5 Dog Enrichment Ideas to Stay Mentally Active

From chasing every ball we throw to keeping us company on the sofa during a scary movie, our dogs enrich our lives in many ways. But just like us, our dogs can become bored without enough activity. This can lead them to find their own entertainment, like digging a hole in your yard or going through the trash.

Aside from solving your pup’s boredom, enrichment activities can help keep your dog happy and healthy throughout their life. Studies have even shown that mental enrichment for dogs can help support cognitive health as they age, too.1

Wondering how to give your pup some mental exercise? With some dog enrichment ideas and a few tricks of your own, you can provide your pooch with much-needed mental stimulation.

#1 Stimulate Their Snoot with Snuffle Mats

Whether it’s a strange smell under a bush or a pair of dirty socks in your hamper, dogs can be excellent finders and foragers. And a snuffle mat can help you provide your pup with productive foraging fun.

With a snuffle mat, you hide treats or kibble under folds, pockets, or ruffles of fabric. You can find these online or in pet stores. However, if you’re willing to do a little DIY, this is an easy enrichment toy to make yourself.

To start, you’ll just need a few supplies:

  • A pair of scissors
  • A rubber sink mat with holes, or an old placemat with holes poked through
  • About 1 yard of fleece fabric
  • Your pup’s favorite healthy dog treats or kibble

Once you’ve assembled your snuffle mat supplies, simply follow these steps:

  • Step 1 – Use your scissors to cut the fleece fabric into strips. These should be about 1 inch wide and 6–7 inches long. 
  • Step 2 – Take one of your fleece strips and push each end through a hole in the mat. Tie the ends together at the top of the mat. 
  • Step 3 – Continue tying fleece strips until you have covered the entire mat. The tied ends of the fleece should all be on the same side.

Once you’ve prepared the mat, you can hide the treats deep under the strips of fleece and tell your furry friend to “find it!” With the help of their nose, they can smell and dig through the snuffle mat until they’ve found every last treat.

Golden retriever licking a palte

#2 Practice Your Pup’s Licking Power with Lick Mats

Let’s face it—our dogs love to lick. Whether that includes our faces, our furniture, or a dog-sized ice cream cone at the drive-thru, it’s one way most dogs love to interact with the world. For anxious or excitable dogs, licking can even be a calming activity.2 As a bonus, you can add CBD for pets to the mixture as well.

The good news for pet owners is that this is one of the easiest ways to provide enrichment (and potentially calm your pup’s nerves, too). All you need is:

  • A lick mat, usually sold as a silicone mat with indentations or grooves
  • A spreadable dog-friendly food, such as peanut butter, yogurt, or wet dog food

If you can’t find a lick mat at your pet store, you can also improvise with an ice cube tray or a silicone candy mold. Use a spoon or spatula to spread a small amount of your dog’s tasty treat across the mat and watch them enjoy their lickable treat.

Our lick mat tip: If your dog seems to speed right through their lick mat, you can make it last a little longer by preparing it and freezing it in advance. This icy lickable treat also offers your pup a fantastic way to cool down in the summer.

#3 Exercise Your Dog’s Mental Muscles with Puzzle Toys

If you’re a fan of brain teasers and word games, you probably know how much puzzles can stimulate your mental muscles. But puzzles—or rather, puzzle toys—can offer just as much mental enrichment for dogs. 

Like a snuffle mat, a puzzle toy allows you to hide treats or kibble inside. Your pup must then “solve” the puzzle in order to get the food. These toys often require a bit more manipulation to get the treats out. This makes them an excellent choice for pups that seem to speed right through the easier enrichment activities.

When shopping for puzzle toys in stores or online, you’ll find a few different options:

  • Puzzle feeders offer a solution for dogs that tend to scarf down their dinner in seconds. These often come in the shape of a bowl with a small “maze” inside. Puzzle feeders require your dog to lick or nuzzle their food out of the maze, encouraging them to slow down (and providing an extra helping of suppertime enrichment).
  • Rubber puzzle toys come in various shapes and sizes. Usually, they have a hollow center and holes on different sides, allowing you to put treats in the middle. To get the treats out, your dog will have to shake, drop, or toss the toy. To make their mental enrichment even sweeter, use a treat that supports your dog’s health and well-being, such as a CBD dog treat.
  • Interactive puzzle toys usually come in plastic or wood options and include several hidden compartments where you can hide dog treats. To reach their tasty snacks, your pup will have to use their nose and paws to pull, push, and slide different parts of the puzzle.

