We all know how beneficial exercise is to our dogs, but did you know that dogs also crave mental stimulation and enrichment? For this week’s topic I’m going to give you 5 simple ways to enrich your dog’s 5 senses at home! No matter your dog’s age or breed, canine enrichment builds your dog’s confidence and sharpens their minds. Not only will you enhance your fur-friend’s quality of life, but this enrichment will also result in a happier dog!
Dogs interact with the world just like humans, they use their 5 senses: smell, sight, taste, touch, and sound (Sometimes I’m convinced my dog has a 6th sense: treat radar!). I can give you pages of ideas to enrich your dog, but we are going to keep this short and sweet to help show you how easy it is to incorporate canine enrichment into your dog’s daily routine.
Smell: For dogs, the sense of smell is their favorite because it is the most powerful. A simple enrichment game you can play at home with your canine is to take 3 plastic cups, put a treat in one of them, and play hide-n-seek. My dog particularly likes this game! Once I place my dog in a sit/stay position, I show him the treat, then I hide the treat under one of the cups making sure that he’s paying close attention, then I slide the cups around mixing them up before putting them back into a straight line. Once I give my dog his release command, he’s nose to floor sniffing out which cup holds the tasty treasure! You can do a lot of canine enrichment games with smell and if your dog is particularly fond of using his sniffer, I highly suggest looking into a Nose Work kit.
Sight: For dogs who aren’t reactive, installing a bird feeder or bird bath in front of a window or in your backyard can provide enrichment from watching the neighborhood birds flutter around.
Taste: This is a fun one, dogs LOVE food! I encourage you to bake some dog friendly treats, because everyone knows that homemade dog treats taste better! Not much of a baker? You can also buy a silicone ice cube tray and freeze coconut oil, canned pumpkin or even just water and a bit of dog food. Your dog would greatly appreciate it on a hot Texas day!
Touch: Petting our dogs is enriching for their sense of touch. Giving your dog a canine massage will give them a positive experience and help them become more comfortable with full body touching by their vet or groomer. Start in small increments, working on your dog’s patience. Begin your massage session by remaining calm and petting your dog’s entire body until they have relaxed, let your pup decide how they are most comfortable. Rub your dog’s large muscles such as their neck, shoulders and thighs with the heel of your hand. Briskly, massage over the rest of your dog’s body and let them decide when they are finished with the session.
Sound: This is an easy one! When you leave your dog for the day, play music purposely made for dogs such as “Through a Dog’s Ears”. If you have an Alexa, you could also say “Alexa, play classical music” on your way out the door. Whistle Training your dog to do different commands for different whistle sounds is another way you could enrich their sense of sound.
BONUS ROUND!: Want to easily enrich all 5 of your dog’s senses at once? Grab a leash, doggie bags, and a bottle of water and take your dog on a Dog Lead Walk. A Dog Lead Walk is exactly what it sounds like: you let your dog guide you on where to go, but be sure to keep your dog safe by following traffic laws and avoiding passing cars or any wildlife you may encounter. Allowing your pup to smell the flowers, watch the joggers pass by, quench their thirst, roll around on freshly mowed grass and listen to the urban jungle they live in are ways that you can offer sensory enrichment all at once. If you don’t have the time for a Dog Lead Walk, signing your dog up for a day of Frontier Club at Pawderosa Ranch is another way to enrich your dog’s life. The smell of greeting new fur-friends, getting ear scratches from every staff member they encounter, watching for the tennis ball to be thrown, tasting the latest homemade Treat of the Month and listening to the classical music being played in the bunk house will give your pup the enrichment and sensory stimulation they crave!
I hope this blog on Enriching your Dog’s 5 Senses at Home helped guide you on incorporating canine enrichment into your dog’s daily routine!
Until next week…Well Wishes and Puppy Kisses!
At Pawderosa Ranch we welcome all dogs to come play and stay with us! Each rancher is cared for by a specialized staff who understand the benefits of dog daycare and lodging and who are passionate about making Pawderosa Ranch the best dog boarding in San Antonio. We can’t wait to see your pup!