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 notice

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.


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.

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.


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.


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…

I just need to work on paw targeting to teach Shadow and Karma how to use the buttons. My colleague at 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 giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!




  1. 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!

    • Amy Shojai

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

  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. ❤️

    • Amy Shojai

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

  3. 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!

    • 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.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Recent Posts

Welcome Trinity-Kitty: New Kitten Baby Makes Three!

On Monday September 11, 2023, a tiny speck of a kitten made her presence known with very loud MEWS and a personality way bigger than anyone expected. Hungry, full of fleas, and the expected roundworms (and probably tapes because…fleas), her eyes and ears looked too big for her delicate wedge-shaped face.

Now, I get alerts about “found” kittens all the time, and sadly, can’t take any of them. This baby proved different in so many ways–only some of which I can share. While at the grocery picking up kitten food, my husband called and I explained my next stop at church—Trinity Lutheran—where I hoped to find a forever-home for the baby with a family who tragically lost a beloved kitty. And I told him if that didn’t work out, we likely had a third furry wonder for our home.

My friends at church, not yet ready to welcome a new pet, meant that the kitten came home with me. It seems that the Higher Being with whom all things are possible, made sure she found her way to us. He knew we needed her as much as she needed us.

How to Read Dog Poop: Normal Dog Poop to Dog Poop Problems

How to Read Dog Poop: Normal Dog Poop to Dog Poop Problems

Everyone who shares a home (and heart) with a dog at some point must deal with dog poop problems. Learning what’s normal, to yellow colored stool, or learning how serious blood in dog’s stool diarrhea may be helps get your dog help. While it may not be the most appealing topic, learning about your dog’s “creativity” offers important insight into his health.

Not only his food, but also your dog’s environment and emotional state, affects how his body works. Fear, anxiety, and stress can change a dog’s behavior, but also can disrupt digestion and cause enteritis. That in turn affects his poop.

Recognizing healthy elimination helps pet owners alert to abnormal eliminations. That way, when necessary, you can get your dog prompt medical help to diagnose and treat problems before they become worse.

BREAKING NEWS! Amy’s Book Sales Direct–Discounted Thrillers & Pet Nonfiction

I created an online store to sell my digital and print titles DIRECT TO YOU! In today’s world, with so much up in the air, many authors now make direct book sales available, because we control the price (and can DISCOUNT to you!), and because … well, I have control over Amy Shojai’s books.

Yes, you can still find all of my titles on the various platforms (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Apple, GooglePlay, Audible, Chirp and more). This way, though, I earn more on each sale while offering you, dear readers, a better deal than other retailers. That means I can write more books, update existing titles, and keep providing you with what you need.

Read on to learn more about Amy Shojai Books Direct!

Why Dogs Look Guilty: Do Dogs Feel Guilty or Embarrassed?

When your dog meets you at the door, head low with ears slicked back and eyes averted, is that a canine apology? Does your dog look guilty? The behaviors certainly mimic what humans associate with feeling shame or apology.

We know dogs can feel grief, but whether guilty behavior accurately reflects the dog’s true feelings is open to debate. Learn more about what your dog says with these behaviors!

Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

September 19-25 is National Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week, founded by The organization encourages shelters and rescues to create special week-long events devoted to giving overlooked pets like those with disabilities a better chance at finding homes.

This struck a chord with me, especially after living with a tri-pawd dog when Bravo lost his leg. He didn’t act disabled, though. Have you ever adopted an other-abled pet or less adoptable pet?

What Is A Less Adoptable Pet

Why less adoptable? They’re the wrong breed or have special needs. Overlooked pets include deaf dogs or deaf cats, blind pets, or those missing a limb. Many folks prefer the ‘perfect’ cute puppy or kitten and don’t want a crippled pet, or just don’t like the color of the dog or cat. Of course, we know black dogs and cats, and those with only one eye, or three legs, still love us with all their furry hearts! Read on…

Avoid Puppy Mills with this 10 Question Check List!

