Enrichment helps puppies and dogs socialize, reduces anxiety and stress, prevents boredom, and provides physical and mental exercise. When stuck inside on a cold winter day, enrichment activities can help your dog work off excess energy, and keep them emotionally fulfilled. Our team at Tamberly Animal Hospital shares ideas to keep your dog enriched while you stay cozy inside. 

Social enrichment ideas for dogs

Social enrichment allows your dog to interact with other dogs and people. Indoor ideas to provide social enrichment for your dog include:

  • Playdates — Schedule a playdate with a friend or family member’s dog, to let your pet meet new dogs and their owners. 
  • Visitations — When you go to work, your dog may get bored at home by themselves. Have a neighbor or pet-sitter visit your dog and give them an extra play session, to break up the long afternoon.

Cognitive enrichment ideas for dogs

Cognitive enrichment provides circumstances where your dog must use their brain to think and solve problems. Indoor ideas to provide cognitive enrichment for your dog include:

  • Hide and seek — Playing hide and seek with your dog is an excellent way to let them express their natural tendency to hunt and track. This interaction will also increase your connection to your pet, allowing you to improve your communication skills and build trust. To play hide and seek, your dog should first know how to obey a “Stay” command. Give the command, and then leave the room to find an appropriate hiding place. When starting out, ensure your hiding place isn’t too challenging for your pet. You can increase the difficulty once they understand the game. Once you are hidden, call your pet. When they find you, offer praise and treats to let them know how well they did.
  • Muffin tin game — Make your pet work for their treat. Place treats in a few muffin tin compartments, and cover all compartments with balls or other toys. Let your pet hunt and find the hidden treats.

Physical enrichment ideas for your dog

Physical enrichment stimulates your dog by changing their home environment to provide complexity. Indoor ideas to provide physical enrichment for your dog include:

  • Agility course — Construct an agility course in your home. You can use common items, such as brooms, pillows, and furniture, to create obstacles for your dog to weave through, jump over, and crawl under. First walk your dog through the course, before setting them free to explore on their own, and offer treats when they navigate obstacles successfully.
  • Dig blanket — Place treats inside a rolled-up blanket, secure the blanket using hair ties, and let your dog dig their way to the treats.
  • Fort — Build a fort using blankets and pillows, and hang out inside with your dog.

Sensory enrichment ideas for your dog

Sensory enrichment involves stimulating your dog’s five senses. Indoor ideas to provide sensory enrichment for your dog include:

  • Nosework games — Let your dog use their nose to sniff out treats you’ve hidden around your home. You can also hide a treat in one hand, and see if they can choose the hand with the treat. 
  • Bubbles — Dogs love to chase and bite bubbles, and you can find dog-friendly bubbles that are bacon-flavored, to enhance the experience. 
  • Window perch — Ensure your dog has access to the view from your window, so they can watch the neighborhood wildlife play. 
  • Music — Play different music types for your dog to discover what genre they prefer. 

Food enrichment ideas for your dog

Food enrichment makes your dog work for their food, making meal and treat time more interesting and fulfilling. Indoor ideas to provide food enrichment include:

  • Food puzzle toys — Feed your pet’s meal in a food puzzle toy so they have to put some thought into filling their belly. This will also ensure your pet doesn’t gulp their food too quickly. 
  • Frozen treats — Freeze treats in ice cubes and see how long your pet takes to reach their reward. Ensure the cubes are large enough that they won’t cause a choking hazard for your pet, and to avoid a mess, feed the cubes on an easily cleaned surface.

Toy enrichment ideas for your dog

Toy enrichment enhances your dog’s environment by providing new and interesting toys to explore.

  • Tug-of-war — Use a rope toy to play a fierce game of tug-of-war with your dog. Ensure no strings become unraveled, which could potentially cause a gastrointestinal obstruction, and don’t allow your dog to play with the rope unsupervised.
  • Laser pointer — Your dog will be intrigued to chase the tiny red dot around your home. 
  • Switcheroo — Switch out your dog’s toys frequently, so they don’t become bored.

Your dog will thank you for providing fun and entertaining ways to keep them enriched while staying warm inside your home. If your dog has been anxious, contact our team at Tamberly Animal Hospital, so we can help you determine whether additional enrichment can help.