Non-Food Related Enrichment For Dogs (Part 1): Includes Videos, Tips, and DIY Options

When most people think about Canine Enrichment, a stuffable Kong or puzzle feeder may come to mind.


While food-based enrichment offers a fantastic way to keep our pups stimulated, it's important to talk about the wide variety of non-food related enrichment games as well.


In part one, we'll cover:

  • Flirt Poles

  • Dig Pits

  • Ball Pits

  • Shredding Enrichment

  • Kiddie Pools

  • Sensory Gardens



Let's Begin!


Flirt Poles

When people hear about flirt poles for the first time, many are left scratching their heads as they haven't necessarily seen one before. However, many people are unknowingly familiar with Flirt Poles in smaller forms that are often used for their feline companions.


A flirt pole is essentially a pole with an attached lure that you can dart around and use for physical exercise. The movement of the lure activates your dog's prey drive, and gives your dog an outlet for chasing. You can use lures that are different textures, sounds (i.e. crinkly) and even scents to intrigue your pup. Additionally, flirt poles can be an amazing tool for teaching impulse control and alternate tricks. It's a win win!


Breakdown On Why We Love Flirt Poles:

  • They're relatively inexpensive, and very easy to DIY.

  • Flirt Poles are great option for people who may have physical limitations (i.e. cannot take their dogs on lengthy hikes daily to tire out their pups), and offer a great deal of physical exercise for dogs without over exerting the owner.

  • The flirt pole offers great training opportunities for your dog when they're in a state of high arousal.



Dig Pits

Everyone knows a dog who LOVES to dig. As someone with two dig-obsessed dogs, a digging outlet can be worth it's weight in gold to keep our dogs out of the flower beds.


A dig pit is a designated spot within a home or yard where your dog is allowed to dig. Whether it's outside in their own sandbox, or inside with their new iDig - providing a digging outlet helps keep your dogs out of the areas you don't want gopher holes in.


Breakdown On Why We Love Dig Pits:

  • Dig Pits are super easy to DIY and relatively inexpensive.

  • Allows a positive outlet for dogs who love to dig, which can save your garden and yard.

  • Surprisingly versatile. You can bury toys in your dig pit for your dog, teach your dog a "dig" command, etc.


Here's a quick video on how to use a dig pit and some inspiration on what to use:


Or, view this video on our TikTok here.


Ball Pits

Ball pits- who doesn't love them? From human kids to otters, ball pits are used for enrichment amongst a wide variety of species.


Breakdown On Why We Love Ball Pits:

  • Super easy to DIY and relatively inexpensive (I used an upcycled kiddie pool as the base of our ball pit).

  • You can fill these with a wide variety of items, such as: tennis balls, paper products, toilet paper tubes, soft toys, you name it.

  • Offers great sniffing & foraging opportunities.

  • Also a great way to desensitize your pup to sounds.

Tip: For dogs who are extremely nervous of sounds, start off slow. Cover the base of your ball pit with a blanket to help muffle sounds and start off with soft/non-noisy toys. Gradually work your way up to the balls and removing the blanket once your dog is comfortable enough to do so.


Here's a quick video on how I put together our ball pit, and some other tips and tricks:

Or, view this video on our Instagram here.


Kiddie Pools

While I've talked about using a kiddie pool for ball pits and dig pits above - they're also great at what they were intended for: swimming and water play!


If your dog is water obsessed or looking for a cool place to get reprieve on a hot summers day, kiddie pools are fantastic.


Breakdown On Why We Love Kiddie Pools:

  • Very accessible in the summer months (I've seen them at Walmart, Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Petsmart).

  • Alongside water, you can fill these with a wide variety of items, such as: floating balls, sticks, floating toys (Bindi LOVES to bob for toys) and more.

  • Also offers a great cool-down outlet in the summer.

  • Another great way to desensitize your pup to sounds.



Shredding Enrichment

Shredding enrichment is one form of enrichment that is often misunderstood. Most people want to deter shredding, as we don't want our dogs shredding up our house and belongings. However, shredding in a safe and monitored environment is very beneficial for dogs as it's an innate canine behavior. I have a whole article on shredding enrichment tips, types, and more on our blog here.


Breakdown On Why We Love Shredding Enrichment:

  • Very easy and inexpensive. Whether you use crumpled paper, toilet paper tubes, or lettuce for dogs that tend to want to eat whatever they're shredding - there are tons of very cheap DIY activities for shredders.

  • Very enjoyable to most dogs, and offer lots of mental stimulation.

  • Science shows that offering your dog enrichment (such as shredding enrichment) actually deters your dogs from destructive behavior. Why? Because their innate needs are met. In fact, science shows that enrichment helps prevent undesirable behaviors.


Sensory Gardens

Sensory gardens for dogs - yes, they're a thing! Sensory gardens offer a wide variety of stimuli through different items, such as: dog safe flowers and herbs, different textures (i.e. grass, pebbles, mulch, sand). Some offer sounds such as wind chimes or access to ponds/pools (if you're getting really fancy). Sensory Gardens encourage the use of all of your dogs senses in a non-stressful environment, and can be tailored to your dog's individual needs and preferences.


Breakdown On Why We Love Sensory Gardens:

  • They're completely tailored to your liking. The sky's the limit!

  • Offering a wide variety of sounds, smells, textures, etc., is great for your dogs well being and confidence building.

  • Sensory gardens can be a great place to begin socializing your puppy to the world around them.

Photo Above: Check out the amazing sensory garden that Dogwood has laid out just for enrichment at their location in the UK.

Sources & Further Reading:

  1. 7 Great Benefits of Flirt Pole Play for You and Your Dog

  2. The Flirt Pole: Dog Toy or Life Changer?

  3. A comparison of social and environmental enrichment methods for laboratory housed dogs

  4. How to Create a Sensory Garden for Dogs

  5. Dogwood Adventure Play

  6. Ditch the Laser! Correlations Show That Laser Pointer Use Can Lead to Laser Pointer Syndrome in Dogs

  7. 6 Household Items That You Can Repurpose for Enrichment (With Videos!)

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