What is Canine Enrichment?
Canine enrichment is "the action of improving the quality of our dogs lives". It's about providing them with low-risk activities that they "actively" want to participate in and giving them something interesting to do which engages them in and fulfils their lives.
Dogs have been bred and domesticated to support humans in their chosen job/ role, from hunting, herding, search and rescue, companionship and much more. Not all dogs in modern day society have a defined role and this can lead to conflict and boredom, which in turn can result in destructive or challenging behaviours.
Dogs are highly intelligent and enjoy sniffing, playing, going for walks and spending time with their human families.
It is also important to give them things they can do on their own that stimulates their natural instincts and behaviours. This helps to teach them to relax and lessen their need for direct attention all the time, provides them with coping skills and a solid foundation for life.
“Feeding Enrichment” strategies are a great way for dogs to engage in their natural behaviours which in turn enhances their mental well being.
Canine Feeding Enrichment.
Canine Feeding Enrichment is an exceptional tool that provides infinite opportunities for us to enrich our dogs lives by feeding them in interesting ways. The act of seeking for food slows the whole process down and requires far greater effort. This in turn provides mental stimulation, allows them to engage in their natural scavenging and problem solving behaviours, so they use their inbuilt dog brains.
The action of licking and chewing releases endorphins from their brain which makes them "feel good"; licking is comforting and a stress reducing activity. The action of seeking for food also makes the whole feeding experience more pleasurable and allows dog's to engage in their innate canine behaviours.
Remember mental stimulation is much more tiring than physical exercise. "10 minutes of brain work is equivalent to 1 hour of physical exercise". What an incredible canine fact to think about!
Feeding this way can also be vital for health reasons. If a dog "bolts" their food from the bowl too quickly they could be at risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This is particularly important in larger, deep chested breeds of dogs such as Dobermans, German Shepherds, Great Danes etc.
Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is commonly known as bloat and it's a medical and surgical emergency.
Signs of GVD
- An enlargement of the dog’s abdomen
- An affected dog will feel pain and might whine if you press on his belly
Using a slow feeding bowl, puzzle or scattering their food can help to prevent GVD as well as bringing many positives into the dog's life.
Replacing one of their meals a day from using a bowl to another method would transform their world to an explosion of sniffing, problem solving, licking, physically moving about and hours of fun!
Food filled toys can also be vital in training your dog to settle on a mat, in its bed or in a crate; building a positive association with the area.
Different options for feeding enrichment for owners.
Top Tip: Find out which type of enrichment each dog prefers + encourage owners to introduce some others to add variety to their day.
Lickimats + Licki Bowls
Below are a selection of Lickimats + Licki Bowls which are ideal for the older dog as well as the less mobile dog.
This is a great activity for all dogs and results in a release of chemicals that improves dogs behaviours and their quality of life.
Encourage owners to be creative with what they use on these lick mats. Try wet dog food, dog peanut butter, yoghurt, mashed banana, etc. These can also be used to devise a canine sniffarium by having a few different sorts of food smeared onto the same mat. It's a dog scent, sniff and lick heaven!
Snuffle mats + snuffle balls
Snuffle mats + snuffle balls encourage "natural foraging behaviours" using sniffing, hunting and foraging skills.
Kong make a variety of toys which can be filled with food and can be frozen as well. The "Whimzee" vegetable animal shells can be filled with food and means the dog can eat all of it, food contents and the shell safely!
"Whimzee" vegetable shells.
SAFETY TIP: research suggests that it is best to use the medium size kong upwards depending on the breed of dog.
Below are Kong pre + post filling with wet food or re-usuable marrow bones. These can also be frozen and used as a canine ice lolly.
A healthy alternative is a carrot and to make it a little more interesting it, a slice can be cut out of it and filled with wet food or a filling of the owners choice
Another option is to use an apple, remove the core and fill with wet food or a filling of the owners choice.
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