Top 20 Canine Enrichment Activities (Excluding Food Toys!)

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July 27, 2022 / Enrichment / By: Melanie Evans

2 Border Collie Dogs Learning Tricks Part of their Enrichment Activities

From the time they first join your family, your pup will benefit from being given good food, lots of love and attention and from plenty of enrichment activities.

Your dog, like you, requires a range of interesting activities in order to keep them happy and healthy. Enrichment prevents boredom and can aid in the treatment of behavioral issues in dogs, such as anxiety.

The good news is that providing your pup with the enrichment he needs does not have to be expensive or complicated.

It won't eat up too much of your time, and it will make the time you do spend with your dog even better, and the bond between you even closer.

Not sure where to get started with effective enrichment activities for dogs? We've compiled this list of the top 20 enrichment activities for dogs to help you - and your pup - get the 'project' off to a great start.

1. Teach “Cover Your Eyes” Trick

Most pups can learn tricks, and while they are amusing for you, the fact that their new skill delights you will make them feel happy and fulfilled, while also helping them use their brain a little more.

The 'cover your eyes' trick is a simple one to teach - with some patience - but one that will impress anyone who sees it, you and your family included.

This video explains - in just three minutes - how it's done.

2. Choose the Right Toy For Your Breed

KIPRITII Dog Chew Toys for Puppy - 20...

Dog toys can help a lot with enrichment, but there is no one size fits all toy for the job, so to get the most out of enrichment toys you'll need to find the right one for your pup, something that may often have a lot to do with his breed.

For example, a herding breed dog will usually love chasing - and catching - a frisbee, and a lively lab will love chasing a ball.

A retriever will enjoy bringing back something you toss, especially if there's a reward for doing so, and a hunting dog will respond well to a scent based toy like a snuffle mat.

The best way to discover which enrichment toys your pup enjoys most though is to try a few out. Hold on to the ones he likes, and if some are ignored, consider passing them on to a pup who will enjoy them.

3. Upgrade Your Walk

Woman with her greyhound on a leash on a forest trail

Walking their dog is something most pet parents do every day, but it's often a very rote, routine affair that loses its appeal for your dog after a while.

This is often due to time constraints and can't be avoided, but if, once in a while, you upgrade your walks both you and your pup will benefit.

What do we mean? Taking a hike together somewhere that offers new sights and smells, heading out to a lake to enjoy some paddling, or simply making an effort to walk around a few new blocks can all do the trick.

4. Play A Simple Game of Fetch

"Border collie dog in mid air ready to catch a toy while dock diving into a pool

Fetch is probably one of the oldest, easiest enrichment activities you can do with your dog.

While some dog breeds will respond to it better than others - because it appeals to their genetic nature - almost any dog will enjoy playing fetch, especially if a treat is their reward for completing their 'mission'.

5. Hold a Mini Training Session

Even if you don't take your pup to formal training sessions, there are plenty of great free dog training videos online that you can make use of to create mini dog training sessions that you can do almost anywhere when you and your pup have a few free minutes.

This video is a great place to start:

6. Blow Some Bubbles

Dog Enrichment Activity - Blowing Bubbles With Family and Dog

Kids love bubble blowing, and dogs do too.

Whether they are simply fascinated by them, or they choose to actively chase them (and maybe even try to eat them) any pup will quickly engage with you if you blow some bubbles for them, and given that a bottle of bubble liquid is something you'll find in abundance at any dollar store, and they can be used anywhere, this a quick, easy - and cheap - way to provide enrichment for your pup almost anywhere.

7. Take a Trip to a Dog Friendly Store

A small dog in supermarket trolley in a grocery store

Although most stores don't allow dogs - other than service dogs - to enter their premises, there are still a few national chains that do welcome dogs, and taking a trip to one can be fun for your pup,and make shopping less of a chore for you.

In addition to Petsmart and Petco, both of which encourage you to bring your pup with you when you shop, Home Depot, Lowes and Tractor Supply Co do too.

8. Go For A Car Ride

Labrador dog sitting in car seat

Are we there yet???

Letting your dog see that a trip in the car can be more than just a way to trick them into going to the vet can be fun for you both. You don't need to go on a long road trip, a thirty-minute drive out someplace near fields or other exciting places for dogs can be just as effective (and less hassle for you.)

A well secured dog can even be allowed to get the wind in his fur if you crack the window!

9. Grooming Session

Dog grooming - Owner is combing the fur of a German shepherd on the grass outdoors

If your pup likes to be brushed, a simple five-minute grooming session can be a great way for the two of you to bond and for him to feel like he's being pampered.

If they are not usually keen on the idea - and not all dogs are - mini grooming sessions can be a great way to change that.

10. Take Your Pup on a Playdate

Dogs greeting one another in dog park by sniffing

If you and your pup have met another pup at the dog park recently they seem to get along with, why not see if you can arrange a private playdate for them?

This enrichment activity can be as beneficial to you as it is for your pup, as it might be a great way to extend your personal social circle as well as his!

