Downeast Dog News

Five Easy Enrichment Activities

By Downeast Dog News | Jan 01, 2022

By Sara Sokol

Mr. Dog Training

Winter is here with colder, shorter, and darker days, which usually means less time outside for you and your dog. When outdoor time becomes limited, we often decrease our dog’s structured exercise, and more importantly, mental stimulation and enrichment activities. This usually leads to an increase in what humans refer to as “unwanted behaviors” such as, barking, chewing, digging, jumping, nipping, mounting, and often general anxiety.

Mental stimulation and enrichment don’t need to be complicated though! Check out the following five fun and easy activities to do with your dog to help it with its cabin fever this winter. Have fun!

Please note: these activities should always be supervised, and dogs should never be left alone while enjoying them.


Push the can/ball

You can use a ball of any kind or a coffee or oat type can.

• Place the ball/can on the ground.

• Put a small, soft food treat on the ground where the ball/can meet the floor.

• Encourage your dog to get the treat.

• When the dog takes the treat, its nose should gently push the ball/can, causing it to roll.

• After five successful “pushes”, you can start saying “push” when you encourage your dog to take the treat.

• Over time, you will be able to phase out the food treat to get the dog to push and only use the word “push”. Be sure to give it the treat after it pushes!


Save that Amazon box (or two or 10)!

• Collect an assortment of cardboard boxes and place a high value food item or one of your dog’s favorite toys inside each of the smaller boxes (frozen stuffed Kongs, favorite chews, stuffed toys, balls, etc.)

• Close up each small box (just fold it, no tape) and place it inside of the big box.

• Close up the big box (again, no tape) and then let your dog tear, shred, and open up all of the boxes to get to the hidden treasures!

Please note: if your dog is eating any cardboard instead of just shredding or tearing it, then this is not the game for it.

Encouraging shredding or tearing in this way will actually reduce your dog’s likelihood of destroying things it shouldn’t because we are giving it a proper outlet for its energy.


Ping the kibble

This is a great, fun way to feed your dog its meals!

• Get your dog’s attention and place one of your dog’s kibbles on the floor.

• Use your finger to flick or “ping” the kibble across the floor for your dog to go get and eat.

• When your dog looks at you, “ping” another kibble in a different direction for it to go after and eat.

• Repeat until you run out of kibble!


Save that Amazon box! (Part two!)

• Leave the packaging paper that came with your shipment in the box after you have unpacked it and/or add some crumpled newspaper and toss a handful of kibble in the box for your dog to snuffle for.

• Another option is to buy a package of “ball pit” balls or just fill the empty box with your dog’s favorite toys and then toss a handful of kibble in for your dog to sniff out.


Scatter feeding

• Take a handful of your dog’s food and toss it in the grass, snow, or leaves (depending on the time of year) and let your dog use its nose to search for the food.

• This is a great way to feed meals and can be used as a way to help dogs who get overstimulated easily on walks by directing them to take a sniff break and search for food before they become overstimulated.