Please note that some posts contains affiliate links & I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links Find out More

Dog Enrichment for Bored Dogs: 6 Quick Tips to Enrich Dog Environments

by | Jul 7, 2022 | Dog Training & Care | 6 comments

FTC noticeBoredom is the worst. When I’m bored, I want to snack, usually on high-carb stuff that packs on the poundage. Hey, Cheetos and M&Ms are brain food, right? It’s not just us humans who fall into bad habits, though. Dogs do too. At least we can control what goes in their bowls.

One of the easiest ways to keep your dog blissfully busy is exercise. Shadow-Pup loves games of fetch, and also adores games of wrestle-and-tag with Karma-Kat. Oh, and cats get bored, too. Here are my cat enrichment tips (with even more in an on-demand webinar). And when Bravo-Dawg was alive, his Big-Ball (water-filled tug toy) brought him joy even after the loss of his leg. Big dogs and working breeds challenge us to find ways to keep them happy. My colleague Angela at Big White Dog Photography offers some great tips for her own doggy soulmate that may resonate with you, too.

While physical exercise is important for dogs, they also need to keep their brains busy too! Besides, this hot weather means outdoor fun gets limited to early morning hours before we hit triple digits here in Texas. I’ll put together a dog enrichment webinar and booklet in the coming months. Meanwhile, here are my 6 quick tips to enrich your dog’s environment to help them stay mentally and physically active – and out of trouble.

TOYS

Tip # 1: Tearribles Interactive Dog Toys

Shadow-Pup absolutely loves this toy. I got this for my Magical-Dawg, and he adored it. Then Bravo-Dawg inherited the toy, and he shared it with Shadow when he joined our family. Dogs want to rip things apart–well, mine do, anyway. The Tearribles are put together with Velcro, so the dog gets to rip off the arms, ears, tail, and legs. That’s hugely satisfying for destructo-dawg, but spares the toy. You will need to supervise, and reattach all the appendages over and over and over…or the dog may go too far. But Shadow will play with this toy for hours. I have to hide it on top of the grandfather clock when I can’t supervise, and he sits and stares up at it to ask for a play session. Smart dog!

Tip #2: Hollow Bones for Stuffing

Making your dog work for their food or treats can be fun. We have all the regulars, like the Kong and Kong Wobbler. But one of Shadow’s favs includes a well-loved (and gnawed) bone. He cleaned out the marrow, leaving the rough interior. That’s perfect for a schmear of peanut butter, aerosol cheese, or other yummy. It’s a great way to to focus his energy on a rewarding pastime. Don’t forget to provide plenty of fresh water to wash treats down with. Pro tip – If you use this, consider using it with some of their regular meals, so the calories don’t go crazy.

Tip #3: Squirrel House

Puzzles really keep the brain going and challenge your dog’s mind. I really like the squirrel house puzzle because Shadow gets to “disembowel” the toy by pulling the individual squeaky squirrels out of the house. You can find several versions of hide-away toys for dogs, but Shadow likes the squirrels best. Maybe because the real-life teaser critters drive him nuts, and he gets to take out his pent up frustration on the toys. He really enjoys the squeak sounds, too, and wants to play fetch with those. The house, once empty, becomes a favorite to head-shake and kill, and he often indulges “zoomies” with the squirrel house carried proudly around …and around…and around.

GAMES

Tip #4: Try a game of Flirt

Families that play together, stay together! I spend two or more hours with Shadow every day. I spread that over the day, though, with morning time “snuggle” game (he does headstands into my lap), followed by “bitey-leg” (my fingers form a bitey-mouth that “bites” his legs). Both of these games are his choice, invented by Shadow—I try to listen to what HE wants to do. His new favorite is his flirt pole—sort of a glorified cat fishing pole toy, but heavy duty for the dog.