11. Give Your Pup a Chore

A golden retriever retrieving newspaper - morning chore and enrichment activity

Giving your pup a daily chore can be a great way to provide a daily dose of enrichment. Maybe you can teach him to fetch your slippers at the end of the day, put his toys back in his toy box at the end of a play session or, if you still receive a newspaper delivery, and it's safe for him to do so, retrieve your paper from the lawn for you read every day.

12. Play a Game of 'Got Your Tail'

Jack Russell walking around in circles chasing its tail

Ever played a game of got your nose with your kids? A game of 'got your tail' with your pup can provide just as much amusement for him. Just be careful not to pull too hard and to halt the game if he does not seem to like it.

13. Play a Game of Hide and Seek

A quick game of hide and seek is another enrichment activity that you can engage your pup in almost anywhere. Often it works best if there are treats involved - most dogs are more than willing to keep looking everywhere until they find that tasty treat they can smell - but some pups will happily hunt down their favorite toy too.

If you want to provide some enrichment for your pup when you can't give them your full attention, a hide and seek toy can be a great way to do so.

ZippyPaws Woodland Friends Burrow...

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The ZippyPaws Woodland Friends Burrow is a great choice for smaller pups - the soft hedgehogs and the den they 'hide in' are perfectly sized for smaller paws - and for larger dogs the Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Plush Dog Toy Puzzle is offered in an extra large size that provides enough squirrels - and a tall enough 'tree' to amuse even the largest dogs.

14. Build a Ball Pit

Dogs who love to dig - and that is most of them - will love a ball pit, and building them one of their own, either outdoors in the yard or indoors in their play space or a corner of the basement, may save your floors and furniture from 'dig damage' too.

Building a ball pit is not too hard. A sturdy kid's wading ball and bag full of dog friendly play balls is really all you need, and it can be set up (and taken down) in a matter of minutes.

You can make a ball pit session even more fun and engaging for your pup by adding some of their favorite treats for them to dig out and if you have small children this can be a great way for them to get some extra playtime with their pup, as kids obviously enjoy a ball pit every bit as much!

15. Choose a Dog Puzzle Toy

German shepherd puppy playing with puzzle toy

Puzzle toys for dogs are another great way to provide your dog with extra enrichment even when you can't give them your full attention. A puzzle toy is any toy that provides your pup's brain with a challenge, and there are lots to choose from.

If your pup is a fast eater, a puzzle bowl can provide both enrichment and help solve a problem that can be very bad for their health.

These bowls make getting to their food a little more challenging, and while their desire to eat will keep most dogs motivated to keep trying to solve the puzzle, it should slow their eating down enough to end that concern.

16. Play a Game of Chase

Dogs love to chase things, and a structured game of chase can be a great way to provide both enrichment and a little extra physical challenge. While chasing a human may not be the best idea - especially if yours is a larger, excitable dog - chasing a toy can be a lot of fun for everyone.

There are some great wind up and remote controlled pet toys you can purchase, and teaser wands (see image above) are both easy for your dog to chase and for you to use, with the added bonuses that they can be used for training too.

If your pup plays well with any cats in the home, a chase toy can be a great way to provide enrichment for them too.

17. Take a Break at a Dog Friendly Café

Chicago Dog Friendly Coffee Shops

Although some restaurants and cafes have changed their policies since the pandemic began there are still lots of dog-friendly cafés and ice cream shops - and even a few restaurant chains like Shake Shack - that will welcome both you and your dog, although you'll usually have to eat and drink outside.

However, on a warm day it's very pleasant for both you and your dog to grab an outdoor seat and while you enjoy an ice cream cone or cappuccino he can lap up a puppuccino or enjoy a cooling pup cup of ice cream and watch all the human traffic go by!

18. Take Your Dog To Work Day!

French bulldog puppy at work

An increasing number of workplaces now hold at least one Take Your Dog to Work Day every year, and some even allow you to bring your furkids along more often.

If you have a chance to, taking your dog to work can be a lot of fun for him. Not only will he see new things and smell new scents, all the extra attention he'll receive will be very welcome as well!

19. Agility Training

An adult Boxer dog in agility training jumping through a loop.

Some dogs, with the right training, can be as athletic as any human. Agility training can be a great enrichment activity if you and your pup are up to it, and who knows, they may even have the potential to become a dog sports star if you give it a try.

20. Make Your Dog a Canine Good Citizen

If you can spare the time, the American Kennel Club offers a formal Canine Good Citizen training program at AKC Centers nationwide as well as at some Petco locations.

These are affordable classes taught by dog training experts that are open to dogs of all ages, and of all breeds, and, upon completion your pup will get a special 'Canine Good Citizen' certificate, which is something you can both be proud of!

More great pet reads you'll love:

WRITTEN BY

Melanie Evans

Melanie Evans is a professional freelance writer based in Scranton, PA, who, enjoys sharing her lifelong knowledge about dogs. When not working, Melanie enjoys playing a wide variety of sports, traveling and hanging out with her energetic boxer dog Bruce.

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  1. Thanks for the ideas. I have a Corgi mix and do lots of trick training with him using a clicker. Maybe some of your readers might want to try that too.

    1. Hi Jackie, Yes, trick training is a great way to have fun together, communicate with your pet and create an enriching activity. Thanks for the recommendation.

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