When you decide to adopt a dog, it’s typically understood you are signing yourself up for training, exercise, and time spent dedicated to that new pup in your life. What many dog owners (especially new ones) may not realize is that it doesn’t stop there; simply walking your dog a few times a week and basic training won’t lead to fulfilling lives for them. There’s much more to it – they need enrichment, and you can provide that for them in a multitude of ways.
Dedicated to providing enrichment for dogs through thoughtful product design and education, PAW5™ is launching their #PAW5EnrichedLifeChallenge.
This one-of-a-kind program challenges pet parents to provide five days of ideal enrichment for their dogs to further engage their pup’s mind and body in healthy and rewarding activities that will keep them mentally sharp and physically fit.
Now, you may have been hearing more and more about the concept of enrichment, but what is it and why is it so important? Even more, how can the busiest of pet parents implement it into their dog’s life?
Enrichment is a way to provide mental and physical stimulation for your dog by way of puzzles, training, games, and socialization – all built to tap into natural canine instincts and behaviors. There are six defined categories pet parents can choose from with the goal of finding the ones that best suit their individual pup:
- Sensory — This includes anything and everything that stimulates your dog’s senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. This is where playing in the grass, rolling in the dirt and splashing in water come in. You can also support this through TV programming, music and scent work.
- Feeding — This is how you can make feeding time challenging, engaging and fun. It’s about putting hunting and foraging skills to use, employing the power of their nose and their brains to get to the good stuff!
- Toys+Puzzles — These products encourage your dog to engage and manipulate them to get a desired results…normally treats. But it also includes plush, rubber, rope and fetch toys, and the regular rotation of these so that your pup continues to engage with them.
- Environmental — Adding something new to your dog’s environment can peak curiosity and sometimes increase physical activity. Build a ramp in the backyard, place a mirror in the living room, go play on a playground, go for a hike in the woods.
- Social — Interaction with other people and other dogs builds trust and self confidence. Whether you are going to the dog park, to the pet store, in car or to a friend’s house, engagement with new environments, new people and new dogs will help keep your pup well socialized.
- Training — Training is an incredible time to bond with your dog, building trust, rapport and some much needed listening skills. Whether you are training the basics or have moved on to trick training, the time spent doing this has great benefits for your dog and your relationship.
Now how do you work this into your schedule?
Simple! Below are the Enrichment Recipes for the PAW5 Enriched Life Challenge. Each of the five days is broken into five distinct times enrichment can be inserted into your daily schedule with recommended activities for each time slot. The goal of each day is to include each category of enrichment, provide a variety of activities across each category and make it as easy as possible for you to be successful! We want you and your dog to love this Challenge and see the benefits enrichment can bring to your lives!
So let’s get started! We’ve broken each day into five sections (that means your pup will have 25 enriching moments this week!) in an effort to align your dog’s enrichment activities with even the busiest of schedules. And below each day you’ll find information to help you create, prepare or enhance each activity. Have fun!
Supplies you’ll need from around the house:
- An old tupperware or food container with lid
- Peanut butter
- A large tupperware or food container, no lid
- Chicken broth
- Cardboard box
- Blanket and two chairs or a pop-up tunnel
- Muffin Tin
- Empty paper towel roll
- Pillow case or dish towel
- Rubber bands
- Paper grocery bag
Supplies you may need to purchase:
- Seven tennis balls
- Rock ’N Bowl or any other food puzzle
- Kong or any other treat toy
- PVC pipe with holes
For DogTV and Mood Music:
- Mood Music can be found on caninelullabies.com, throughadogsear.com, www.cesarsway.com, or on Spotify
- DogTV has a month free trial subscription or you can find it on YouTubeDaily activities
Food Container Puzzle Feeder
This is a great puzzle for dogs who don’t destroy and consume plastic. Simply cut a few holes in various places in the plastic and fill with kibble. Many dogs just like to crunch plastic bottles and milk jugs too. Easy and recyclable! You can make things a little tougher for them by placing paper towel rolls in the container. If this puzzle doesn’t work for your dog for any reason, then take the kibble and place it in tiny piles around the room or house for your pup to hunt down.
Peanut Butter Tennis Ball
This is a super easy treat to make for your dog that will cost you close to nothing (especially if you have an old tennis ball lying around). Simply take the ball, cut a slit into it then remove a small triangle. Fill the ball with peanut butter, and then let them work to get it out. They’ll be at it for awhile!
Hide and Seek
You can do this a number of ways:
- Bury toys or treats in a sand box.
- Place toys or treats in ladles and hang from trees.
- Place toys or treats in logs or other hiding places in yards.
