It's commonly known that enrichment activities are enormously beneficial for our dogs (and all animals under our care). However, it's much less known what canine enrichment actually means and looks like. Is it just interactive toys and having your dog "work" for their food? While these are definitely part of the whole, there's a lot more that goes into the concept of "dog enrichment."
Enrichment can be defined as "meeting all of an animal's needs as closely as possible to how they would be met in the wild, in order to empower them to engage in species-typical behaviors in healthy and appropriate ways," according to authors Allie Bender and Emily Strong in their book Canine Enrichment for the Real World: Making It a Part of Your Dog's Daily Life.
Put simply, dogs have behaviors that are instinctive and in-born and "enrichment" is allowing them to engage in that behavior.
Luckily, dogs have an extensive range of instinctive behaviors: sniffing things out, digging a cool spot to lay, barking at squirrels, chewing, rolling around in smells, playing with pinecones and sticks, exploring, and sleeping.
While these behaviors aren't appropriate everywhere (i.e. digging in your neighbor's yard) or all the time (rolling in dead worms right after a bath for instance), what's important is to find a time and place for your dog to engage and act on these natural instincts.
Simple Dog Enrichment Activities for Everyday Life:
• Let them dig in the sand at a dog-friendly beach. You can always bring a shovel or bucket to help fill it back in afterwards.
• Go on a sniffing walk! Sometimes a walk needs to be exactly that—getting in some exercise. But when you can, let your pup take their time and sniff everything along the way.
• Let your dog bark at the dog park or on hikes if they feel like it. These are places you shouldn't feel like you need to hush them. Barking is what dogs do and this is the terrain they should feel free to do it on.