DIY Dog Enrichment: Easy Activities to Keep Your Pup Entertained

Posted by Jackie Ly on

indoor agility course for dogs

Dogs have innate behaviours of chewing, playing, chasing, smelling, and scavenging. They are naturally playful and agile, both indoors and outdoors, that’s why training and enrichment are important aspects of their lives.

Giving toys to your dog allows them to engage in their natural behaviours, that’s why it’s also understandable when these toys tear or break–they just love playing too much! However, if you want your dog to be physically and mentally stimulated and satisfied without buying toys from time to time, then DIY enrichment activities are your lifesavers!

Enrichment does not have to be expensive, and you don't even have to spend money to get started. There are plenty of things you can do with items you already have at home!

Table of Contents

Why enrichment is important for dogs

Reduces stress and boredom

Dog enrichment helps relieve your dog's stress and boredom. Like puzzles and games for people, enrichment activities train your dog's brain while having fun. 

When you leave them alone at home, their energy is suppressed until you come back and they have someone to play with. So when you come back, make your play time physically or mentally engaging to stimulate their brain and ease their boredom.

Helps strengthen relationships with owner and other people

Dogs are social animals that need regular opportunities to engage in positive social interactions with other dogs, people, and other animals. Enrichment activities are a way to strengthen your bond with your dog. They will learn to trust you when you praise them for their accomplishments, when you make time for them, and when you are patient with them.

Other family members should also join or initiate the activities to develop a deeper bond with your dog, fostering a fun and positive environment for them.

Remember that individual dogs’ needs and preferences for social interactions will vary, so enrichment activities should be safe. Most importantly, observe what your dog likes doing, and never force them to do activities they don’t want to do.

Good for physical and mental health

Dogs are bright creatures that thrive on mental challenges. Mental enrichment is given through a variety of activities, such as giving dogs interactive toys, puzzle toys, and scent games. These activities keep their minds active, improve their cognitive abilities, and develop problem-solving skills. Mental stimulation fosters a healthy learning environment for dogs, keeping them mentally alert and satisfied.

Physical enrichment is equally vital and often includes mental enrichment too! Regular exercise such as daily walks (and allow your dog to sniff!), games (e.g. agility course), and letting your dog run freely in safe and secure areas such as your backyard or designated dog park are all excellent ways to exercise your dog.

Prevents/treats undesirable behaviours

Lack of mental and physical stimulation for your dog may cause them loneliness, frustration, anxiety, and stress, which can be detrimental to their mental and physical health.

Enrichment activities improve your dog's attention span and focus,which prevents or helps treat undesired behaviour such as destructive chewing, excessive barking, and aggression.

Improve their senses

Enrichment activities and interactive play encourage your dog to use their keen senses of scent, sight, and hearing.  Also, activities like agility exercises and unfamiliar item explorations help develop coordination and sense of balance. 

Regularly exposing your dog to diverse and interesting locations not only fulfils their inherent instincts, but also develops a greater awareness of their surroundings, shaping them into a more attentive, confident, and well-rounded canine companion.

DIY Enrichment Activities to Entertain your Dog

Place treats inside a towel

This is a simple and fun activity, especially when you don’t have enough time to prepare but still want to stimulate your dog.

Use any bath towel and lay it flat. Spread a handful or two of the dog's treats on the towel. Next, roll it up, fold it randomly, or simply shape it into a ball. Then, put it down on the floor and let your dog unfold it. Watch as your dog tries to figure out how to unravel the towel to successfully get the treat!

If you’ve been doing this for quite a while and it’s not anymore a challenge to your dog, increase its difficulty level:

  • Fold the towel in half lengthwise, then add more treats before folding again lengthwise and rolling up from the short end.
  • After adding the treats and rolling up the towel lengthwise, tie it into a knot (this is the most advanced).
  • Twist the towel from the centre until it is completely twisted, then add more snacks to the crevices.
  • Fold and twist the towel repeatedly, adding extra treats with each fold and twist.

Muffin tin puzzle

With this simple muffin tin game, you can exercise both your dog's mind and whiskers. Fill a muffin tray with food, cover each compartment with tennis balls, then let your dog smell them! To increase the difficulty, use smaller balls that your dog must physically remove from the compartment.