The plush toy squeaks and rattles—Karma-Kat tries to chase it, too! We get to have fun, bond while learning new words (it took him three repeats of “flirt” to know that new word). Communication goes both ways. We want dogs to listen to us and follow instructions and commands, but to learn how to teach them, we must listen to them, too.

Tip #5: Show them the world!  

Shadow adores car rides. When the weather works for us, he goes with me to check the mail, run to the bank where he gets a treat, visit the Starbucks for a puppachino, or peruse shelves at the local pet product stores. With hot weather, he doesn’t get car rides as often. I work at home, so spend most of the day with him.

When we leave, he has floor-to-ceiling windows to watch the critters. Bird feeders and bird baths bring squirrels, hummingbirds, and an assortment of feathery creatures up close. We’ve had raccoons, bunnies, and possums visit–also coyotes, which is why he never goes out unaccompanied. That’s the one time, though, that we keep him separated from his best friend, Karma-Kat. The pair love to chase and wrestle, and I worry about potential accidents if I’m not there to supervise.

TEACH TALKING!

Tip #6: Go high-tech!

Of course, in the modern world, leaving to go to work doesn’t have to mean a boring day for your dog anymore. The industry is exploding with high-tech tools and toys that do everything from monitoring your dog’s food intake to watch and speak to them to, yes, enrich their lives! Shadow sometimes gets frustrating trying to explain to us what he wants—he just stands in front of us, paws us, and barks. So, I just invested in Fluent Pet, a system of buttons that record words and phrases that pets can then employ to communicate with humans.

I can’t wait to get started—stay tuned for updates along the journey. Shadow-Pup already knows about 20 of the suggested words (so does Karma-Kat), and now perhaps he can better explain to me what he needs and wants. Side note: Shadow stole the batteries and scared me to death, thinking he’d swallowed one (I found it, whew!). More about that in a future first aid post. Think he’s bored? Hoo boy…

These interlocking HexTiles hold the various buttons. Dogs learn what each button “says” by the position/location, so I need to plan how to group the types of words for my learners to use easily.

The battery powered buttons play back whatever you record when depressed by a paw or nose poke. The company also provides simple symbols for each word/phrase to stick on the appropriate button, in effect teaching dogs to recognize and “read” that as well.

I just need to work on paw targeting to teach Shadow and Karma how to use the buttons. My colleague at GoodDogConceptTraining.com shared this AMAZING resource I plan to use, and you can, too, for other dog brain games. Be sure to visit her great website!

More Dog Enrichment Resources

Dogs that compete in various canine sports have built-in enrichment opportunities. But there are informal ways you can interact with your dog. Potential Unleashed offers a list of fun, easy to do mental games you can play with your dog. And pet photographer colleague Darlene enjoys winter games with her dog (oooh, about now I’d welcome some snow!). How about skateboarding with your dog? Darlene explains how in this fun post.

Do you have a trick up your sleeve for keeping your dog entertained? Let me know in the comments!

YouTube Button

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

6 Comments

  1. Caren

    These are all great suggestions! Fluent Pet sounds pawticularly interesting …..unfortunately Lenny is a permanent substitute teacher for the high school here and he is off in the summer which translates to us being BROKE! I may look into Fluent Pet in the Fall. That sounds super interesting and challenging for Levi. We take him to daycare once a week (which helps with the boredom a bit). He gets to socialize with other dogs, he has training the same day, but his most favorite thing to do at daycare is follow the HUMANS around. BOL. He’s a real “people” dog. We are going to take him to “Fido Fest” here the weekend of July 15th. His daycare/training facility is exhibiting there……it will be his first experience mingling with TONS of people/dogs so we will see how he does there. Paws crossed!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      Oh, I’m sure Levi would have a ball with these! There are some buttons on Amazon (less pricy) you could get to experiment with, too. I’ve seen your posts about Levi and training–smart doggy, of course Shelties aways learn so quickly. I’ll let you know how it goes with my gang.

