As you know, I’m a big fan of enrichment activities for our much-loved mutts. A daily walk doesn’t always cut it when it comes to keeping them adequately stimulated. Well, it wouldn’t for us, so why do you expect it to be so for them?
Boredom, frustration, and loneliness can manifest itself in many ways.
There are the obvious signs like destructive behaviour, excessive digging, pacing, howling, barking, attention-seeking, etc. To the less obvious signs like constantly sleeping, lethargy, food intake changes, lacking enthusiasm, etc.
The good news is that whichever sign(s) your dog exhibits can be easily overcome using a range of enrichment activities.
And even if your dog isn’t displaying signs, don’t wait for them to start. Canine enrichment benefits all dogs. From large breeds to small, seniors to pups.
There are six main ways to enrich the life of your pooch:
Today, we’re going to delve into social enrichment.
Dogs are social animals by nature. Not only do they enjoy playing with other dogs and their human friends, they use it as a way of developing important skills through these interactions.
From his daily walk to doggy daycare, you can easily add social enrichment into his life.
When out on your regular walks, allow him to say hello to the other dogs he meets.
Just be mindful of their interaction, as not all dogs are compatible. But that’s okay. You, and he, will soon learn who to spend time with and who to avoid.
Your local area may have a dedicated dog park. An area where you can allow your dog to run free, and mingle with other dogs.
But again, it’s important to stay vigilant.
Some dogs may not be suitable for this space, even though their owner has brought them along. An aggressive or overly boisterous dog may intimidate or scare your pooch which could result in harm and/or fear and lead to social problems that are more tricky to overcome.
Another way of adding social enrichment is by attending dog training classes. These sessions are held in a safe and controlled environment with a Pro and are always a good idea for puppies, but adult and even senior dogs can greatly benefit too.
If you know people with dogs, consider setting up supervised play dates and allow them to just get on with it, intervening only if one or other starts to become uncomfortable, overly dominant, or aggressive.
For working pawrents, there are so many ways you can enrich your dog’s life socially. Hire a drop in pet-sitter or send him to doggy daycare, or alternate!
Even if you’re not a working mum or dad, these sessions can be massively beneficial for your dog as it gives them more opportunity to interact with people and situations outside of his home environment.
All of which will ultimately help create a well-rounded dog.
Dogs don’t just love interacting with other dogs. They love interacting with us as well!
So remember to play fetch and tug with him. Chasing him, or letting him chase you is SO much fun for your fur baby!
Add in a game of hide and seek of his favourite treat and you’re enriching him socially, cognitively, and sensorily. The perfect combo!
Just remember, whatever method you try – and ideally, try (and continue to use) as many of them as possible – be sure to keep each experience pleasant. Any sign they’re uncomfortable, unhappy, scared, anxious, or aggressive, gently remove them from the situation.
This doesn’t mean you should never try that experience again, but you may want to start smaller to allow your pooch to become familiar with the idea of that situation or experience first.
If you add social enrichment to your dog’s routine, I believe (as do many experts) he’ll become a more confident dog who is able to fully use his senses, can more easily build trust, connection, and develop strong bonds with others.
Your dog will love you even more for it!