886 S Pine St, PO Box 277

Grantsburg, WI 54840

Phone: (715) 463-2536

1(800) 924-0588

140 Evergreen Square SW

Pine City, MN 55063

Phone: (320) 629-7474

Help Your Pet Live a Rich Life with More Enrichment

2021-11-15

As life gets back on track after the pandemic, your pets may be finding themselves spending more time alone. Don’t be discouraged that you can’t spend every moment with them. Mental and physical enrichment increases your quality time with your pet and has immeasurable benefits for your best friend. 

What Is Enrichment?

Enrichment includes activities that engage your pet’s brain, body, and spirit. Mental enrichment is a great way to improve your pet’s life and protect their health. From playtime to evening walks, providing your pet with mental enrichment is one of the most rewarding ways to show your pet that you care.

How Does Mental Enrichment Benefit Pets?

Keeping your pet’s mind stimulated does more than just remind them of their puppyhood or kittenhood--it is a proactive measure that protects their health.

Dogs, cats, and small mammals benefit from mental enrichment in the following ways:

  • Reduced stress, anxiety, fear, aggression, and depression
  • A positive outlet for surplus energy
  • Increased feelings of confidence and comfort
  • Better focus during behavioral training
  • Better night time sleep
  • Weight loss--a secondary benefit of mental enrichment

How to Enrich Your Pet’s Life

Mental enrichment comes in several forms: sensory, environmental, nutritional, physical, social, and occupational enrichment.

  • Sensory enrichment engages your pet’s senses, such as smell, as a way to ignite their natural curiosity.
  • Occupational enrichment gives your pet an activity to accomplish to build confidence.
  • Nutritional enrichment satisfies pet instincts through food and treat centric puzzles.
  • Playtime is the most common form of physical enrichment.
  • Environmental enrichment allows your pup to play and discover new outdoor scents.

A combination of all forms of enrichment results in a full, fun, and interesting life. Try to include each form of enrichment into your pet’s weekly schedule.

How Can You Provide Your Pet with Well-Rounded Enrichment?

Just like people, animals have basic needs that include nutritional and physical health, social interaction with other members of their species and occupational stimuli where they can use their natural instincts or talents.
 

  1. Physical Enrichment

Play, play, and more play! Physical enrichment is one of the most natural ways for most pet owners to enrich their pets’ lives. Physical enrichment provides your pet with mental stimulation and cognitive engagement, while you spend quality time together.

To get your pet physically active, think about any games that will get their heart rate raised. Fetch, keep away, tug, and chase are all physically engaging activities.

  1. Nutritional Enrichment

Few pets are willing to turn their noses up to treats or a fun way to enjoy their meals. To make treats more fun for you and your pet, you can DIY nutritional enrichment tools or invest in a few treat puzzles.

Some simple DIY ideas include:

  • Hide training treats beneath bell balls (for cats) or tennis balls (for dogs) in a muffin tin.
  • Hide treats throughout a room, such as behind a cushion in the living room. To spice it up, try including a box with tissue paper or recycling for them to riffle through so that they have more of a challenge.
  • Freeze a rubber chew toy filled with peanut or pumpkin puree for dogs or tuna fish for cats.
  • For pocket-sized pets, hide treats in a toilet paper roll with its ends folded in.
  1. Environmental & Social Enrichment

This strategy of mental engagement requires a spare pet or two--if you have a multi-pet household, this is much easier. After a tiring day, you can simply encourage your pets to play with one another. For dogs, this is as easy as tug-o-war or keeping the toy away. Many cats will happily play alongside their feline friends as they all chase the same toy or string or one another.

For dogs without canine siblings or familiar friends, you can make a trip to the dog park. Just be sure their vaccines are all up-to-date.

For antisocial dogs, bringing them outside to engage in new scents is a good way to get them familiar with pets, without physical engagement.

  1. Occupational Enrichment

Occupational enrichment doesn’t mean your pet needs to get a job--but it does take additional work. Occupational training is one of the most stimulating and challenging forms of enrichment for both dogs and cats. The most advanced occupational enrichment includes agility training, such as rolling over. The simplest form is working on basic commands like “sit,” “shake,” and “stay” and coming to their name.

Puzzle toys are also often considered occupational enrichment since they give your pet a task to do to alleviate boredom.

As for cats, you can work on training with them as well. Encourage your cat to leap onto a chair to earn a treat, or teach them to “sit” by holding their favorite treat slightly above their head.

  1. Sensory Enrichment

Stimulating your pet’s senses creates the opportunity for unique games and activities with your pet and family. Squeaky toys, hide-n-seek with treats, and new visually stimulating toys are all great options to alight your pet’s senses. You may even find aromatherapy benefits your pet.

Make the Most of Mental Enrichment & Improve Your Pet’s Quality of Life

Give your pet their best life with fun, games, and quality time with their favorite person: you! Making enrichment part of your pet’s routine will benefit them in more ways than you can count. So, get your muffin tin ready. Order some tennis balls. And get engaged with your pet.

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s behavioral health, please contact us today.

 

 

 

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