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What is Dog Enrichment and Why Do We Do It?

by Dennis ODonnell on April 29, 2020

The WHAT

We’ve all seen it before, that sweet-but-overexcited young pup who spends a lot of time inside and makes the term “hyper” seem appropriate for a sloth.  The obvious solution being: more exercise.  It is commonly understood that physical activity is critical to a dog’s health, but the importance of mental stimulation as a contributor to overall wellbeing is less commonly understood.  Thanks to the study of canine behavioral science in recent decades, it is now known that dogs need both their bodies and minds engaged on a daily basis.  This mental stimulation is often referred to as “enrichment.”

Just like its root word dictionary definition, “to improve or enhance the quality of,” canine ‘enrichment’ improves your dog’s mental capacity and enhances his understanding of his relationship with you and the world around him.  Enrichment goes beyond basic play to activities, puzzles and technology created specifically to challenge a dog’s mind and tire them mentally and physically.  It is a topic so diverse it has been broken into The 6 Categories of Enrichment: Sensory, Feeding, Toys / Puzzles, Environment, Social and Training. 

The WHY

Canine enrichment is a conscious choice that dog owners have to make, so why should you?  At PAW5 we believe that dogs are unique and live in a world much different than ours, and it is their humans’ jobs to engage them in that world!  Enrichment activities help your dog problem solve, learn more efficiently and increase his confidence, not to mention mentally tire him to help him (and you) sleep soundly.  Most importantly enrichment makes your dog happy, which as you likely know is a key component to true wellness.  You wouldn’t have a child and not educate him, would you?  It’s the same principle.  Your dog needs enrichment to be holistically healthy. 

The HOW

You’ve already started by understanding the importance of enrichment and committing to bringing it into your pup’s life.  The simplest form of enrichment is play that uses commands, names and rewards to help establish communication and focus attention. Feeding is a great opportunity for enrichment, and an idea we have built our brand around!  Both the Rock n’ Bowl Food Puzzle and The Wooly Snuffle Mat take meal time to the next level, keeping your dog mentally and physically agile as they forage and hunt for their food.  (Psst… The Wooly won 2nd Best New Dog Product at the 2017 Global Pet Expo.)  And of course, ‘there’s an app for that’!  Technology plays a big role in canine enrichment.  For example, Duke University developed a public online tool, Dognition, which helps you “Find the Genius in Your Dog” and understand how your dog’s brain works.  (Wow!) 

However you do it, enrichment is a must for all dogs, no matter their breed or age.  We promise that engaging them in the world around them will keep them happy, deepen your relationship with them and will give you the confidence that you are doing everything in your power to ensure your dog’s lifelong wellness.

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