Dog enrichment, play and mental stimulation ideas

Training, play and enrichment resources handpicked by us and of course Bo!

It is crazy the amount of dog related "stuff" is out there online and in the shops! Owners we work with will often ask us what to buy and where from, so that's we've brought a selection of some of the things we like together on this page.  

We've included direct links to where you can buy them and hopefully you'll find it useful.  Obviously there will be other things out there that are great too, but this is a selection of some of the things that we think will make life easier, safer and more enjoyable for both you and your dog and that get the seal of approval from our dog Bo.

We've also included some great digital resources and video links and training tips too!


You can make your dog a 'Happy Dog'

There are loads of ways you can feed your pup or dog that gives them an enriching experience and an outlet for natural doggy behaviours such as sniffing, seeking, licking, chewing, chasing and scavenging. 

By making their lives more enriched you are enhancing your dog's quality of life and improving their mental wellbeing too.  You could also potentially help prevent unwanted behaviours happening that can be linked to boredom or lack of stimulation.

Click the button to access our 'Easy ways to enrich your dog's day' resource.

 

This short video about your dog's nose will astound you - well worth a watch and afterwards you'll know just why getting them sniffing is so important!

 

Feeding time fun!

Look at different ways you can feed your dog to give them a lovely enriching experience that makes them feel happy and calm.  

We love:

  • Kongs
  • Lickimats
  • Snuffle mats
  • Scatter feeds
  • 'Find it' games

These sorts of activities gently tire pups and dogs in a good way, help them to self soothe and provides them with some lovely positive hobbies.  They also provide appropriate outlets for natural doggy behaviours which can help reduce unwanted behaviours.

 

Kongs

Original Kongs are an awesome tool for dogs of all ages - they are great to chew, to stuff, to hide things in and to freeze too.  They come in a variety of sizes, strengths and even have ones for pups and for seniors.  Visit the Kong website for ideas for stuffing recipes.

 

Lickimats

Bo loves his Lickimats especially this larger sized Buddy version which he eats his meals from. He's just polishing of the remnants of his Butternut Box Pork This Way in the pictures... Don't forget to get 75% off your first Butternut Box with our code ButternutBox.com/BlueDog

Bo is a big fan of these too...

Bo just loves his wobbly food dispensers!

We like the Zellar (green one) as it's lightweight and you can vary the size of the dispensing holes, so it's good for small dogs and even pups too.


Play time!

Play with your dog builds your bond, your trust, releases happy brain chemicals and is just an awesome thing to do to have fun together!  It builds your dog's confidence, boosts mood and enables them to learn, communicate and develops their social skills.  Play should be a central part of your dog's day and should involve all of the hoomans in their life, because where's the fun in playing on your own?

Play helps to satisfy elements of their predatory motor pattern...this is the "hard wired" instincts inside all dogs and looks like this: Track - Eye / Stalk - Chase - Grab bite - Shake / Kill-bite - Dissect - Eat

Over the years hoomans have enhanced or suppressed elements of this in order to create dogs to fulfil specific roles. So, terriers were bred to shake and kill vermin and collies bred to eye / stalk their flock and bloodhounds tracked things by following their noses.

Breed therefore can play a big part in the type of play a dog finds rewarding and it's a good idea to research what your dog was bred to do and look at how play can give an outlet for things that feel good to them...Cuddly toys are among Bo's favourites and he loves them to be thrown short distances and to chase, shake and "kill" them. 

Within breeds there's also individual preference and personality to consider too, so test different things out with your dog to find out what they absolutely love to do.

As you can see our living room resembles an explosion in a toy factory most of the time! We like to give Bo access to his toys whenever he wants and he gets to choose what he wants to play with us depending on his mood.

Training = play and play= training, and your dog shouldn't be able to tell the difference. Playing can be a really valuable reward for your dog when you want to strengthen behaviours you like so that your dog is more likely to do them again.

Not all play has to be mad chasing, "killing" and biting, nor do you always have to spend fortunes. Play tug if your dog enjoys it (and it doesn't over arouse them), but do it sensibly and with boundaries, using slow and low down sideward movements to move the toy to prevent jumping up, grabbing and "dangling" - make sure that four paws are on the floor throughout.  Keep your dog's arousal low and if things start to escalate take a break and let things calm down. When playing let your dog win and then re-engage them and restart the game.  Practise safe swaps (see the video link in the "Pullers" section).

There are loads of games you can play with things you'll have at home such as plastic bottles, paper cups, toilet roll tubes, cardboard boxes and rolled up towels with treats inside. Mental stimulation and puzzle toys are great but what you choose should depend upon the individual dog, for example a dog that gets frustrated may not do well with more challenging puzzles. There are other simple food games that most dogs love such as "find it", scatter feeding and playing "which hand" (with one or two treats in one hand, present both closed fists to your pup and ask "which hand"?), that don't need any equipment for and cost nothing at all!

A quick word about ball throwers...

We really don't like ball throwers...not only does the fun happen 25m away from you but repetitive chasing and running puts a dog's body under incredible pressure.  Mentally it's not great either as it floods their body with adrenaline and can also trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol.  If you do throw a ball occasionally then under arm and short distances are the way to go!

 

Pullers

We love pullers because they are lightweight, tough and great fun for dogs!  They are also a great training tool, good for tug games and they even float on water.  They come in a two pack and there are different sizes to choose from. Prices on Amazon range from around £6.99 for a Micro to £24.99 for a Standard size.

We like to use them to help train a "drop" and "take" cue, an example of how you can do this is shown on this video clip from Steve Mann the chair of the IMDT and Karen's mentor when she first started out. 

 

Some other ideas for you to consider...

 

We love clickers and trick training!

Clickers are great and can be used in loads of different ways to train your dog and give them mental stimulation.  This article about clickers is a great introduction to the fundamentals and science behind clicker training.  Once your dog is clicker savvy there are lots of brain games you can play and some amazing tricks you can train. 

Check out our friend Bella the assistance dog's YouTube channel for ideas and inspiration and step by step videos showing how to train loads of different tricks.  We love trick training as it's fun, force free, bonding and a great way to mentally stimulate your dog.  When choosing tricks to train, make sure they are age and health appropriate.


Reading

There's so much information out there about dog training and behaviour that it's difficult to know where to start. These are really owner friendly books that give information and guidance in a simple and easy read format.


Training pouches

A bumbag or treat pouch is also a great buy as it will help you train "hands free" without rustling around in pockets and plastic bags.  They are washable and keep your pockets free from stinking of treats!  We like silicone ones you can easily wash and magnetic clasped pouches such as the Doggone Good one shown.



These are not recommendations only ideas and we cannot be held responsible for unsuitability for individual dogs or product issues . This includes (but is not restricted to) delivery, quality of goods, defects or faults. Nor can we be held responsible for owners and dogs use, as the owner you are responsible for ensuring these items are appropriate and safe for you and your dog and that use is done under supervision. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. You do not have to purchase at the links supplied should you wish to find and use your own.