As the summer approaches, it’s a good time to update your dog’s activities. While there is nothing wrong with an old-fashioned game of catch, you can please your pup and brighten his day with some new enrichment games.
All dogs need physical and mental stimulation because they have incredibly creative brains that they want to put to work. Enrichment activities cover both those areas, and even better, your dog gets to spend more time with you! These engaging activities are necessary for all dogs, big or small, young or old. Would you like to make your dog’s day? Try some of these quick engaging enrichment activities for dogs that will leave your pup happy and healthy.
1. Spin the Bottle
No, this spin the bottle game doesn’t involve smooching your pooch! For this game, all you need is an empty 2-liter bottle and a piece of string. Cut out two holes about two-thirds of the way up the bottle; the two holes should be parallel to each other. Thread the string through the two holes. Attach both ends of the line to something sturdy so that the string is taught.
Have your dog watch you as you place treats or kibble bits into the bottle. Your dog will have to use his brain to figure out how to spin the bottle, so the treats fall onto the floor. You can modify this game for big or small pups, and you can make it easier by adding more holes to the bottle. This game will keep your dog busy and entertained.
2. Hide and Treat
Dogs can play the hide and treat game anywhere, and it gets your pup’s nose involved with the fun. Take some of your pup’s favorite treats and hide them in various areas; this game can be easily played inside your home or outside in the backyard. Make sure you hide the treats when your dog is out of the room.
Want to make the game more challenging for your dog? Hide the treats inside a Kong toy, an Easter egg, or homemade containers. Upping the value of the game encourages dogs to try to open the item containing the treats or bring the item back to you: that requires some brainpower on your dog’s part. Please note that if your dog is a heavy chewer and you’re concerned he may chew these items, stick to just hiding the treats themselves to stay safe.
3. Canine Tetherball
Is your dog an athlete? Do games of fetch seem never-ending because your dog never seems to tire? Are you trying to cut back on your pup’s treats? Then the game for your dog may be doggy tetherball. Just like the old schoolyard game, the ball swings on the rope, and your dog can chase, jump, and bump his way to mental and physical exhaustion.
Making a tetherball game requires only a few items: a rope, ball, pole, and materials to mount and ground the pole. Your dog will love the constant chase, and your arm will recover from all those tennis balls you throw for your dog.
4. Bubble Fun
Remember how much fun you had blowing bubbles out of a wand when you were young? Well, your dog can enjoy that same feeling no matter his age. Bubbles are fun activities that encourage a dog to jump, chase, and bite at the bubbles in the air around him. The mental exercise involved with this activity allows your dog to stay present, as he will try to catch bubbles that float in any direction. It’s a game that will keep your pup on his paws.
You shouldn’t use regular soap bubbles with your dog, as ingesting too many may lead to an upset stomach. Instead, purchase non-toxic bubbles that are explicitly made for pups and come in various flavors, including peanut butter and bacon. You can also make homemade bubbles, so you know all the ingredients are in your dog’s bubbles.
5. Snuffle Mat
Does your dog always have his nose on the ground, sniffing and tracking? Then the snuffle mat game will appeal to him. A snuffle mat consists of a rubber sink mat with fleece strips knotted through the mat’s holes. You can purchase a snuffle mat or create your own as it doesn’t cost much but can be time-consuming to put together.
Your role is to place treats or food in the pieces of fleece, preferably food that has a strong smell. You want your dog not only to pick up the odor of the treats but actively search for them in the mat. Cheer your pup on as he sniffs, finds each tasty treat, and has fun.
6. DIY Obstacle Course
Many dogs love obstacle courses, but not every pup parent has a training facility and course near their home. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring the fun of an obstacle course to your backyard. DIY obstacle courses can provide physical and mental stimulation for your dog and you. Even better, this game strengthens the bond between you and your pup.
Take what you have around your home or in your garage to make some quick obstacles; for example, you can make a hurdle with a broomstick and two chairs. Obstacles such as the weaving poles and the teeter-totter require some creativity and PVC pipe. There are also many obstacle examples and directions online to make your backyard an obstacle course paradise for your dog.
Keep your pup happy and healthy!
Dogs can quickly get bored with the same games, so put a little zest in their step by trying something fun and new. While there’s nothing wrong with more traditional games, like frisbee toss or fetch, some variety will help keep your dog happy and healthy and increase the bond he has with you.
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- Pryor, K. (2012). Fun Games For Your Dog: Spin the Bottle! Retrieved from https://www.clickertraining.com/node/3474
- Cheerful Hound. (2021). Dog Enrichment Game --- “Find It” --- Treat Treasure Hunt for Dogs. Retrieved from https://cheerfulhound.com/blogs/blog-hound/dog-enrichment-game-find-it-treat-treasure-hunt-for-dogs
- Old Salt Farm. (2021). How to Make Your Own DIY Tetherball Set! Retrieved from https://oldsaltfarm.com/backyard-fun-make-your-own-diy-tetherball-set/
- Jen. (2021). How To Make Dog Safe Bubbles: The 3 Best Homemade Dog Bubble Recipes! Retrieved from https://mybrownnewfies.com/2021/04/06/how-to-make-dog-safe-bubbles/
- Palka, L. (2016). DIY: Make Your Dog (or Cat) a Snuffle Mat. Retrieved from https://www.thehonestkitchen.com/blog/diy-make-your-dog-or-cat-a-snuffle-matt
- King, A. (2016). Canine Sports: How to Build a Backyard Agility Course. Retrieved from https://www.wideopenpets.com/how-to-build-a-backyard-agility-course/