      Reply
  2. Susan Cripps

    As always, Amy, awesome and informative article to read. My boys, especially Sir Henry loves to play and “disembowel” his lovely little friends, too, but we always make sure to get the squeaker away from him before he gets it. He’s quick and I would hate for him to choke on it. I’m going to look for the squirrel house. Jasper and Sir Henry love to run after the bunnies, so this could be fun for him. Jasper isn’t quite as interested in playing as his brother, but has sudden burst of energy. I’ve wanted to try the speaking tools. We’ll have to talk once you get going with it. ❤️

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      The squirrel house comes in different sizes and has replacement squirrels, too.😬

      Reply
  3. Andrea

    Hi Amy, great ideas! I’ll have to try some with my (fairly new) dog, Izabella Noelle (Izzy). She is awfully stubborn though and doesn’t understand “play.” Must be that bit of dachshund in her. She lives for food though, so I can see training her using that. The only thing she’ll do so far is “sit” – sometimes. She doesn’t understand toys either. When I first got her my sister gave her a rope toy that she chewed and chewed into pieces, but no other rope toy has enticed her since. I’ll see if I can find some of those buttons and give them a try!

    Reply
    • Amy Shojai

      It takes a while. You might try something smelly… hunting heritage dogs sometimes prefer scented toys.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Categories:

Recent Posts

Spoil Your Dog Every Day: 8 Ways How to Show Dogs You Love Them

August 10 is National Spoil Your Dog Day. So how do you spoil your canine companion? Or do you pamper your pet too much?

Our dogs give us unconditional love, and never care that we have a bad hair day, forget to change our socks or brush our teeth—actually, they might like that! They greet us at the door like heroes bearing treasures and always offer a happy wag and eager smooch. Whether dogs snuggle to share our joy or pester us out of a blue mood with a game of fetch, they love us 24/7/365.

That’s one of the many reasons dog lovers consider them part of the family. It’s only natural for us to return the affection by spoiling dogs. Dog lovers don’t need a Spoil Your Dog holiday, either–we love them every day of the year. Here are some ways to return the furry favor for your dog.

Recently, I’ve received a boatload of emails with product suggestions for spoiling dogs with healthy fun. So check out some of the offerings–and in the comments, add suggestions of your own! Then share the blog far and wide to spread the puppy love!

Do Cats Suffer Separation Anxiety? Signs & Tips to Relieve the Angst

Yes, cat separation anxiety affects many felines. When school restarts, and the kids go back to class, your cats (and your dogs) may suffer from separation anxiety. The signs of distress are very different, though. I encourage you to read on to learn about tips for helping your furry family members adjust.

More recently, with more folks working from home, the cats have finally settled into a new routine. But just about the time Kitty gets used to your new schedule, the world changes again if you go back to the office. That may make them more prone to developing separation behaviors when you go back to work or kids return to school and leave them alone.

We very often hear about doggy angst during a beloved human’s absence, but what about cats? Yep, it’s exactly the same—only different. Here’s how.

How to Love Your Cat for World Cat Day

August 8 is WORLD CAT DAY (aka International Cat Day) and it’s the purr-fect time to celebrate our cat love. Maybe you wonder “why does my cat … ” do all sorts of things, or “how do I make my cat love me?” Here are my top 6 ideas how to love your cat every day of the year, so your cat loves you back–not just on World Cat Day.

Cats are great actors and try to convince pet parents they’re already purr-fectly healthy and happy. With cats, it’s Valentine’s Day every day and a good time to think “outside the litter box” and find special ways to love your cat.

It’s fun to celebrate World Cat Day with special treats and bonus snuggles. It’s even more important to show cat love every day of the year, and your cat won’t care if it costs fifty million dollars or fifty cents. In fact, fifty minutes spent with Kitty probably makes him think he won the cat lottery!