Treats can also be mixed into crumpled pieces of paper and placed in every compartment.

Make a DIY tuggable toy

This is one of the easiest enrichment activities, or toys, to DIY! 

Just grab an unused t-shirt or any clothing, some scissors, and cut the fabric intro strips. Braid the strips together and when done, you already have a sturdy chew toy to give to your dog. Bring on the tug-of-war and have fun!

Dog toy fishing pole

Tie one of your dog's favourite toys to the end of a PVC pipe and start the game! This interactive dog toy entertains everyone. 

To start, attach one of your dog's toys to the rope. Thread the rope through the pipe, and wrap/tie a knot at the opposite end. Then, imagine your dog is a cat and let the toy dangle while they retrieve it!

Wrap a shirt around a water bottle

If your pup likes crinkle sounds, this DIY toy will delight them. 

  1. First, pick a t-shirt or any clothing 
  2. Prepare the bottle–remove the label, clean it, then dry.
  3. Wrap the fabric around the bottle. You can glue it for a longer lasting cover, or you can just tie the ends together.
  4. Test it and adjust if there’s extra fabric getting in the way.
  5. Give it to your dog and let them play with it! You and your dog also have free ASMR crunching sounds.

Hide n’ Seek

Hide n ‘Seek is always a fun game to play almost anywhere! It also serves as an impulse control training exercise, putting their nose to work. 

Take your dog's treat and place it in little stacks in five to ten different areas in the room. While you're hiding your dog's treat, have them stay in one place or lie down. It's fine if they watch you, especially if you're just starting out.

Once you've hidden all of their treats, release them with a command such as "find it!" and watch them sniff out the treats.

It's okay to help them if they get stuck, especially during the first few tries. You can tap the ground near the food or stand near the location where it is hidden.

DIY indoor agility course

This is a terrific way to keep your dog active, even at home. 

Start by planning a course that your dog can safely complete in your house, such as tunnelling through a cardboard box, jumping around cushions, and finally jumping through a hula hoop. 

Gather the materials. Collect household items such as sturdy cardboard boxes, PVC pipes, broomsticks, hula hoops, blankets, and cushions. These items will form the basis of your agility course. 

Next, construct the course! Here are some common obstacles to do:

  1. Weave Poles - Arrange PVC pipes or even empty water bottles in a straight line, spaced appropriately for your dog to weave through. Use sturdy bases to keep them in place.
  2. Jumps - Set up jumps using low obstacles like stacked cushions or boxes. Start with lower heights and gradually increase as your dog becomes more comfortable.
  3. Tunnel - Create a tunnel using blankets draped over furniture or through a cardboard box tunnel. Dogs love weaving through confined spaces.
  4. Balance - Incorporate balance exercises by placing a sturdy board on the floor or using cushions for your dog to step on.

Ensure all DIY obstacles are secure and won't collapse during use. Then, introduce each obstacle slowly, using treats and positive reinforcement. Guide your dog through the course, rewarding them for completing each task!

Cardboard box game

If you have many boxes stacked around your house, this is where you can use them! Take the box and add a handful of your dog's treats inside. Next, seal the box so that it doesn't open on its own, and let your dog have a go for it! 

This activity gives your dog a safe rip and tear outlet while also improving their scentwork. They can spend the next few minutes ripping up the cardboard after they've dug out all of the treats, but make sure you supervise them with these ingestible items.

Toilet Paper Rolls

Don’t throw away your toilet paper rolls! They are perfect as dog toys. Simply cut 4-6 slits in each end, fold down one end, add a handful of treats, then fold up the other end. Instant dog toy!

To make things more challenging, hide the toilet paper rolls all over the house and ask your dog to find them. 

You can also put the toilet paper rolls (without treats) inside cardboard boxes, and then you'll put treats, so your pup has to sniff and scour among toilet paper rolls to find their food.

Just make sure they don’t eat the cardboard. You should know if your dog would! 

In a nutshell

In a nutshell, trying out these DIY dog activities is a win-win. They not only get an excellent physical workout, but it also keeps their minds active and excited. Whether it's creating interactive and interesting games for them or playing together, these activities cater to your dog's natural instincts and give them fun times. 

As you see your furry friend enjoy these simple joys, you realise that a little creativity can contribute to their happiness and well-being.

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