Did you know that there is often a reason behind “bad dog” behaviors? When you have a dog that overall listens well and knows basic obedience commands, but still gets into mischief around the house, they are likely trying to tell you that they are bored and need more mental stimulation.
Some of these behaviors include:
- Destroying things in and around the home
- Chewing on furniture, shoes, kid’s toys, etc
- Digging holes in the yard
- Pacing around the house
- Panting (not due to physical activity)
- Overexcitement (darting outdoors, jumping on guests, etc.)
- Barking and/or pawing for attention
These behaviors are strong indicators that there needs to be some mental stimulation in your pup’s life. So, how can we help our furry little loved ones out? Even with a basket full of toys, some dogs will display these behaviors simply because the toys that are offered to them do not have the capability to keep them entertained for extended periods of time.
Luckily there are tons of enrichment options that will hopefully help meet your pup’s mental stimulation needs! I’ve listed some ideas below, including some that can easily be made at home with things that you already have lying around! Keep in mind that this will be a trial and error journey for you and your pup, so stay positive and don’t get disheartened if some of these options don’t work for you.
Kong toy with treats
This option is probably the most well-known, if not the most popular amongst dog owners. Peanut butter (one that is not made with xylitol) is a great treat to put inside a Kong toy because it’s super sticky so it will keep your dog occupied for a while! Try freezing the Kong with peanut butter inside to make it a little more intriguing and challenging for your pup.
There are also special treats made specifically to fit inside a Kong, but remember to calculate the extra calories this will add to your dog’s diet. Check out this blog post for healthy treat options for enrichment. The downfall to this option is that it is pretty messy, so make sure you use a space that can be easily cleaned or that you don’t mind getting dirty.
When it comes to choosing the right Kong for your dog, consider the colors and what they mean. On Chewy.com, they list the categories based on your pup’s age/what kind of chewer they are. Make sure to throw the Kong away immediately if your dog starts to rip any rubber pieces off.
Hide and seek plush burrow toys
These toys are incredibly fun for our furry friends who love plush toys and a good game, as well as for our friends that either are not particularly food motivated or are on a diet. These little plush toys come in a variety of different animals that “hide” inside an object until your pup finds them and pulls them out. Once all of the creatures are out, just place them back in so that your pup can do it all over again! These toys are great for dogs that are destructive and love tearing things apart. I love all the adorable options that are out there, but check out our shop for our favorite burrow toys!
*If your dog has a tendency to ingest small objects, this may not be the best option
Muffin tin dog puzzle
I am loving this DIY treat puzzle for so many reasons! First of all, it’s extremely easy to do yourself, and it involves inexpensive items that you likely already have at home! Using a basic 12 cup muffin tin (you can use a smaller muffin tin, but more cups = more challenging!), place some of your pup’s favorite treats in random cups (not all of them!) and then place a tennis ball in each of the 12 spaces. Now just allow your pup to sniff out the treats and figure out how to move all the balls to find them! Such a fun and interactive way to stimulate your pup’s eager mind and reward them with treats!
The Snuffle Mat is an exciting toy that makes a game out of eating a meal or giving your pup treats! The design is very straightforward and can be purchased at a number of retail or online stores, but you can make it quite easily at home with just some basic fabric. To use, simply place the food or treats throughout the Snuffle mat and then sit back and watch your pup dig around, searching for all the goodies! Just be aware that pieces of this toy are very likely to come out, especially if your pup enjoys shredding things, so this may not be a great option if your dog has a history of ingesting foreign objects.
Cardboard box and packing paper
Now, this is an easy option, especially for those that are avid online shoppers! This is also a great option for our furry friends that are intrigued by fun sounds. Crinkle toys are often a huge hit with dogs, but the ones you find at the pet store are typically plush and not durable enough for our tough chewers to enjoy for long periods of time.
The majority of online shipments come with brown paper that is intended to protect your purchased items. This stuff is as crinkly as crinkle gets! Letting your dog pull it from the cardboard box and crinkle it up themselves is a super simple way to keep them busy and well entertained. They can even shred the paper up if they want! Most dogs don’t have any interest in chewing and swallowing paper products, but it is still important to supervise to make sure this fun game is as safe as possible.
challenge your dog mentally
The options for dog enrichment are vast and it may take some time to figure out what your dog enjoys the most, but in order to keep our furry friends happy, healthy, and mentally strong, we need to make sure we are challenging their minds and allowing them to grow cognitively. Dog owners will ultimately benefit from this as well because a happy dog = a happy home, A.K.A. no more chewing, digging, barking, or pacing!
Let me know if any of these enrichment ideas are a hit with your pup!
*Always be sure to supervise your dog during enrichment activities, especially when trying them for the first time. Immediately remove any products that could be ingested and potentially cause an intestinal obstruction. You know your dog best, if they have a history of ingesting foreign objects, maybe avoid the enrichments that involve smaller objects.