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The 5 Keys to Enrichment with Your Dog

The best 5 ways to get the most out of your dog's toys while spending quality time with your furry friend.
Whether you want to engage your dog in enrichment for the first time or expand your current enrichment routine, this post is for you.
These 5 keys will help you to stimulate all aspects of your pup's senses to boost their play time today!
border collie and kong toy

Simple but effective keys to meet your dog's needs

#1 Touch 
#2 Sight 
#3 Sound 
#4 Smell 
#5 Taste

"There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face." 
Bernard Williams
 

Key #1 Touch

This key is a vital starter - if your dog is not comfortable with the toy, it is over before it begins. Touch is felt by a dog through many body parts - most sensitive being the head, muzzle, tail, abdomen and paws. When your dog plays with an enrichment toy or any other item they feel it through a mixture of these body parts. If you watch your dog playing, you can notice which parts they prefer engaging with a toy or a puzzle with. Do they nuzzle, lick or paw at it? This can help you purchase or create games that would be more exciting for their play style.
Touch can be engaged for your dogs by offering a variety of different textures in their toys, foods, plastic, wood, fabric, sand, grass and flooring.
"Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails."  Max Eastman
Be kind tip: As a dog's face and muzzle is extremely sensitive, never blow into their face as their whiskers are connected to their nerves and it can cause pain.
puppy looking stick 

Key #2 Sight

Even though dogs rely on their sense of sight less than humans, it is just as important for their enrichment. Have you ever considered what your dog was originally bred to do? Sighthounds, Retrievers, and Sheepdogs are some of the dog breeds that are bred for their use of sight for retreiving or detecting movements of prey. These dogs have better vision than other breeds. Height matters - short dogs have a much different view compared to giant breeds which means you can show short dogs a range of new items that would usually be out of sight.
Great ways to enrich your dogs with sight include playing with shiny products, lights, moving parts, mirrors and reflective surfaces.
"Put a puppy in your picture, and it will make it 20 times better." 
Lucky Blue Smith
Be kind tip: Never use lasers with any pets as they can damage their eyes and cause anxiety.
 nazar saluki

Key #3 Sound

A dog can hear up to 3x the frequency of a human so use it for fun. Have you ever noticed your dog's ears can move just like satellites? This is how you can see dog's ears moving as they lay still, scanning surroundings before they react. Even some working dogs are bred for their hearing abilities which allows them to work well in their jobs isolating background sounds. Most dogs can filter out the intense overwhelming sounds but if they are unable to it may cause anxiety and noise sensitivity disorders. Everyday sounds can hurt dogs' ears so be mindful when something is a little offensive to you, it might be very offensive to your pup.
Sound can be used in enrichment to train associations with sounds. Playing with toys with bells, squeakers and rattles are a great way to engage sound in your play. Clicker training is also an effective tool when shaping and marking behaviours.
"Training a puppy is like raising a child. Every single interaction is a training opportunity." Ian Dunbar
Be kind tip: Always respect your dog's reactions to sound as something you find bearable might be causing harm and stress to your dog through their ears. Negative moments like this can cause long term associations and even phobias in extreme cases. Do not risk it.
doxie puppy  

Key #4 Smell

Nothing to turn your nose up to but a dog's brain is 1/10th the size of a human brain but the section dedicated to scent is 40x larger than for humans and it is estimated that a dog's sense of smell is 100,000 times better than humans. A dog's sense of smell can help them determine age, sex, reproductive status, heath and so much more.
Scent is processed by the system that regulates moods, emotions and memory. Scents can help lessen anxiety and create calm. Lavender and synthetic dog appeasing pheromones (like Adaptil) are commonly used. Scented items can be used as enrichment for your dog. A simple way is to add unusual smells in the house and use treats that can be smelt during games. Great items for smell - when you are out grab some sticks, leaves and scented items you may see and bring them home and scatter around your home for your dog to smell. While choosing dog food - try different flavoured foods that have some strong smells like tripe, seafood, peanut butter and cheese.
"Dogs have boundless enthusiasm but no sense of shame. I should have a dog as a life coach." Moby
Be kind tip: Using negative associations like citronella can cause distress for your dog. We do not recommend these or use any form of negative punishment. The saying - you catch more flies with honey than vinegar stands true with training.
 puppy puzzle toy

Key #5 Taste

An awesome point to make about these keys is that each sense is related to the other senses and maybe none more so than taste and smell.
Dogs can taste sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavours with around 1/5th of the amount of taste buds humans have.
Unlike humans, dogs are tuned for water so it is important that they have access to clean water at all times especially when eating anything sweet or salty.
If you want to use food based enrichment, it is important to use something they think is yummy.
Taste is important in enrichment as no one wants to work for free.
Great items for taste examples include and are limited to yoghurt, fresh meats, jerky, fruits, vegetables and frozen foods.
"If I'm right, the only reason our species is still around is because of our friendship with the canines." 
Bruce Cameron
Be kind tip: If your dog doesn't like a sour or bitter food, don't force or trick them to eat it.
 
chi puppy toy

Now you are equipped with everything you need to engage your pup in play. Go to www.forallourpets.com.au to ask us any enrichment related questions to learn more about these great ways to enrich your furbaby's life.

"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole." Roger Caras

To watch how we do it follow us on Facebook or Instagram @forallourpets
If you want to show others how well your dog is learning, tag us in your videos to be featured on our page.

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