Know the Puppy Mill Score—Puppy Source Check List There are many places to find your dream puppy, and some are clearly better options than others. Avoid puppy mills at all cost. Of course, your heart can overrule logic if you are smitten by a needy baby, but...

Why Do Cats Fight After Vet Visits? How to Stop Cat Bashing

Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off, and Kitty no longer fears the carrier and handles the car ride with almost no signs of fear, anxiety or stress. Kitty purrs and cheek-bonks the veterinary technicians, and barely notices the doctor’s exam through all the petting and tasty treats. But as soon as you get home, Kitty’s former feline friends snub him, or worse. Why do cats fight after vet visits? What’s up with all the cat bashing?

What A Pain! Understanding Pet Pain & What to Do When Pets Hurt

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so I wanted to share this vital information again. We know pain hurts, but pain in pets and treating pet pain when pets hurt confuses us. They can’t tell us they feel pain, or where it hurts. Not like humans.

Because I get to work at home, there are certain perks I enjoy–such as going barefoot to work. But one afternoon last fall I moved too fast and kicked the whey outta my big toe. This wasn’t just a stubbed toe, either—it lifted and peeled the nail back to the quick, bled everywhere and hurt like the devil! Yes, I said a few choice words as I hobbled down the stairs from my office (trying not to leave a bloody trail) to get bandage material. Ooooooh, that puppy throbbed and made me whimper and howl, let me tell you.
I understand how Magical-Dawg felt several years ago. After a run in the field playing fetch, he started shivering when he came inside. The ninety-degree weather argued that he was not chilled. I checked him head-to-tail, and found nothing wrong. But later in the week, he again started shivering, and even growled at me when I asked him to move—very uncharacteristic.

Finally, after several days and two vet visits, we figured out his problem. He’d torn a dewclaw back to the quick. it hadn’t come off, so the injury remained hidden. Seren-kitty had this happen once, too, when her claw caught on bedding as she leaped from the pillow. She hid. But Magic’s short temper, shivers, and hyper-alert behavior resulted from being in pain. Here’s what you need to know to help your pets.

Pet First Aid Medicine Chest: Home Remedies to Save Pet Lives

Do you have a pet 1st aid medicine chest for your dogs and cats? The audiobook version of my first aid book for pets includes some DIY home remedies for old pets. While your veterinarian diagnoses and prescribes for your pet’s health issues, pet first aid and minor problems may benefit from human medicines.

Home remedies for pets save $$ and pet lives because Fido and Sheba rarely tears a claw or eats something iffy during regular clinic hours. It’s helpful to know how to use your pantry supplies and human medicine chest to help your cat or dog. Some people prescriptions can be dangerous (especially for cats!) so it’s a good idea to have a handy list.

Pet Vacation Options: Boarding, Pet Sitters, Stay-Cation?

It’s DOG WALKER APPRECIATION DAY! And maybe you have a regular dog walker (your kid? a company?) that manages when you can’t walk your dog, or go on vacation. Good pet vacation plans depend on the individual pet and your special circumstances. When my mother became ill and then passed away, we need to find a pet boarding place for Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat to stay. Does your dog love riding in the car, meeting new people at the boarding kennel, hide from pet sitters, or become hyper around strangers? Maybe you’d like to learn about traveling with your pet.

Perhaps Chance the cat enjoys riding in the car but your brother’s dog hates kitties, or Grandma is allergic. Are pets more comfortable at a kennel away from your nephew’s hair-pulling fingers? Or does your pet go on a hunger strike if boarded?

I can’t remember the last time that my husband and I had a vacation together, but I do remember how boarding my dog led to a broken arm (read on for that story!). Since that time, we make an effort to not be gone at the same time. There are times, though, when we must leave them behind, maybe not for vacation but other reasons. Here are some tips for pet vacation issues.

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 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