Recently I flew across the country. It was scheduled to be a 5 ½ hour flight, but we sat on the tarmac while a problem was fixed. A half hour later, we departed. Six hours on a plane is not easy, especially in the middle seat with only my phone and jockeying for armrest dominance for entertainment.
As I was contemplating my situation, it occurred to me that my unpleasant experience wasn’t all that different from what many dogs experience on a daily basis (forgive me, I’m a dog trainer, so dogs are on my brain a lot).
I thought about this as I sat in my chair, bored out of my skull. There was nothing to do. I was confined. I watched this and that, but what I really wanted was a way to move, to get the wiggles out, to be engaged in something fun or interesting.
Most dogs lead a boring existence, too, but like the kid in the seat behind me, they’re good at finding ways to entertain themselves, either appropriately…or not. A bored 6 year old thinks kicking the seat in front of him is great fun when there’s nothing to do! A dog thinks the sound of stuffing being ripped from a pillow is a hoot!
Put yourself in your dog’s paws for a moment. In many households, there are three times a day things are really humming for a dog: meal times and the daily walk. The rest of the time, dogs are waiting for you to come home, waiting for you to pay attention to them, waiting for the next meal.
But being dogs, they can entertain themselves if the boredom gets too intense.
If there’s no appropriate outlet for their energy or anxiety, they’ll find a release in ways we’d rather they didn’t.
I remember coming home from work one day and catching my dog ripping the skirt off the bottom of the couch. One. tug. at. a. time. It was hard work! With the material firmly clenched between his teeth, he looked at me with an expression that said, “Oh hey! Hang on, I’ll be done in a minute.”
That’s when I knew I needed to care for my dog’s mental and emotional well-being in a better way. Or be prepared to buy a new couch every few months.
What is “Enrichment,” Anyway?
Canine enrichment simply means providing appropriate toys or activities that mentally and physically stimulate, or “un-bore,” your dog.
Like us, dogs are social, intelligent beings who suffer when boredom or anxiety strike. Many of the unwanted behaviors we see in dogs are actually quite normal, they just don’t have an appropriate way to be expressed.
Barking and chewing is normal dog stuff, right?
But if a dog barks at every little noise because it’s all he has to do or her need to chew and a lack of enticing toys causes your new boots to be destroyed,
that’s on you.
Types of Dog Enrichment
Your dog’s mental health is important to maintain to ward off unwanted behaviors. Activities to boost your pup’s mental well-being include:
Socialization - your dog is a social creature! We all need time to be with others, your dog, too.
Mental Stimulation - Dogs love to be challenged! Their brains will stay active and alert with a job to do, a puzzle to solve, or a game to play.
Sensory Enrichment - Dogs process the world through their senses. If those senses aren’t stimulated, they can become bored or anxious.
Just as with us, dogs need to move, run, sniff, and be, well, dogs! Being physically active for a dog provides the same benefits for their physical and mental well-being as it does for us.
Whether you have a high energy dog or a couch potato, exercise is critical for your pup’s health. As an added bonus, your dog is a great motivation to get you moving, too!
Enrichment Activities to Do With Your Dog
Keeping in mind the types of enrichment your dog needs, the sky's the limit when it comes to the fun to be had! Here are a few ideas to get your started:
Sit n’ Stay can help you enrich the life of your dog! We have puzzles and toys especially designed for dogs and socialization opportunities galore, including our year round programs Dog School and General Studies that combine play, training, enrichment, real world experiences, and rest while you’re busy.
The entire subject of this blog is about canine enrichment, but when you think about it, engaging with your dog and taking good care of their mental, emotional, and physical health is simply LIFE ENRICHMENT.
Having a healthy, happy dog makes your life better. So get out there and have fun “un-boring” yourselves!