If you are like me, when you think of enrichment you think of puzzle toys and putting your dog’s food in these
brain teasing toys. While that can be a small part of enrichment, it is just that – a very small part.
Enrichment is defined as those physical, mental, and social activities that a dog does to meet their basic needs.
And let’s face it, if basic needs are not being met that is when we see behavior issues. I believe that we need to
meet a dog’s basic needs before starting on a training plan.
For example, if a dog is in pain from arthritis this could be causing him to lash out and that looks like aggression.
In truth the dog is simply saying, “I hurt.” Another example is if a dog has no space to learn to be calm. Dogs,
especially anxious or stressed dogs, need to learn how to be calm. Otherwise, they cannot learn. I call this being
outside of the think and learn zone.
Allie Bender and Emily Strong wrote an informative book on enrichment titled
Canine Enrichment for the Real World.
You can find supplemental materials about their book and philosophy on PetHarmony.com. It is worth noting that
there is no secret sauce here. The categories that they suggest you focus on with your dog are filling those basic
We will break down a few parts of an enrichment plan in other blogs.