Why is everyone raving about enrichment?
Enrichment seems to be even dog trainer’s favourite topic at the moment.
Or at least, mine is!
I thought we’d take some time to discuss what we mean by enrichment and why it is so important.
Dogs are simple creatures. They live in the moment, and there is so much beauty in this, as they make our human brains, beautifully capable of thinking and planning ahead all the time, to slow down and be present.
In the wild, a dog would hunt, sniff, listen to noises, bark, explore, chew bones and sticks, roll in the grass, choose whether to lounge in the sun or the shade, hop in a pond, say hi to other dogs, play fight.
However, our urban lifestyle is sterile of most of the above sensory experiences. Our flats are quiet, we do not allow them to bark, they cannot chew our things, we control when to walk them, when to allow them to socialise and when to let them go to the toilet.
So...what is enrichment?
Simply put, enrichment is anything that allows our dogs the opportunity to engage their senses, to think and feel and not be bored.
Don’t we need to keep our brains busy to stay sane? Don’t we fill our days with things to do, problems to solve and new skills to learn? Isn’t this such an important element of maintaining a healthy mental state? Would be be confident and well-balanced if we only focused on our bodies’ exercise?
Similarly to a happy human, a happy dog is a dog that is not only using their body, but one that uses their mind too.
In the wild a dog would find ways to entertain themselves, either during searching/hunting for food, playing with other dogs, digging up some dirt, chewing bones or sticks, observing a dragonfly…but in our world, dogs tend to spend a lot of time indoors, in our homes, surrounded by our precious possessions. It is a world deprived of access to things to chew and stimuli to keep their brains busy. Especially after they grow out of puppyhood and they are housetrained and have some relative obedience under their belt we tend to forget that their brains still need to be kept active.
To counter balance that, simply provide your dog with some sort of a problem to solve at least once a day, can only have a positive effect on our dogs. Trainers often use the term ‘give your dog a job to do’ and it could be in the form of problem solving games, even DIY ones, introducing them to a new item that seems scary (this picture was taken on halloween and the pups were really curious about the pumpkins), scattering some food for your dog to sniff out, or simply teaching them a new trick or life skill.
What are you doing to enrich your dog's life?