Dog Training for Mental Health: Enriched Environments
The Big Difference in a Small Change of Scenery
When it comes to keeping your dog happy and healthy most parents recognize and care for their dog’s physical needs including feeding and exercising your dog properly. However, we often neglect the importance of our dog’s mental health when we focus so much on exercise.
In an earlier blog we discussed a variety of fun ways to train your dog’s brain and provide crucial mental stimulation. Another important way to care for your dog’s mental health needs is to provide them with enriched environments. An enriched environment is a place that allows a dog to utilize all of his senses. When we provide the opportunity for our dog’s to use their nose, eyes, ears, tongue and paws then we are truly
considering all of their health needs.
You can create your own enriched environments at home in any room of the house and especially in the front or backyard. Find a variety of different objects such as boxes, bags, toys, and more. Be creative, finding things your dog doesn’t see or smell regularly are the best option; this may include a trip to thrift store for old shoes and other unique objects. Think like a dog when picking these items, they will care more about how it smells than how it looks; old and beat up will be preferred to shiny and new by most canines. Our puppy training courses utilize enriched environments with different themes such as baby and child related objects, wheeled objects, and different textures/surfaces. Using enriched environments with puppies is vital to their early socialization.
There are also great enriched environments waiting just outside your door. Take your dog to a variety of new places and they will have plenty of chances to exercise all of his senses. If you keep finding new interesting places there is no need to plant novel objects around. The important part about selecting the places you go is to consider what will be stimulating for your dog. Most of the time, looks don’t matter to your dog so don’t worry about locating pretty parks to walk in (though parks can be good too occasionally) instead, think outside the box. We like to start in empty bank or church lots to keep the distractions low at first, then you can build up to visiting busier places. No matter which environment you pick remember to let your dog freely explore on leash or off-leash when it is safe and possible. It is important to give your dog choices, letting them pick where they want to walk and smell so only pick places where it will be safe to let your dog lead the way. If your dog must be on leash try using a longer line so they can more freely explore while staying safe with you. If your dog doesn’t seem interested when you create or visit an enriched environment they may need some help getting started.
When preparing an enriched environment for beginners spread out treats around and in the objects; at first you may have to spread out a lot of treats, but eventually you will be able to phase them out. Soon your dog will be an expert at exploring enriched environment and you will be rewarded for investing in their mental health.