I’d like to share a concept with you that I am sure is familiar to most of us, but warrants some re-emphasizing: A bored dog is an unhappy dog.
Ultimately, we want our dogs to be happy and mentally engaged so they can enjoy living with us and playing the games we play with them. Our canine companions continually provide us with reasons for celebration and appreciation on so many levels, one of which is their ability to adapt to our ever-changing household dynamics.
This means that as our families grow and life changes, such as having children or growing older ourselves, the needs of our dogs change as well. It just makes good sense then to keep up with those changes in order to maintain optimum engagement between pet and family.
A dog’s capacity to adapt and remain flexible is one of the many factors that make them such an ideal and rewarding companion. Allowing your dog to develop coping mechanisms for change will go a long way in helping him adjust and even thrive when life throws you both curve balls!
If we stop and think about it, we can see how our active participation in our dogs’ lives helps them maintain balance while living with us. So often, we get so busy with our own daily routines that we forget to provide mental stimulation, exercise, and structure for our pets -even though these are all very important contributors to their overall well-being.
Some things you can do as far as providing enrichment include:
Alter your dog’s daily routine so that it offers more variety
Your dog’s daily routine doesn’t have to be so predictable. Think about altering daily routines in ways that will stimulate your dog both mentally and physically.
You can take the average walk around the block and turn it into a game or an opportunity for your dog to engage his senses while getting exercise. Go out of your way to point out anything new or different on any given day -it could be as simple as a leaf floating along down the street, a car passing by with thumping bass from its music system, or even a neighbor mowing their lawn on a Sunday afternoon.
Take ten minutes each day to give some special one-on-one time with each family member
Look at how you spend your time every day and seek opportunities to make your dog a part of that time. For instance, when the kids come home from school and before they head off to play -send them outside with some special treats or toys. This will allow you to spend quality time with your pets without having to set aside large blocks of time every day; it can be as simple as taking your dog out for an impromptu game of fetch in the backyard after dinner (weather permitting).
Teach him new commands or tasks
Dogs can learn anything we teach them! The more effort you put into teaching something new, the better he will understand what is expected of him. Trying variations of his current behaviors will help keep things interesting rather than doing the same thing over and over.
Rotate his toys
Dogs are naturally curious, so it is easy to stimulate their minds by rotating or switching up the toys available for them to play with. This will help keep him interested in the things around him and prevent boredom.
Look around your house for ways you can make life more interesting for your dog without spending a lot of money
For example: If he likes to chew on things -take a washcloth, roll it into a ball, and put peanut butter inside as if it were a Kong toy. Then freeze that cloth under some ice cubes or water in a plastic cup overnight and give that to him as an enrichment item! When he gets done chewing on it, simply replace it with a fresh one for next time.
Enrichment can be something simple
Enrichment can be as simple as turning on the radio during dinner, playing his favorite game of fetch before bedtime, or watching TV together. Sometimes all it takes is a variety to make life more interesting -and you will see your dog light up when you are right there beside him!
Teach him to work for his food
Instead of feeding your dog from a bowl, start teaching him to work for his food by scattering it in the grass or on the floor. Put down several small piles about an arm’s length apart and encourage him to go get it -only rewarding when he has successfully completed the task! This will provide mental stimulation while allowing you to interact with your pet and take care of its daily needs at the same time.
Let your dog explore new things and places
If we never expose our dogs to anything new, they can become very anxious and overwhelmed when it comes time to try something different. By exposing them to new environments and stimuli along with them each step of the way, they are learning to trust you and be confident in their surroundings. And if your dog does not like new things or becomes anxious when faced with change, then it is important that you do not force them into it! A scared dog can become even more anxious when forced into something he doesn’t want to do, so instead offer him choices by allowing him to stay with the familiar while still providing enrichment through mental stimulation.
Schedule regular veterinary appointments for health checks and vaccinations
Dog’s age much faster than humans, so make sure to keep up with his routine veterinary visits in order to make sure he stays healthy in all aspects of life. This will allow your veterinarian to recommend any changes needed in your pet’s diet or lifestyle, as well as catch any potential health issues before it is too late.
If your dog does not have a lot of space to run around, take him to a professional dog park for playtime
Professional dog parks are a great option for the dogs who live in busy city areas that don’t have enough room or access to an appropriate area to run and play off-leash with other dogs. A good positive reinforcement trainer can help you teach your dog how to interact appropriately at a dog park so he can still enjoy going out and socializing with his canine friends without getting into trouble.
Now that we know the benefits of enrichment activities, let’s take a look at ways dogs to cope with change both in their environment and in their lives.
It’s essential that we understand how animals respond to stress so that we can learn what helps them feel safe and secure when they are faced with new situations. With this knowledge, we will begin to find out much more about our dogs’ behavior, communication (and lack thereof), and why they do some of the things they do.
Over time, scientific research has helped us get to know dogs better -even their emotional capabilities. For instance, we know that dogs experience emotions such as fear, frustration, anger, happiness, contentment, trust…the list goes on! This information helps us understand how our dogs might act when placed in certain situations or given new stimuli.