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When you have a dog who is too smart for their own darn good, like Kolchak is, providing ample enrichment opportunities is so important.
It’s not enough for me to keep him well-fed and well-exercised; boredom can lead to depression and bad behaviour in dogs. Enrichment games are a great way to ensure you’re keeping your dog healthy in body and mind.
In just a few weeks, Koly and I are going to be moving apartments. The house is in shambles. There are boxes everywhere. Nothing is where it should be and we’re constantly meeting people from our local “Buy Nothing” facebook group, as I declutter and rehome items that aren’t making the move with us. It’s a lot of change.
When your life is going through a shake up, providing lots of enrichment games is such a great way to keep your dog busy.
Left to his own devices? Kol would wander from room to room whining at the boxes and laying on the piles of things to be packed. Enrichment games keep my dog distracted, so he has something to focus on other than the stress of change.
What is canine enrichment?
Enrichment is any activity that encourages your dog to engage in their innate behaviours, such as smelling, chewing, scavenging, chasing or scavenging. Allowing your dog to engage in these behaviours can help create a happier dog with a deeper sense of well being and satisfaction.
Over the years, we’ve bought and made a ton of different enrichment games for Kolchak.
Hoooo boy. Let me tell you. Those prices add up. Our favourite line of dog puzzles, made by Nina Ottosan, are around $30 each. Some of our cool electronic puzzle toys, like the PetSafe Kibble Chase or Kol’s CleverPet Hub get a ton of use, but are a little pricier.
What do you do if you want to provide your dog with a ton of amazing enrichment opportunities, but you don’t want to break the bank? D. I. Y.
I absolutely love DIY enrichment games. Kolchak is a smart cookie. He only has to play a puzzle or a toy a few times to figure it out. We rotate his puzzles often and love to try out new things, but I’ve found the best way to keep things fresh and rewarding is with DIY Dog Enchrichment Games you can make yourself.
Note: As always, YOU are the one who knows your dog best. Not all of these options will be the right fit for every dog. If your dog swallows objects, eats paper or chews plastic, consider puzzles that do not use these things or supervise them carefully. Safety first.
Busy boxes can be made with boxes, dog treats and stuff from around the house.
Tori from Wear Wag Repeat has a great post about making your own busy boxes. (Honestly, everything she does is magic. If you’re not following her, you should be.) Around here, most of my cereal, snack, or other small boxes become busy boxes before they become recycling.
A muffin tin and a few tennis balls makes an affordable puzzle toy.
Most bakers, myself included, have a WEALTH of muffin tins in their pantry. I have too many, so why not repurpose a few for dog toys? Kol’s not the biggest fan of a ball, so I mix it up: a few balls and some small stuffed toys, perfect for cramming in place.
Stacked, plastic kids cups are fairly durable and easy treat toys!
Full disclosure: I speak exactly one singular dutch word (pannakoeken), so I have no idea what this website SAYS, but I love their enrichment ideas. What a lucky GSD.
Breathe new life into destuffed toys by adding velcro, felt and a handful of snacks.
This is an oldie, but a goodie. Kolchak has (mostly) outgrown his desire to tear the stuffing out of every toy that enters the house, but in his heyday he could empty a stuffie in 30 seconds flat. I made this restuffable dog toy using murdered stuffie, craft felt and I’ll toss a handful of snacks in there to encourage him to empty it completely.
If you have a blanket, you have a treat burrito.
What is a “treat burrito” you ask? Get the scoop on the Maggie Loves Orbit Facebook page, but it’s basically a rolled-up blanket of snacks. The bigger the blanket, the harder it is to solve. You can check out more indoor game tips on their blog.
Combine a hard plastic water bottle and a stress ball to make a kibble or treat toy
Seriously – one of the easiest toys we’ve ever made. Just cram a foam stress ball into a wide-mouth water bottle. Add a handful of treats. So much fun and this one is good and challenging for dogs who solve puzzles quickly. Get all the details on how I made it happen at this link.
Don’t have a Kong? Stuff an apple.
I don’t always have the patience to stuff and freeze Kol’s Kong, but I can almost always cram some snacks into an apple. Plus, apples are like 20 cents and Kongs…are not. Serena at Pretty Fluffy has some great tips for how to create this DIY dog treat.
I always have gift bags in the house and they make a great, cheap and easy dog treat toy.
Just crumple or fluff some tissue paper, toss in some snacks and then top with more tissue. For dogs who don’t eat paper (like Kol), this is so fast and easy to make and he has a ball throwing the paper around.
Do you have any quick and easy at home enrichment games you play with your dog? We would LOVE to hear about them!
After all, Koly is a smart cookie and I always need new, fun ways to keep him on his toes.