Pawsitively Enriched: A Handbook to Dog Enrichment Activities
Explore the best DIY indoor activities for your dog—easy, fun, and mentally stimulating! Beat boredom, channel energy, and boost your pup's brain at home with these engaging ideas.
Dogs — in their puppy years and even into their senior years — are energetic creatures at heart, and while their spurts of zoomies and high-energy excitement may vary in terms of how long they last, one thing’s for sure: dogs love to be entertained!
Finding a way to provide your dog entertainment that keeps them stimulated mentally and physically doesn’t require much. Of course, you can take them for walks, or for a run around the dog park, but when time or weather doesn’t allow for those options, it’s great to have options up your sleeve that you can do right at home!
If you’re looking for some fun new ways to entertain your furry friend, there are so many great enrichment activities that you can enjoy and create right at home!
From easy games to play to keep your dog from getting bored, to DIY ideas, keep reading for a list of enrichment activities you can create for your pup when they’re looking for some play time.
Create a delicious and nutritious lick mat
If you’ve never tried a lick mat before, it’s a great way to keep your pet happy and engaged and make sure they’re eating something healthy. If your pup is known for scarfing down their food at an alarming rate, lick mats can also work double duty as a way to get them to slow down a bit at meal time!
All you’ll need is a little wet food to spread on the lick mat, and you can sprinkle tasty treats on top, too, to offer your pup a variety in textures and to make the eating process even more enjoyable.
Turn to toys
Toys are always a good idea! There are so many ways to use the toys your dog already has to create fun enrichment games and playtime together.
You can play hide and seek, hiding their favorite toy in a new location and waiting for them to find it (try hiding a treat next to it to help them sniff it out faster!). Engage your pup in a game of fetch, helping them to work on their recall skills all while having fun and burning off energy! Play some tug of war — this is a great way to incorporate some valuable training techniques, like teaching your pup commands like “drop it.”
Just add peanut butter
Does anything put a pup to work quite like peanut butter!? On a plate, into their bowl, frozen into cubes, or stuffed inside a Kong toy, peanut butter can seemingly keep your dog busy forever! Not to mention, they tend to love this tasty treat, so it’s a great way to keep their taste buds happy at the same time you’re keeping them entertained.
Take a slow stroll
If time allows, take a really slow stroll. Allow your pup to sniff to their heart’s content! Oftentimes we may rush through walk time, or keep it task-oriented just for bathroom breaks — so why not let your dog have an enriching walk of getting to sniff their surroundings without being tugged along.
The American Kennel Club notes that “when dogs sniff, they are gathering vital intel about their territory and four-legged neighbors.” Additionally, “Studies even suggest sniffing makes dogs feel more optimistic. Sniffing offers your pet the chance to make more of their own choices and engage in naturally enriching behaviors.”
Searching for treats
Let your dog put their sniffer to good use inside, too! Let them search for treats in fun and engaging ways. You could use treat puzzles (or make them with cardboard boxes, toilet paper rolls, and paper), play the “shell” game (using a few cups, hide the treat under one of the cups and let them find it), or use a snuffle mat to hide treats. Don’t have a snuffle mat? Try using a bath towel — they’re big enough to fold over in various ways so that your pup has to use their paws and snout to dig through and find the treat!
Shameless Pets’ new Bone Broth Training Chews are a great size for playing these kinds of games with treats!
Playdates with furiends
When’s the last time your pet socialized with other dogs? Social enrichment is so important for your pup — and playdates and social activities are a great way to help your dog reap the benefits of time with their furry friends.
According to Wag! socialization has a host of benefits for your dog including building confidence, calming fear and anxiety, improving dogs physical and mental health, enabling dogs to enjoy activities with other dogs and people, improving pet parent's ability to enjoy their fur babies, reducing bad behaviors, and teaching dogs how to be dogs.
Create a safe and enjoyable environment for your dog to interact with other canine companions to foster positive social behaviors and provide mental stimulation through social engagement!
Play some tunes
Just like we enjoy music to unwind, or to wind up, even, our dogs actually can find enjoyment in music, too! Of course, we know our pups have particularly acute hearing, so it might be best to avoid sounds that are too high-pitched or triggering to them.
According to Nylabone, “A Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine study revealed that easy listening music has a soothing, therapeutic effect on dogs and may mitigate stress. These tunes typically have a slow tempo of about 50–60 beats per minute.”
Play some tunes and see if your pup has any particular reaction to one over the other, then you can curate playlists that cater to your pup’s preferences!
Tennis ball muffins
Don’t worry, this activity doesn’t require you to bake! All you need are some treats (or kibble), tennis balls, and a muffin tin. Simply place a piece (or a few!) of kibble or a treat in the empty muffin tin and then place a tennis ball on top. Let your pup pop out the tennis balls to get to their tasty treat prize!
The bottom line...
Your dog’s brain needs stimulation and enrichment, and lucky for pet parents, there are so many great ways to offer them both! Finding what works best for your pup, and what brings them the most engagement and enjoyment, will of course take some trial and error — but your pup will undoubtedly enjoy the extra time and attention for you as you work together to find what enrichment activity is their favorite!