My dogs are spoiled. I fully acknowledge that fact.
They get daily hour-long walks (unless it is too cold outside). They have lots of friends and get to play with them often. They have a large yard and can run and play and stretch their legs. They are allowed on the furniture and have plush beds. They get tasty treats (like cheese and chicken) and bully sticks and lots of love and attention. They have a good life. And, I am proud of that.
I like knowing that they have good lives and that it is fun and exciting and different every day.
It wasn’t always like this. Yes, I took my other dogs for walks, but I never did all the sort of enrichment activities with them like I do with my three now.
I think Daisy is the one who changed it all for me.
When Daisy first came to live with me, she was so frightened that I worried whether she would ever be able to be a “normal” dog. Seeing her like this made me want to give her the best life possible. I made her a promise that I would do everything in my power to make her happy. Not only that, but I would give her the chance to do all the things other “normal” dogs did, and more. My goal was to give her the kind of life any dog would be envious of (if dogs can feel envy). That promise was the beginning of a great journey together.
Finding activities that would enrich Daisy’s life became my mission. Anything that would help her grow her mind and her confidence was part of the deal, this included praising her whenever she took a step outside her comfort zone.
So Daisy got bones to chew, ice cream to eat, and toys to play with. I let her dig holes in the yard so she could experience the pleasure of digging (luckily, she only dug under the lilac bushes!). She learned how to use her nose to find the treats I threw out in the yard for her, and she went on walks all over the city and experienced the excitement of exploring new places. She walked into water for the very first time and then learned how to swim.
In other words, she learned to “live” life and not to fear so much. Seeing her joy and happiness gave me great joy and so we sought out more things to do that would be fun and new and exciting.
When Jasper and Cupcake joined our little family, I continued to look for enrichment activities that we could all do together.
They now have several dog games that challenge their brains and they get to play them on a regular basis. In the summer time, we go to the lake or walk along the Mississippi River or explore a new park. When the snow melts, I hide treats in the yard and laugh as I watch them follow their noses to all the little treasures. Daisy has accompanied me on many dog walking appointments and even stayed with me on one pet sitting date. Cupcake and Jasper have participated in several Sheltie playdates, and Jasper and Daisy have gone to nose work classes. Jasper has even tried sheep herding.
Providing my dogs with enrichment activities has given me great pleasure and it continues to do so. It’s a joy to see them smile as they work and play and explore.
So now I am curious, do you have enrichment activities you do with your own dog(s)? What are they? What things do you do with your dog that gives you both a great sense of joy? I would love to hear about them.
In the meantime, here is a video that highlights an enrichment activity that is easy and fun to do. this is one both you nd your kids can do with your dog. Don’t have a dog that can “stay” like this one? No worries. My dogs don’t have a great “stay” either (although they should), so I use a baby gate to keep them in one location while I hide their treats around the house or the yard. It’s so much fun seeing them run from place to place trying to find them.