TOP 7 WAYS HOW TO LOVE YOUR CAT

Give Comfort. Cat comfort is an important issue for you cat love. Every cat is an individual, so while one cat wants to swing from the drapes and meet new people, strangers could be a horror movie for other cats. A lot of that has to do with your cat’s socialization and parentage. Cat love means we accept each cat as an individual and adjust expectations to each special cat. Here are six ways you can share cat love and increase your cat’s purrs…

Don’t Go! Canine Separation Anxiety & What to Do

During the pandemic, many of us adopted new furry friends. As many folks moved their work world to home, the dogs celebrated! For dogs, that’s winning the lottery, to have their humans with them 24/7. And for puppies adopted over the past couple of years, they’ve had their humans with them 24/7. But now since the country has “re-opened” and many return to work outside the home, will canine separation anxiety become a problem for your dog? What about when things return to “normal” — how will they cope?

Each fall when school classes resume, I write about dog separation anxiety, and that dogs left alone may act out. After summer vacation with the kiddos, dogs left behind at home can mope and feel awful…and so can cats. Any kind of absence can potentially result in canine separation anxiety. Not all problems are due to anxiety–although the behaviors may seem similar. Here’s what you need to know.

Cat Writers’ Association Writer Contest Awards! Mee-Wow!

Way back in 1992, I helped found the Cat Writers' Association. Each year, the CWA hosts a contest for published work, and honors the best cat-centric material with a Certificate of Excellence in dozens of cat-egories. The top Certificate entry received the prestigious...

Furry Fountain of Youth & Dog Senility: Reversing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

I’ve been blessed to share my life with two senior dogs, but only Magical-Dawg showed signs of dog senility, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction. Yes, both dogs and cats can suffer from a form of dementia, that some might described as a type of canine Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs aged 11 to 16 are most likely to develop Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), sort of the doggy version of Alzheimer’s Disease. CCD is a medical condition in which a starch-like waxy protein called beta amyloid collects in the brain and causes behavior changes. Here’s what you need to know and ways to slow down potential dog senility.

Signs of Dog Senility

Dogs cared for throughout their early years live longer than ever before. It’s not unusual for Toy-breed dogs to live into their mid-to-late teens and even big dogs today enjoy a decade or more of happy life with a loving owner. A longer life, though, can leave your dog befuddled when canine brains turn to mush.

Affected dogs become disoriented, wander, cry and pace, and can become lost in the house when out of your sight. Their behavior can change from confident to frightened, and the awake/sleep cycles may turn upside down. Dogs can forget house training, how to find the door or be unable to tell you when they need to “go.” And most heartbreaking of all, senile dogs lose interest in petting, ignore their beloved owners or furry friends, and might not recognize you.

A longer life is not necessarily a better life, especially if your dog no longer recognizes you. But there are ways to help your dog stay connected with the world and ward off signs of CCD…

Pet Dehydration? Causes, Symptoms & First Aid for Dog Dehydration and Cat Dehydration

Cat and dog dehydration refers to the excessive loss of body water. Pets are prone to dehydration when the weather gets very hot, and they don’t have access to enough water. As a result, they can develop heatstroke. More often, though, dog and cat dehydration happens from vomiting and diarrhea.

Here in Texas, we’ve had weeks of triple-digit temperatures. I worry about the outside pets, but even indoor cats and dogs can suffer from dehydration. Normal water loss occurs in the pet’s bathroom deposits, through moisture exhaled with the breath, and through sweat. These fluids get replaced when the cat and dog eat and drink.

Causes of Cat & Dog Dehydration

Any illness may prompt pets to stop eating and drinking, and prolonged fever increases the loss of body fluid. Specific disease conditions or injuries like diabetes or kidney disease may cause excessive urination that also causes of dehydration.

Cats evolved as desert creatures and have an amazing ability to conserve water, but cat dehydration can still kill. Even though cats seem to prefer to drink water in the weirdest places (the sink? your glass? the TOILET?!) they most often just don’t drink enough water. It’s important to know the signs of cat dehydration and provide ample drinking ops to keep kitty healthy and happy.

