• Shannon Hellyer Gibson

Canine Enrichment

The past three months have been radically different in our home, the same as many of yours. Between the covid pandemic causing the loss of my dog training classes, groups and trials. Jet being laid up after his second foot surgery. Then my having urgent gallbladder surgery. Things have been upended at home to say the least! We started using canine enrichment toys and tricks to help the dogs pass the time.


Normally my dogs get a minimum 60 to 90 min walk plus training time. Jet wasn't allowed to do much at all the past few months. Keeping him quiet, occupied and sane has been quite the challenge! He's used to be being busy and working most of the time. It's what he's bred for, it' s what make him happy. We turned to Nose work to keep his brain occupied and using his feet as little as possible! Nose work is an incredibly popular sport. It has gained followers at a rapid rate in the past 5 years. You are teaching your dogs to search for odor, the same way as explosives dogs are trained. He has been loving the new challenge and really enjoys doing any kind of work with me. Maddy has been doing nose work for a few years now and really thinks she's quite clever at it! You find a smell and get a cookie?! How great is that!!


For Casey, our senior dog we began using snuffle mats. They are a great way to extend meal times and makes getting a cookie that much more enriching. They encourage her to use her brain to sniff out the treats and gives her a lot of joy. She's not as active or mobile as she once was. The snuffle mats keep her occupied when I'm leaving with Maddy for a longer walk. 10 min of snuffling is the equivalent of about a 1 hr walk. I come home and she's having a post snack snooze on the couch and hasn't missed us at all.


We have also been using lick mats, meaty bones and puzzle toys to help the dogs expend some energy. Daily walks are a necessary part of owning dogs. But sometimes life gets in the way and we can't go or go as long as we'd like. The weather is miserable or there's injuries to be dealt with or age has become an issue. Keeping their brains engaged is just as important as physical exercise. For some dogs you can run them for hours and they are still hyper. Yet give them a puzzle and 30 min later they are passed out cold on their bed.


There are a few great Facebook groups dedicated to canine enrichment. They are a great source of ideas to keep our dogs engaged and busy while giving all of us a lot of joy and a little more peace.

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