The Circle of Enrichment: How To Build an Enrichment Routine Your Dog Enjoys

When it comes to enrichment, it doesn't take elaborate, expensive games to make these activities enjoyable for our pets.


However, it is important to know how and why we choose certain enrichment activities for our dog's routines. So, let's talk about the Three Pillars of Enrichment!


The Three Pillars We'll Be Covering Today:

  • Individual Preference

  • Variety & Novelty

  • Sense of Choice


What Are These, and Why Are They Important?


1️⃣ Individual Preference.

Essentially, "individual preference" refers to the games/toys/activities that your dog enjoys. This could be anything from toy choice, all the way down to social vs isolated play choice. Each dog likes different things, so having a grasp on what your dog enjoys as an individual is a great starting point. It's also important to note that having a preference isn't the same as having a choice; a preference is the selection of one thing over others, whereas a choice is an opportunity to select something.

2️⃣ Variety & Novelty.

Variety & Novelty are both key aspects in keeping things exciting and fun with enrichment. Think about it this way: As kids, many of us got excited for an Easter Egg Hunt or an Advent Calendar. These activities were special and exciting because they were novel experiences, which means that they weren't something that we received every single day. If we reversed this and received these fun things daily, at first it might seem fantastic, but these novelties would quickly lose their magic.


As a result, mixing things up with enrichment (whether it be toy, treat, or activity based) helps keep things fun and exciting. A sense of variety in your dog's routine can also decrease stress, as reflected in Bowman's study on musical enrichment with kenneled dogs.


3️⃣ Sense of Choice.

A sense of choice in enrichment is a pivotal part in why it’s so enjoyable for dogs. Being a captive companion, many of the every day things that we give our dogs are at the whim of the owner. Pet dogs don’t receive as much “choice” as we think; for example, owners pick where dogs live, what they eat, when they eat, where they go, what they get in terms of enrichment or exercise, and more. As a result, offering enrichment games, outlets, and options of “choice” (when safe to do so) can be extremely rewarding and beneficial for dogs.


Now, Time To Build Your Routine!


Once you have a grasp on these three pillars, you're able to make enrichment based decisions that focus on your dog as an individual (see example above).


Not sure where to start in terms of activities? Try Starting out below!

  1. Dog Enrichment: Food Related v.s Non-food Related Toy & Activity Recommendations

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

  3. Towel Enrichment: How to Fold Towels to Create Mentally Stimulating Puzzles for Dogs (With Videos)

 

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

Not All "Choices" Are Equal (Choice: Part 1) - eileenanddogs

A comparison of social and environmental enrichment methods for laboratory housed dogs - ScienceDirect

‘The effect of different genres of music on the stress levels of kennelled dogs’

Effects of Olfactory and Auditory Enrichment on the Behaviour of Shelter Dogs

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