A normal adult pet’s total body water is approximately 60 percent of his body weight. That means your 12-pound pet carries over 7 pounds of liquid! Signs of dehydration become apparent when he loses as little as five percent of normal body water. A 12 to 15 percent loss of total body water results in shock and imminent death. Here are the signs of pet dehydration, and how to treat it with first aid.

Guest Blog: The little tart centerpiece in my kitchen

I’m heading back home to visit my 95-year-old dad this weekend, and reconnect with friends at my high school reunion. Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat will stay at the “pet resort” while I’m gone. My husband has scheduled folks to come in and replace the carpet with hardwood–what a process! Moving furniture around ain’t fun…and we waited until the last minute to (temporarily) relocated the dog bed and cat trees. As you know, our pets (especially cats) love the status quo. Urk!

Back in May, my CWA member colleague, Tracy Ahrens shared a guest blog with me about her special dog. Today, she shares musings about a special cat. My Karma also sleeps in a variety of endearing, awkward, and unique poses, so I smiled with recognition reading about her cat Forest. What is it about cat sleep habits that delights us so? I know that Karma has his favorite sleep spots–in the dog bed on the dining room table, top of his cat trees, and my pillow at night. So once the floors get done, we’ll make sure to satisfy and catify his kitty spots. Like Forest (below), Karma decides what he likes and wants.

This entertaining piece first appeared on the WagTheDogUK blog. It has won a CWA Certificate of Excellence Award in the 2021 contest.

Deck The Bed With…Colorful Quilts

Visitors to my kitchen are greeted by a small litter box close to the stove, snug against a cupboard and partially seated on an area rug.

I first lined the box with a spare bath towel and Forest purred while resting in it. Soon after, I topped that towel with a mini flannel quilt made by my mom. The quilt extends up the sides of the box and I carefully gather it around the edges so it stays in place when Forest crawls on top.

I have pondered the overall image of Forest in the litter box. He looks like the sweet filling in a little tart-like bed with a flannel quilt crust…

The DOs and DONTs of Camping with Your Dog or Cat

Summer arrived even earlier than expected this year, with temperatures hitting triple digits by mid-June. There’s still plenty of pet camping season left. Even though camping with pets isn’t for me, I know lots of folks who LOVE it, including my brother and his dog. He takes the dog with them camping, boating, skiing, and pretty much everywhere.

Bringing your furry one along camping (or glamping) is a great bonding experience. But before you pack up and hit the road, look over my DOs and DONTs of camping with your dog or cat.

What to do when camping with a pet

First, decide if your pet will enjoy camping. Not all will enjoy it. My Karma-Kat would HATE camping. He’s a homebody, and enjoys watching birds, bunnies, and squirrels through the window, but freezes when his paws hit the grass. Shadow-Pup’s more adventurous and probably would do better…

What to Do for Fire Hazards & Pet Smoke Inhalation

It’s National Pet Fire Safety Day on July 15, and here in Texas with heat rolling over the land, flash fires threaten all summer long. I wrote about disaster preparation on the blog recently, and fire hazards and smoke inhalation issues are another issue affecting pets. All across the country, too many folks have already lost homes, property, and even the lives of human and animal loved ones. A few years ago, some of my Facebook friends asked me to post about smoke inhalation information, and I wanted to expand on that. Knowing what to do should your cat or dog suffer fire-related injury could save their lives.

Most cases of smoke inhalation involve situations where the pet cannot escape. Dogs and especially cats tend to hide when frightened, and may not make an effort to get out of a burning building until too late. But the recent wind-fanned flames of grass fires move quickly, produce a lot of smoke, and can catch outdoor pets unprepared…

Visit Amy’s Website

Amy Shojai CACB is an award winning author.  You can find all her publications and book her to speak via her website. 

On Demand Writer Coaching

AmyShojai.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com http://amazon.com/.

Awards

Memberships

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This