Some puzzle toys also vary in difficulty, allowing you to level up your dog’s enrichment each time they master a new part of the puzzle. 

#4 Put Your Pup’s Snout to Work with Scent Games

Ever wondered how your dog can be three rooms away but still know the exact moment you open a bag of chips? Our pups have an incredible sense of smell and use it constantly to learn about the world around them. 

Scent games provide dogs with an enriching way to exercise their senses.3

When you want to give your dog some sensory enrichment, you can start by simply giving them some extra time to sniff around during your next walk. However, there are plenty of ways to play scent-based games indoors.

Try these games the next time your dog needs some scent-based enrichment:

  • Use a shoebox – Place some delectable dog treats inside a shoebox and close it with a lid. Be sure to use a box you don’t mind being destroyed.
  • Use a muffin tin – Place dog treats or kibble into the cups of a large muffin tin. Then, place tennis balls into each cup to hide the treats. For an extra challenge, only include treats beneath some of the tennis balls at random.
  • Play the “find it” game – While your dog is in another room, hide a few treats around the house, such as under rugs, behind chairs, and in between couch cushions. When you’ve hidden them all, let your dog out and encourage them to find all the hidden treats.
Two dogs running together

#5 Plan a Social Outing with Your Canine Community

Some dogs thrive on their own, while others find enrichment from being around other pups and people. If your dog falls into the latter group, providing them some social time offers an excellent way to enrich their life. If you pay close attention to their dog tail meaning, you can tell if they’re enjoying the social time or if they’re a little on edge. 

If you have a canine friend nearby, you can set up a pup playdate and simply give the dogs some time to run and play in a fenced-in yard or park area. If not, however, there are plenty of other ways to give your dog some social exercise.

Try these ideas for a social enrichment outing with your dog:

  • Go to the dog park and play with other pooches
  • Join a dog walking club or hiking club 
  • Walk around a pet store and pick out a new toy
  • Visit your local pet-friendly cafe
  • Take a dog training class and learn new tricks

What if you think your dog would enjoy social time, but they tend to feel shy or anxious around others? Start small with some short outings. You can also help your dog feel at home with a treat that helps soothe their worried thoughts and feelings. CBD for dogs can easily be added to their meals before play time.

Once your dog makes some new furry friends, they’ll probably feel at home in no time. Chances are, you’ll even meet some canine-loving friends to add to your own social circle. And hopefully by the end of play time, you’ll end up with a sleepy, cuddly dog which should make things a little easier when deciding “should I let my dog sleep with me?’  

Make the Most of Canine Enrichment with Canna-Pet

Your pup may fall in love with all the puzzle toys, snuffle mats, and frolics in the park you offer without hesitation. But if it takes them some time to get the hang of all the extra enrichment, don’t worry. With some practice and patience, your dog may soon be solving puzzles and making new friends faster than you can say “fetch!”

To make their enrichment even more delicious, find the perfect dog treats with Canna Pet. 

Our organic CBD dog treats are made with natural ingredients and dog-friendly flavors like Maple Bacon and Turkey. Plus, Canna-Pet dog biscuits are formulated with Canna-Pet® Advanced CBD—meaning you can provide your dog a helping of relaxation at the same time.

For treats that enrich and delight your dog, choose Canna-Pet.

Sources: 

  1. PubMed. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and Alzheimer’s Disease – Two Facets of the Same Disease? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6582309/#B120 
  2. PetMD. Why Do Dogs Lick Everything? https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/why-do-dogs-lick-everything 
  3. American Kennel Club. Indoor Scent Games For Dogs.  https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/indoor-scent-games-for-dogs/ 
  4. Daily Paws. How Enrichment and Playtime Leads to Longer, Happier Lives for Our Pets. https://www.dailypaws.com/dogs-puppies/dog-exercise-play/making-pawsitive-choices  

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