your kitchen, garden or around the whole house.
Get creative – under plant pots, behind obstacles and in toy boxes are all great hiding spots. If it’s their first time let them watch you hide it, so they understand the game. Then let them loose to find all that yummy food!
Snuffle mats are a small mat with lots of flaps of fabric which you can hide food in. All they need to do is snuffle around in the mat to locate the tasty treats. You can buy these in pet stores or make your own at home using fabric cut offs. For an even easier solution, use a scrunched-up dog blanket or towel and hide the food in the folds.
Game-based training is all the rage at the moment. It’s a simple concept – make training super fun for your dog by incorporating a game. The training tends to be high energy, active and rewarding for your dog; gone are the days of repeating commands over and over. Instead, you’ll use games like catching a treat to develop desirable behaviours, such as walking by your side.
It requires plenty of energy, positivity, and enthusiasm from you, but does create a special bond between you and your dog that will help with more difficult tasks like learning recall.
Lickimats are plastic mats with ridges or soft spikes on them which you smear dog food or treats onto. The ridges and spikes mean your dog has to spend time licking the mat, which is a calming behaviour and great if they need to settle down. PitPat Life members can even exchange their points for a Lickimat in the PitPat prize store!
Try these fun options for your dog’s Lickimat:
- Wet dog food
- Dry dog food soaked in a meaty stock
- Dog friendly peanut butter (in moderation)
- Mashed banana, strawberries, and yoghurt
- Dog friendly spreadable cheese
With all these fun new enrichment games and toys your dog will be spoilt for choice. They are the pawfect supplement to a good exercise regimen, so don’t forget to keep track of how much activity your dog is doing every day with a PitPat dog activity monitor.
And when it’s time to refuel, why not use PitPat Food? It works alongside our activity monitor and free app to tell you the exact portion your pup needs.