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  • Writer's picturePlayful Paws Pet Care

Enrichment Ideas for Bored Dogs & Busy Owners

While we all know that providing your dog with enough physical exercise is important, sometimes owners forget that mental stimulation can tire a dog out just as much as physical exercise. When we make our dogs use their brains, they are challenged mentally to think and problem solve. Many owners of active dogs are faced with the challenge of providing their dogs with enough stimulation while juggling a full-time job or taking care of a family. The good news is that providing your dog with enriching mental activities doesn't have to be overly time consuming and many of these activities can be done independent of the owner!

1. Frozen Food Stuffable Toys:

While an unfrozen food stuffable toy can be cleaned out by my dogs in a couple of minutes, a frozen snack-filled Kongs (or other food stuffable toy) take my dogs up to 30 minutes to finish. A half hour of peace and quiet in a multi-dog household is much appreciated! Kongs are rubber, food stuffable toys that come in varying sizes. Some stuffing ideas include: peanut butter, applesauce, cheese, bananas, pumpkin purée, yogurt, green beans, and kibble mixed with water. Most of these toys are also dishwasher safe. My favorite food stuffable toys include:

Kongs on left & Snack Snakes on right ready to go in the freezer!

2. Puzzle Toys/Bowls:

There are many puzzle toys for dogs on the market. These toys make your dog problem solve to get small treats or kibble out of the toy. I often feed my dogs their meals out of one of these instead of a regular bowl. My favorites include:

3. Lickimats:

The Lickimat rubber mat works great with wet food or any other food that is easily spreadable. They are designed so that the dog has to work to get all of the food out of the grooves in the mat. These can also be easily frozen to extend the time it takes your dog to finish.

Lickimats covered with pumpkin purée & cheese

4. Frozen Applesauce Cups:

This is my go-to when I'm feeling lazy. It is just as simple as it sounds - buy a pack of applesauce cups (I get the unsweetened ones) at the grocery store and stick them in the freezer. In a couple of hours your dogs will have a nice, frozen snack to occupy their time.

5. Chewing:

Giving your dog something to chew is an excellent way to keep your dog occupied when you are busy. There are many popular chews on the market for dogs of varying sizes and chew strength. All of my dogs are pretty aggressive chewers so some of their favorites include extra thick bully sticks, beef cheek rolls, raw bones and Benebones.

6. Sniffing:

Sniffing is a great outlet for your dog's mental energy. We all know that dogs have incredible noses and that they love to use them! Some easy ideas to get your dog using his nose more include going on short walks where you let your dog sniff to his heart's content, tossing some small treats or kibble in your backyard for your dog to find, or hiding treats around the living room and letting your dog sniff them out.

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