A smart poodle poses for the camera.

Just like us, dogs benefit from ample, healthy mental stimulation. 

Many breeders prioritize ‘early neurological stimulation’ when caring for newborn puppies. The American Kennel Club emphasizes that ‘the first three weeks of a puppy’s life are a crucial time’ because they’re just beginning to learn to see and hear. In fact, most pups do not open their eyes until they are 10 days old, and many don’t develop a firm sense of hearing until two weeks. As a result, it’s very important to connect with your pups by touch, to ensure their neurological system gets kicked into gear as early as possible. 

Of course, mental stimulation is just as important for older dogs as well. When your dog enters their ‘senior years,’ proper stimulation can help slow the brain’s aging process. That’s why it’s extremely important to make sure you’re providing your dog with plenty of ‘mental workout sessions.’ 

Try These Top 4 Dog Enrichment Ideas Today

Do you want to give your pup the best activity and enrichment toys to keep them happy and engaged, but don’t know where to start? Read on for the best dog enrichment ideas that can help your dog stay active, alert, and downright happier every day.

Find the Best Enrichment and Activity Toys for Your Dog

Perhaps you’ve heard of ‘environmental enrichment’ for dogs. This term refers to activities that stimulate your pup’s physical, mental and sensory skills. These kinds of routines, or games, can often help prevent behavioral issues, as well as reduce stress and enrich your dog’s overall wellbeing.

Activity toys are one of the best ways to provide environmental enrichment for your pup. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and functions. Everything from interactive puzzle games to hide-and-seek toys to treat dispensers can keep your dog busy for hours, and they’re all designed to challenge their body and mind while they play. 

By providing mental stimulation through thought-provoking, problem-solving activities, you can help boost their cognitive development while they have fun!

What Are Examples of the Best Activity Toys for Dogs? 

Activity Toys are easy to find once you know what you’re looking for. Keep in mind your dog’s specific age, size and personality, and then try purchasing a few of the following examples for your pup to try out.

  • Treat-Dropping Toys
  • Hide-And-Seek Toys 
  • Ball-Launching Toys 
  • Dog Treat and Puzzle Balls
  • Automated Bobble Toys  
  • Snuffle, Treat and Licking Mats

Set Up a Scavenger Hunt for Your Dog

Think of it this way: mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for your dog. One easy way to provide ample enrichment is to set up a scavenger hunt. All you’ll need is a handful of dog treats and a few items you can easily hide around the house or yard. Think favorite toys, socks, or other puppy go-tos. 

Once you’ve chosen your treats and ‘hidden objects,’ start by hiding one thing at a time around the property. If you’re playing this game with your pup for the first time, consider hiding the objects in obvious places — or even allowing your dog to see exactly where you’ve hidden them. Then, cheer them on to encourage them to find it, and make sure to celebrate their discovery once they do find the object (or treat!)

If your pup gets distracted or needs an extra boost, give them hints by pointing to the area or vocalizing “find it.” Once they find the treat, again, reward them with praise and another treat for their effort. 

Beyond just giving your pup something to do around the house, especially on a rainy day, a scavenger hunt will mentally stimulate them. Just like any puzzle or other challenge-based game, this dog enrichment idea is a great way to play with your companion — or loop in multiple pups at once!

Try Puzzle Toys and Puzzle Feeders

Puzzle toys and puzzle feeders can keep your pup occupied for hours, providing them with the mental challenge they crave. Not only that, but these kinds of toys give your pooch a fun way to release their energy, while also preventing boredom.

Some of the best benefits of puzzle toys and puzzle feeders include: 

  • Cognitive Development: Puzzles stimulate a dog’s problem-solving skills. As they search for answers to puzzles or figure out how to reach food, they’ll learn to stay sharp and alert.
  • Stress Relief: Mental exercises can help pets feel calmer during tough times like traveling or thunderstorms.
  • Bonding Time: Working on puzzles with your pet gives you quality time together and ultimately helps strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

If you’re curious to learn more about puzzle toys and feeders, make sure to look out for a few things when shopping. First, the best puzzle toys will often include details like interactive treat mazes or treat balls, as a means of keeping your dog engaged. Whenever there’s a treat involved, you can expect them to keep at it! 

Conversely, puzzle feeders can be a great way to keep your dog busy when you need to focus on another task at hand. Have an important Zoom call? Spread some peanut butter on a lick mat, or load some wet food into a slow-feed bowl. That should keep your dog busy for a while.

Use Enrichment Ideas to Train Your Dog

While it may surprise some new owners, training your dog is actually a great form of mental stimulation. Teaching your dog a new trick or showing them how to behave can be a great dog enrichment idea for any agenda. 

That said, keep in mind that training is really less about learning tricks, and more valuable when considered as an opportunity to build new skills. When we center training around dog enrichment ideas, we’re ultimately connecting with our dogs in a way that fosters communication and understanding. 

Not sure what this means? Consider how taking your dog on a hike gives them an opportunity to learn about the world around them. That said, it’s also an opportunity to stress that the ‘real world’ is often full of danger, and that they’ll need to trust you to avoid stepping into dangerous terrain, upsetting other animals or disgruntling hikers. 

Similarly, an obstacle course can help your puppy master new movements, while a scent-finding game can help them cultivate their tracker senses. Most of all, working on basic commands like “sit” and “stay” – especially outdoors and off-leash, can help your dog learn to trust you and grow to understand the importance of day-to-day discipline. 

Learn the Best Dog Enrichment Ideas from the Experts at Greenlin Pet Resorts

All too often, a mentally stimulated dog is typically better behaved than one that’s bored. So if you’re having trouble training your dog, it may just be a matter of learning the right dog enrichment ideas that will help them stay engaged. Keep in mind too, that a mentally enriched pooch is a happy pooch. 

The experts at Greenlin Pet Resorts can show you how to make dog training more fun for both you and your dog. They can also help you pinpoint your most pressing pain points, and explain why your pup is holding on to any undesired behavior. Solution-oriented and extremely understanding, their team is always here to help. 

Best of all, they’re even here to help while you vacation out of town. Click here to learn more about their Lodge and Learn programs, and how they can make sure your dog receives all the proper fun, exercise and mental stimulation they’ll need while you’re away from home.

So reach out today to speak with a professional trainer and learn how they can customize a training program to your pup’s specific needs. With six locations in the Harrisburg area alone, they make finding the right dog training a breeze.