Creative Dog Enrichment Ideas
One of the great things about dogs is they’re usually up for anything, no matter the circumstances. For example, if you’re ever cooped up indoors without access to a yard or park, there are lots of easy dog enrichment ideas to keep you both entertained.
Whether it’s classic dog activities like fetch, hide the treat or having the kids build them a pillow fort to play in, a little creativity on your part can translate to hours of fun with your dog. So, if you’re looking for enrichment ideas for dogs, here are some that are sure to keep them engaged.
Enrichment Ideas for Dogs
Designated Together Time
Working from home has increasingly become a part of many people’s daily lives, but dogs can struggle to adjust to a new routine. That’s why it’s a great idea to create a new routine that includes designated time together.
“Try doing fifteen minutes at the same time every day for a week. Find a quiet space, and while giving your dog your undivided attention, pet them for the full fifteen minutes, adding in praise or telling them a story,” suggests Purina dog enrichment specialist Alex Johnson, MS.
Note how your dog reacts the first day compared to their reaction a week later. They may start seeking you out when it’s play time. If you both enjoyed this time together, Johnson adds, “continue as a daily activity, or change things up by keeping the same time but adding a new activity.”
Need to get out for a bit? Maybe it’s time to hit the road. A car ride is excellent for clearing your head and there’s a good chance your dog will want to join you.
Take a break and go for a short drive around the neighborhood. If the weather is accommodating, roll the windows down and let them take in all the sights and sounds.
Dog Puzzle Games
When it comes to canine enrichment ideas, DIY can come into play by creating puzzle games for your dog from cardboard boxes. There is also a wide range of puzzle toys available commercially that you can buy as well.
Start by placing small pieces of dog food or treats inside the box among their toys. Then let them use their sense of smell and natural digging ability to locate the treats. Dog puzzle games mentally stimulate your dog while helping their self-confidence.
Couch Potato Play
Time spent binge-watching a tv show often lends itself to cuddling time with your dog. But you can also give them something to do during this time without leaving the couch.
Johnson suggests keeping a basket or drawer of toys close by, such as stuffed animals or tug-toys. “Verbal encouragement is often enough for dogs as they interact with a toy on their own. Provide words of praise, which can increase their excitement for the activity and extend playtime,” she says.
Time to Explore
Enrichment ideas for dogs can come in the form of finding new ways to explore familiar places. Our dogs rely on us to provide them with new and exciting experiences, which you can achieve without leaving the house. According to Johnson, there are ways to make old things new again.
She suggests “creating temporary indoor spaces to explore with boxes and paper bags or closing off a bedroom for a week to give your dog a place to re-explore.
“Hide some treats or favorite toys in the room before reopening it. Remember to rotate toys to help create newness. Dogs can get bored, but when a toy disappears for a while and comes back, most will re-engage with a renewed level of enthusiasm.”
Dog Forts and Box Tunnels
Who doesn’t love the classic pillow and blanket fort? Get your kids involved by having them build a fort out of whatever you have on hand. Johnson recommends having children “hide a few yummy treats or favorite toys in the fort and letting the dog explore it on their own and at their own speed.”
As exciting as forts can be for kids, “remind them that it’s important for pets to explore new spaces on their own time and in their own time,” she says.
If you’ve had a lot of packages delivered recently, you can repurpose those by building box tunnels, towers and cities for small dogs to explore.
Picnics are always fun, and you can do this one outside in your backyard or on your living room floor. Create a cozy spot with some of your dog’s favorite toys and some boxes or containers with their favorite food, treats and toys inside.
“Perform a little ‘unboxing’ experience for them as you lay out the containers for them to explore,” says Johnson. “Take this time to be with one another in an unfamiliar spot with some different and exciting rewarding experiences.”
Hunting for food is one of those fun canine enrichment ideas that let dogs use their problem-solving skills. Simply hide treats or toys in various boxes and encourage your dog to hunt for them.
Johnson suggests letting your dog watch you do this the first few times. Once they get the hang of it, keep them out of the room while you hide the “treasure.” “The goal is to take baby steps so they can understand the game and then you can escalate the difficulty level,” she says.
Other ideas you can try include letting your dog forage for some of his food in the yard or hiding his meal in small boxes, packaging or toilet paper rolls and putting those into a larger box he can tear into.
If you don’t have boxes and packaging on hand, try laying a towel folded in half lengthwise on the floor and dropping treats inside as you roll it up. Then let your dog figure out how to unroll it to get the treats.
Of course, you can always turn to classic games for dogs, like hide and seek or fetch.
While playing hide and seek with your dog, you may need to provide vocal cues to help him find you. As he gets the hang of things, you may be able to simply call him once and have him use his sense of smell to seek you out.
For expert tips on dog activities and more, explore our Pet Expertise page.