Frozen Goodie Block
Take some kibble and their favorite toys then freeze them in some chicken broth. Perfect for the warm summer days, but still just as enjoyable as we head into fall weather!
Kibble Grass Hunt
Simply spread their kibble outside in the grass, let them enjoy the hunt for their food!
Take a Kong toy and simply stuff if with your pup’s favorite treats! Or, you can visit their website for a ton of tasty recipes he’ll surely love. There’s so many to choose from, you can try a new one every time!
Leave It and Touch It Training
Now, there are some steps to these, but it’s still very simple to practice with your pup:
- First, take two of your pup’s favorite treats; take the treats and your dog over to a low level place like the floor or a coffee table.
- Put one of the treats in your pocket, then set the other on the floor or table right in front of your pup’s nose.
- As you put the treat down instruct your dog to “Leave it" very slowly and firmly. Keep your hand next to the treat, because when your dog leans in to get it, cover it with your hand and repeat the command “Leave it".
- Give it a few seconds, then pull the treat away, praise your pup for a job well done, then reward him with the treat in your pocket (don’t give him the treat he is leaning on, it is being used as a training tool.)
- Repeat this a few more times, and eventually your pup will catch on!
- Grab your pup’s favorite treat in one hand in close it. Take your other hand and place it close to your dog’s nose, palm facing them, with fingers pointing to either side of your dog (picture a sideways “stop" hand signal) then instruct them to “touch" that hand. Only say the word “touch".
- What you’re looking for here is for them to touch that open hand with their nose, licking your hand doesn’t count!
- Once they accomplish the touch respond to them with the word “Yes!" — this will be the signal for him that he did the right thing. Then reward him with the treat.
- Repeat this; eventually you can work with larger distances, instructing your pup to come from across the room to touch your hand.
Your dog of course loves a good pet, a rub on the belly or a scratch behind the ears. But they, like us humans, also appreciate a good massage! But be careful, you don’t massage them the way you would massage a human:
- Always make sure they are in a calm, relaxed state before you start.
- Start by petting them gently all over. Talking softly to them will help keep them relaxed.
- Move to their neck, massaging in circular motions, keeping the pressure gentle still.
- Continue onto their shoulders — since that’s a spot they can’t reach maybe spend a little extra time there.
- Move onto the chest and the legs — be mindful of how they react to the legs, if they don’t seem very into it, move onto a different body part. If they do seem to like it, maybe try their feet, but again, be mindful with the pads on their feet.
- Massage their back using those circular motions, keeping gentle pressure.
- Make your way to the hind legs and tail area. Once you’re done you should have one stress-free pup!
Cardboard Box Puzzle
Simply put kibble inside a closed box. You can start with an easier puzzle first by cutting one side of the box, then each time making that hole smaller, increasing the challenge for them. Don’t be surprised when some clean up is required, they are likely going to destroy that box!
Dogs love apples! There are a few recipes you could try with this, but we suggest this seasonal recipe — it’s perfect for both the fall and you Halloween lovers! Even better, there are some good modifications you can make to it, depending on any allergies your pup may have!
Tunnel training is one of many different types of agility training that implements verbal cues, performing tasks, and maintaining bodily awareness. This can be intimidating at first for your pup, and it will likely take some time, but in the end they’ll benefit so much from it (they’ll even grow to love it!).
Step 1: Keep the tunnel open, but at a short distance. You will benefit in this training if you have someone with you, or an assistant. Have the assistant hold your dog at one end while you walk to the other. Instruct your dog to go through the tunnel; use word like “Tunnel" or “Go through".
Step 2: Repeat step one, while gradually lengthening the tunnel. Using your assistant and tunnel word, coaxing your dog through the tunnel, then rewarding him.
Step 3: Now have your assistant step aside and send your dog through the tunnel yourself. As you approach the open tunnel, give your dog a signal and the tunnel word, then run around to greet him at the other end. Reward your dog as he comes through the other end.
Step 4: Keep doing these steps, gradually extending the open tunnel to its full length.
Step 5: Eventually move up to a full-length regulation open tunnel. You can even start implementing in tunnel bends, increasing the challenge. You can also start using hand gestures instead of verbal commands, if you wish. Always remember to reward them for a job well done!
You can find these tunnels in a number of places, with a decently wide range in prices. But if you you’re looking for a more wallet-friendly one, you can actually check out places like Toys ‘R Us! If you’d rather use supplies you have at home, you can build a tunnel with two chairs and a blanket or sheet.
Nose Work / Treat Hunt
This of course is focused on scents; use something that your dog loves and really knows the smell of or a treat that is more pungent than others.
Have your dog in his stay position; while out of his sight, place his favorite toys or treats around the corner, just slightly hidden. Your dog may get a little frustrated at first as you do this, but he’ll catch on! If he is struggling, feel free to point it out. Also always encourage him as he’s close, you want to make this fun and exciting for him!
