Enrichment activities keep your pet mentally and physically engaged, which helps them in numerous ways. Enrichment helps socialize young pets by exposing them to new sights, smells, sounds, and textures. Enriched pets are also less likely to exhibit stress and anxiety. Enrichment also prevents bored pets from displaying undesirable destructive behaviors. These activities also provide needed physical and mental exercise for pets, who are less likely to develop cognitive dysfunction as they age, if they receive regular mental stimulation. Since enrichment is so important for your pet’s health and welfare, our team at Burlington Veterinary Center would like to provide enjoyable enrichment activities for you and your pet.

Enrichment activities for dogs

Dogs are social creatures, and love interacting with their people. These activities will keep you and your dog entertained, and strengthen your natural bond.

  • Build an agility course — You can set obstacles up in your home for your dog to navigate, or create a more elaborate course in your backyard. Use cones and cardboard boxes to create obstructions and hurdles your pet will have to weave around and jump over. Walk them through the course several times, rewarding them after each obstacle. This activity is especially beneficial for increasing your dog’s balance and body awareness in their environment.
  • Play hide and seek — Hide and seek makes your dog work with their nose to find you. Find an easy hiding place to start, and throw a massive praise party when they find you. Make your hiding places increasingly difficult, once they understand how the game works.
  • Make a scavenger hunt — Hide your dog’s favorite treats in several spots around your home. You can also play this game outside, if your area is securely fenced. Use strong smelling treats to ensure the game is not too difficult, and offer your dog cheers and praise when they find each morsel.
  • Create a dig area — Dogs naturally love to dig, but this favored activity can cause a mess in your yard. Building them their own area where they can dig can help them release excess energy, and preserve your landscaping. To build a dig area:
    • Fill a kiddie pool or sandpit container with kid-safe dirt or sand. You can also designate a specific area in your yard for your dog’s dig area.
    • Bury treats or toys in the dig area, and entice your dog to uncover the contraband. If they do not dig up all the treats, remove these from the pit, to avoid attracting wildlife to your yard.
    • If your dog is unsure about the dig pit, start digging yourself, to show them what to do. They will quickly get excited, and join in the fun.
    • If your dog digs in inappropriate areas, redirect them to their dig pit, and consider blocking their access to the other areas.

Enrichment activities for cats

Cats are often considered independent pets who can fend for themselves, but cats need enrichment as much as dogs. They crave interaction and mental and physical stimulation. These activities will help keep your cat entertained:

  • Whack a mole game — Cut holes in the top of a box that has one side open, and use a stick or a wand to tease your cat through the holes. When playing, occasionally allow them to capture their prey, so they don’t become frustrated. You can also place treats or their usual kibble in the box, making them reach and grab for the morsels for their meal.
  • Muffin tin puzzle — This simple game will also entertain dogs. Place kibble in the tins of a muffin pan. Initially fill every tin, and as your pet understands the game, fill only a few tins. Cover the kibble using tennis balls or fluffy cat toys. Let your pet sniff out the yummy treats under the toys. This game lets your pet practice their problem-solving skills, and works their sense of smell.
  • Teach your cat to walk on a leash — Going on supervised outdoor walks can provide wonderful enrichment for your cat by exposing them to numerous new sights, smells, sounds, and textures. Steps to take include:
  • Acclimate your cat to wearing the harness — Start by placing a well-fitted harness on your cat, and allowing them to get comfortable wearing the harness while you are inside. 
  • Acclimate your cat to leash walking —Once your cat is comfortable wearing the harness, attach the leash. Let your cat walk around, while you follow them with the leash. 
  • Acclimate your cat to walking indoors — Lead your cat in a different direction by applying light pressure on the leash. Use treats to entice them to go in the correct direction.
  • Acclimate your cat to walking outdoors — Start by taking your cat outside for short periods. If they become afraid or stressed, take them back inside, and try again another day. 

Enrichment is essential to provide mental and physical stimulation, and these simple, fun activities can provide hours of interaction with your pet. If you have any concerns about your pet’s enrichment needs, contact our Fear Free team at Burlington Veterinary Center, and let us help you beef up your pet’s activity schedule.