Winter weather can keep us and our dogs inside more often, and longer, than we would typically like – which can easily lead to some wild and even destructive behavior.
Fortunately, there’s an easy solution. Indoor enrichment toys are a great way to give your dog’s brain mental stimulation, promote calm behavior, and tire them out without ever having to leave the house.
Here are the basics on dog enrichment toys as well as some of our top enrichment picks to try out with your pup!
What is enrichment for dogs?
In simple terms, “dog enrichment” refers to a number of ways that you can engage your dog to keep them mentally stimulated, physically active, and socially engaged. While it doesn’t seem like much, these toys encourage dogs to use their natural instincts and help them stay happy and healthy
Enrichment toys and activities can also help alleviate the boredom a dog may feel from being stuck inside, which decreases the likelihood of your dog engaging in bad behaviors like chewing furniture or excessive barking.
Dog Lick Mats
Just like the name suggests, a lick mat encourages the act of licking. Usually made of silicone or rubber these mats come with texture surfaces that hold food and can help slow down the eating process for your pup, aid with grooming, or provide the perfect distraction during a thunderstorm. Lick mats come in all shapes and sizes, including suction mats that can be stuck to the wall, or with sides for messy eaters. Most lick mats can also be frozen to prolong the meal.
Dog Puzzle Toys
Dogs are naturally wired to spend hours each day working for their food. But when we take away this natural activity by giving them a bowl, we’re opening the door to behavioral problems. Puzzle feeders remedy this by making the dog work for their meal. The feeder’s compartments, containers, or mazes require the dog to use his paws or nose to open them, activating their natural instincts and stimulating their minds.
Tennis Ball in a Tin
In a pinch? You can easily make toys for your dog with many of the items you already own. Take this classic enrichment game for example – Tennis Ball in a Tin. Hide high-value treats that your dog will really want to work for beneath the tennis balls then sit back as they problem-solve their way to getting their prize.
Snuffle mats are soft toys made from strips and ruffles of fabric and designed to engage your dog’s sense of smell and tracking instincts. They’re designed to hide food in the pockets and folds so that dogs will sniff the toy and track down the hidden treats or kibble.
Another great DIY – snuffle mats are also extremely easy to make with household materials. Place some food on a towel and roll the towel up end-to-end. Keep adding treats as you roll and voila, you have an engaging activity to keep your dog occupied when you need a break! Other variations include snuffle boxes made from shoe boxes, tissue paper, toilet paper rolls, blankets, and more. Simply layer the food under and in the items in the box and let your dog get to work.
Similar to classic kongs, The Game from Fable Pets goes a step further, “mimicking the experience of hunting prey so your dog can eat an entire meal as nature intended”. Designed t hold up to 1.5 cups of food and multiple complexity settings, this game can keep dogs occupied for up to 30 minutes.
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with using the tried and true KONG. These popular chew toys come with a hollow center that can be stuffed with peanut butter and other treats. An honorable mention also goes to our No Bad Dog mango fruit toys and durian fruit toys – both made from natural rubber and can be filled with treats for your pup!