You can also drag the treat on the ground, making a scent trail for them to follow, then as they get better stop doing that for them.
Eventually make it harder for them to find their toys or treats, increasing the challenge and making the search that much more enriching for them.
Muffin Tin Puzzle
Keep the tin upright and divide the kibble up between the cups. Add difficulty by covering each section with a tennis ball or other toy.
Paper Towel Roll Puzzle
Take a used paper towel roll, and cut some holes into it that would be big enough to let kibble or treats fall out. Take some tape and close up the ends of the roll, and voila! You have perhaps the easiest DIY food/treat puzzle! This will require some clean up, as they are sure to destroy it!
A more advanced version is to fill the tube with kibble and stuff both ends with a paper towel and then twist them closed.
You can make this puzzle as easy or difficult as your pup can handle! You can simply scatter treats on the ground and cover it with a blanket; or sprinkle the treats into the blanket and roll it up, enclosing the treats. The hardest versions are to tie the blanket (or dish towel) with rubber bands in places or braid several blankets or dish towels together or create little compartments for the treats to go into. So simple!
Upside Down Muffin Tin
Turn a muffin tin upside down and spread kibble between the bumps. Your dog will have to nudge the food around from all different angles.This is good for larger dogs, but for smaller pooches try a mini muffin tin.
Shredded Grocery Bag Puzzle
In an open cardboard box, tear a paper grocery bag into small strips. Mix in kibble and breakfast is served.
PVC Pipe Puzzle
Cut a PVC pipe to about 12 inches, drill some random holes (large enough for your kibble), put end pieces on both ends, and you’re done!
Red Light / Green Light Game
This is a great game for training your pup with cues. (you may remember doing this type of game as a kid, actually!)
Step 1: Start with your dog on a leash; take only one step and then instruct your dog to “sit". Make sure this first “sit" has your dog between yourself and a wall, to teach him to sit next to you. Then begin to gradually lengthening each interval of movement time as you go between “sit" moments. Always reward your dog when they sit, so they start offering sits rather than only doing them for the reward.
Step 2: If you have kids at home, this could be a lot of fun to do with them. With your dog on a leash or with his leash dragging, Call “Green Light" and have them walk. Start with one child next to you holding a treat either in a closed fist or in a bait bag. Before the dog starts to get excited, call “Red Light" and have the kids stand quietly with hands at their sides. Your dog should sit at this point, then give them a treat. Once this step is going well, you can step to the sidelines and let the child take the dog. Call “Green Light" for forward movement, and “Red Light" for the child to stop and the dog to sit.
Step 3: Eventually, your dog will be able to do this playing off-leash. You can implement in more excitement in your behavior (like waving your arms or whooping) to make it even more fun for your pup (and the kids).
Hide and Seek
All you need is your dog’s favorite toy or treats. Have your dog sit and stay in one room while you hide in another. Once you’re settled, call your canine. When he finds you, reward him with the toy or treat.
Rally three or four people to play and take turns calling your dog’s name from different places in the room and throughout the house. Each time he comes, reward him with lots of praise. When your pooch has become an expert at the game indoors, take him outside where you can spread out even further from each other and increase the challenge.
Knotted Fabric Puzzle
This is an easy puzzle to make from objects around the house and perfect if you have a roller chew toy (the rubber toys that resemble what could be the frame of soccer ball)
- Take an old t-shirt you no longer want and cut it into strips.
- Tie the strips into knots then begin stuffing them into the toy.
- Hide a treat in there to give your pup a little extra incentive to really dig into the toy, pulling out the knotted fabric.
- You can repeat this as many times as you want really, do it til they’re worn out!
- Be sure to rotate toys so the same ones aren’t available for play each day.
- If your dog is prone to chewing and swallowing things, do not leave them alone for any of these activities.
- Praise and encourage your dogs as they try new puzzles. They may not figure them out on the first go-round, but being present and helping them make it more fun for both of you.
- Training sessions should only last 10 minutes or as long as your dog is still engaged and having fun. All training should be a positive experience with plenty of rewards.
- As you add treats into these activities, be sure to reduce your dog’s intake of regular meals to balance daily calories.
- If your dog is more advanced and these activities are too easy, please share activities you do with your dog so everyone can learn new tricks!
For the full PAW5 Enriched Life Challenge with ground rules, advice, activity instructions, and alternative activities, head over to the PAW5 Enriched Life Challenge home page.
We’d love to hear how your five days go: share below in the comments, and post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter using the hashtag #PAW5EnrichedLifeChallenge to show off your progress! Good Luck!