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Canine Enrichment: does my dog need that?

Updated: Apr 3

The dog world is full of it: Canine Enrichment! 

Books, blogs, reels and social media posts, they all talk about the importance of enrichment and how to enrich your dog’s life. The most awe-inspiring enrichment ideas fly over your screen!


But does your dog really need all of that?


You know what? When you spend time doing activities with your dog that your dog is clearly enjoying: keep doing that! Try new activities, leave the activities you don't like and have fun! Dive into the traits of your dog's breed, so you know where he was bred for and search activities that fit your dog's breed. You really don't need the word Enrichment for that!


Puck running in the harbour at Halls Harbour at low tide

What is Canine Enrichment?

The online dictionary doesn't tell us what 'Canine Enrichment' is, but it can tell us the meaning of 'enrichment' and the verb 'enrich':


enrichment [ en-rich-muhnt ]

noun

  1. an act of enriching.

  2. the state of being enriched.

enrich [ en-rich ]

verb (used with object)

  1. to supply with riches, wealth, abundant or valuable possessions, etc.

  2. to supply with abundance of anything desirable

  1. to add greater value or significance to

  2. to adorn or decorate

  3. to make finer in quality, as by supplying desirable elements or ingredients: to enrich soil.

  4. Physics. to increase the proportion of a valuable mineral or isotope in (a substance or material)

  5. Nutrition.

    1. to restore to (a food) a nutrient that has been lost during an early stage of processing:to enrich flour with thiamine, iron, niacin, and riboflavin.

    2. to add vitamins and minerals to (food) to enhance its nutritive value.


So basically Canine Enrichment is ‘anything’ that adds greater value or significance to a dog’s life. Another word for enrich is improve, so every activity that improves a dog’s life can be considered as enrichment.


But you know what? 

‘Canine Enrichment’ drives me crazy!

Yes, you read that right! 

Let me explain why.


 

“Before you read further: in this blog I am generalizing some things. I do that to get my vision across. But I know the world is multicoloured and generalization is not fair. The main reason I chose to generalize is because that is exactly what happens with ‘Canine Enrichment’.”

 

Why Canine Enrichment drives me crazy

It all started a couple of years ago: the 'enrichment movement'. 


More and more people discovered that their dogs became happier and more satisfied when they offered enriching activities. Facebook groups started and all over the world people shared their ideas and knowledge about it. 


Many people joined and still join the ‘enrichment movement'.


It was lovely to see how people found the activities that added value to their dog’s life. 


But.... there it comes..... 

The 'enrichment movement' has turned into a competition and marketing trap. 

And that is something I think is not beneficial for our dogs.


The Enrichment Competition

Long before enrichment became a thing, a lot of people did all kinds of activities with their dog. Depending on where their dog was originally bred for, they went hunting, mushing, herding, or did sports and activities that asked for a similar drive. Because not every human and dog have the chance to do the ‘real deal’ activity. These dogs got to do where they were bred for, their needs were met and they had a happy and enriched life. 


And then the canine 'enrichment movement' started and every activity was weighed. All kinds of activities were suddenly labeled with ‘enrichment’. In Facebook groups people post about activities their dog does and ask 'does this count as enrichment'? 


To me it feels like every activity gets points on the 'scale of enrichment' and we compare our points at the end of the day. How many enrichment points do you have? Only 12? I normally get 15! Leaving the other owner feeling bad.....


Does a dog care about the points? No!

Does a dog like every activity another dog likes? No!


Let me give you an example: what if I gained 3 points on the 'scale of enrichment' by giving my dog a very difficult puzzle, but my dog hates it? That I gave her the puzzle and she isn't able to get the treats out, which frustrates her. And when she asked me for help, I didn't recognize it, so I didn't help him. Do you think she feels enriched? Do you think she thinks it was worth 3 points? No!


Or what about hikes, those are enriching, aren't they? Long hikes even more!

If I ask my dog, it depends on the day what answer I get. In summertime she really doesn't like (long) hikes. She loves cool sniffy walks or a walk along the river or just hanging out in the cool breeze of the lake. In the wintertime however she happily runs through the woods. So if I ask her: hike in the woods in summertime 0 points, hike in the woods in wintertime 5 points. The circumstances are the key for her! For some dogs hikes are so stressful that every hike gets 0 points. Other dogs are eager to go on hikes as often as they get the opportunity.


The Canine Enrichment hype is real, we lost sight of the dog in front of us and their specific needs, likes and dislikes. 


The Enrichment marketing trap

With the 'enrichment movement' also came the marketing monsters….

Many products that used to be just toys, puzzles, bowls or snacks now have the ‘enrichment’ added to their name.


Enrichment sells! 

But really, are we fools?!


Adding the word 'enrichment' to a product doesn’t make it better or enriching!

'Enrichment snack', 'enrichment toy', 'enrichment slow bowl feeder’: if a dog doesn’t like it, it is not enriching, with or without the added word. 


Stop the 'enrichment competition' and ignore the marketing! 

Keep sharing ideas and activities your dog likes. But don't compete over something so important for our dogs! They need to be looked at as individuals and after we fulfill their basic needs (things like food, a safe environment and calm spots to sleep) we can add activities that they enjoy and therefore improve their wellbeing and happiness.


The list of activities will be different for each and every dog! So find out what your dog really likes, look at his signals when doing an activity, they tell us how they feel about it, read their message!


Most important: Have fun with your dog!! That will enrich both of your lives.


But Puzzle Dog, you sell enrichment too!

Yes, Puzzle Dog sells enrichment too and at the same time we don't!

Puzzle Dog's activities -Puzzles and Sensory Rooms- focuses on the individual dogs.


We help our clients find out what their dog likes and adapt to that.

And you know what? We want the humans to enjoy the activities too!

Because when you enjoy the time spent with your dog, you both have the happy hormones rushing through your body!


#PuzzlePuck and Tessa enjoying some puzzle fun while camping



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1 Comment


Well written and well thought out Tessa. I enjoyed this very much and share your feelings. ANYTHING that you and your dog enjoy together is enrichment. Even the little things.

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