Updated: Feb 15
Food enrichment can be such a huge and important part of having a happy, satisfied dog. A good enrichment toy can take a twenty second meal and turn it into a puzzle that takes your dog ten to fifteen minutes to finish. Not only did that toy keep them occupied the whole time, but it challenged them to use their brain, problem solve, and get creative to receive their food. This mental stimulation can go a long way to wearing your dog out and helping them calm down during a busy day. Anyone with a working dog knows that sometimes it does not matter how much physical activity your dog gets. If their brain does not get it’s exercise as well, your dog is not satisfied. As we all know, a bored dog can be hard to live with at times. It is not good for your shoes, it is not good for your kitchen, it is not good for your sanity, and it is not good for your dog. While we will always keep going back to our favorite toys like the Kong Wobbler and the StarMark Puzzle ball, if you do not keep it fresh, those toys can lose their novelty and the challenge will wear off for your dog. They will end up just going through the motions, having already figured the puzzle out. When the novelty wears off their effectiveness wears off, and that is not what we want!
So how do we avoid that problem? We want to feed them with their enrichment toys as often as possible, do we not? Of course we do! Not everyone wants to have twenty different enrichment toys laying around all the time. Who has the space for that? The answer is right there in your home. DIY enrichment feeders are all around you all the time. You just have to get creative and find them! Need help starting? Don’t worry, we have your back. Here are 10 different DIY enrichment feeding ideas to get you started.
Busy Box. The Busy Box can come in many different forms and all types of difficulty levels. To start, take your dog’s toy box and empty all the toys out. Place a layer of food at the bottom, then a layer of toys, a layer of food, a layer of toys and on. Your dog will get to rummage through the whole box until they have found all the food in all the different layers. Watch our video on it here!
Muffin Tin. A classic DIY enrichment game is The Muffin Tin Game. The game is simple. Take an average muffin tin, fill the cups with your dog’s food or treats, cover the food with various toys or tennis balls. Your dog will have to figure out how to remove the coverings to get to their food. Once they are done, clean out the pan and make some delicious muffins! (Don’t forget to save one for your favorite dog trainers!) Watch our video on it here!
Wrapping Paper. After the holidays and birthday parties we are all usually inundated with wrapping paper. What do we normally do with it all? Just throw it out right? Well before you do that, let your dog enjoy it! Take some strips and wrap some food or treats up. If you have some gift bags left over, stuff the paper in there for an added challenge!
TP Roll. We all have toilet paper rolls, that means that all of our dogs have some free enrichment toys! Take an empty roll of TP, close off one side by folding or rolling one end. Fill up the inside with food or treats and close off the other side. Let your dog tear through the roll to get their rewards!
Cookie Hunt. One of my personal favorites! Set your dog up in a stay or behind a gate and let them watch you hide food all over the room. If this is your first time, hide multiple treats in every spot and try not to make them too hard. As they get used to the game, make the hides harder and more plentiful. Finally, you can do the hiding when your dog can not watch! Pro tip: Save peanut butter, yogurt, and other similar container lids to hide the food on. This way, you won't forget little piles of kibble your dog may miss.
The Great Scatter. For when you are in a rush! This one is super simple. Take a handful or cup full of food and simply throw it up in the air and let it scatter on the ground. For added difficulty try it outside in the grass!
Towel Wrap. We all have dog towels. Whether or not your dog does it willingly, they will get wet! When they are not being used to dry your damp dog, try using it for enrichment! Lay a towel out and spread food lengthwise across the towel. Roll the towel up slowly, making sure there is food throughout the whole roll. Your dog will have to figure out how to unroll the towel to get their reward. This works with yoga mats too!
Boxes, Boxes, Boxes. There are so many great things to do with boxes. From things as simple as filling the box with food and closing the top so they have to figure out how to open it, to stacking boxes to increase the challenge. You can also combine most of the DIY ideas on the list with boxes to increase challenges for them all!
Pick a Cup. This is an interactive game. Start with a number of cups, between two and five. Hide food under one and let your dog choose a cup. If they choose right they get the food underneath. If not, try again!
Buried in Blankets. This one is pretty simple but fun! Take your dog blankets, spread food all throughout, jumble the blankets all together and let your dog forage through to find their rewards. Put the blankets in a box to increase the challenge. You could also use towels for this as well.
This is just a start to the enrichment fun you can have with the everyday items you have in your home. If you love stuff like this make sure to join our Homework Club where we talk about enrichment all the time!
Want to take it to the next level? Grab our E-Book with tons of enrichment ideas to keep your dog thinking and working for their food! Get your E-Book here!