When you introduce a new puppy to your home, and your family, it's a super busy, exciting time for everyone involved, including your new dog.
As is the case for a human baby, new pet parents want to ensure they are getting everything 'right' and that their new charge is getting everything they need to be happy and healthy now and stay that way as they grow.
Which means it can also be a very confusing time full of questions that new pet parents need answered.
Canine enrichment is something an increasing number of pet parents are aware of. In short, that term refers to activities that strengthen and enhance your dog's mental abilities through a variety of brain-challenging and brain-exercising activities.
These exercises help your dog solve problems, develop new abilities, and gain confidence. Which are all things that are very important for a puppy's development into a well-adjusted adult dog.
But many puppy parents find themselves wondering how soon should someone introduce enrichment activities to a new puppy. And what should they actually do?
According to canine enrichment specialists, in almost all cases, enrichment should begin as soon as possible, usually when a puppy first comes home.
At that point, they are usually at least eight weeks of age and are already growing fast, both in terms of their physical body and their brains.
However, as these experts caution, there are no hard and fast rules to be followed, and enrichment activities should be guided by age, the puppy's energy levels, their preferences, your time constraints and more. As enrichment for dogs is essentially all about meeting a puppy's needs, then they really should be your best guide.
Ideally you, and the rest of the family, should enjoy these activities too, as if you are happy, your puppy is happier too.
Enriching Activity Ideas and Puppy Games
Now that you know the best time to begin introducing canine enrichment to your puppy, and you understand why it's so important to your growing dog, you are almost certainly wondering just what you should do.
The good news is that canine enrichment for puppies does not have to be complicated, or expensive, and, remembering that expert advice, is not a one size fits all thing that you can get 'wrong'.
As long as an activity is safe for your puppy, and they seem to enjoy it, you can give it a try. That having been said, here is a look at some simple enrichment ideas for puppies that lots of puppy parents have found to be very successful.
Simple Scent Games
Experts do say that scent games can be especially helpful to engage any dog, puppies included, as they play on one of their great strengths.
They are great because they can be super simple and, while they will provide a puppy with lots of enrichment and get his brain in gear, they won't over excite him, which is a good thing, as an overexcited puppy can become a problem puppy fast!
Treat Hide and Seek
Let your puppy see that you have some of his favorite treats, and then scatter them around an area, either in the space designated for him to sleep or somewhere safe outside.
Do not make their location too obvious, though, as the idea here is that your puppy uses his sense of smell, and his brain, to locate them all himself.
As he does, praise him, and encourage him to keep going until he has 'found' them all.
Take an old towel - one that you won't mind your puppy messing up - and layer it with some of his favorite treats.
Roll the towel up, tie the ends very loosely and then give the wrapped 'present' to your puppy, so they can figure out how to unwrap it and get to all the goodies by themselves.
This is a great enrichment activity for very young puppies, it will probably be far too simple for him after a while. However, if you are looking for a very simple scent game to play with a new puppy, this one is a great choice.
Other Puppy Enrichment Activities to Consider
Everyone loves bubbles, and that includes puppies! Bubbles can provide your dog with something new and exciting to marvel at. Their brain will be stimulated by figuring out the moving bubbles, which will be popped by an adventurous pup!
Check out PetQwerks Doggy Incredibubbles if you want to splurge a little. These bubbles don't pop as soon as they hit the ground, are easy to clean up, and are even tasty if your pup 'catches' them!
Cardboard Treat Puzzle Tube
A paper towel tube can be used to make a simple puzzle feeder.
Cut a few holes in the tube, stuff it with treats, then press the ends together to close it.
Covering the tube in paper and twisting the ends shut adds a new level of difficulty once your puppy has mastered the basic process of getting the treats out.
Bottle Box Party
Fill a large cardboard box with empty water bottles and then add treats or plush toys.
To retrieve the treats/toys, your puppy must search the box, exercising his motor and thinking skills. The game can also help to build confidence because the bottles move and make noise.
Instead of bottles, try crumpled newspaper in the box for a very nervous dog.
Kongs and Other Puzzle Toys
There are an increasing number of puzzle dog toys designed to provide enrichment for puppies as well as fun to choose from.
Some of the best challenging toys we recommend include the Outward Hound Hide a Squirrel and the Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball - both are suited for curious and clever pups who are new to puzzle games.
Kong toys are among the most popular for puppies, as they are safe for young dogs, easier for them to manipulate than some other dog toys and the level of challenge can be adjusted as your puppy gets older (and smarter).
Best of all, they are some of the toughest, longest lasting dog toys on the market, and can stand up to even the toughest chewing puppy!