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Why 'canine enrichment' drives me crazy

Yes, you read that right: '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.

Don't get me wrong, I love the fact people are aware of the importance of enrichment, dogs really deserve that!

But.... there it comes..... lately we seem to have started an 'enrichment competition'. And that is something I think is not beneficial for our dogs.

People post an activity their dog does in an enrichment group and ask 'does this count as enrichment'? What kind of question is this anyway?

It almost 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!

So what if I gained 3 points by giving my dog a very difficult puzzle, but my dog hates it? That I gave him a puzzle where he isn't able to get the treats out, which frustrates him and when he asked me for help, I didn't recognize it, so I didn't help him. Do you think he feels enriched? Do you think he thinks it was worth 3 points? No!

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

If I ask #PuzzlePuck, it depends on the day which 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: hike in the woods in summertime 0 points, hike in the woods in wintertime 5 points.

My message: stop the competition! Keep sharing ideas, 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 that list 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!

Stop adding the word 'enrichment' to everything to gain more points; 'enrichment snack', 'enrichment toy', 'enrichment slow bowl feeder'. Why? Those words don't need that addition!

Look at your dog and ask your dog: what is enriching for you? Offer those activities and enjoy them together. Then you are enriching both your and your dog's life.

Most important: Have fun with your dog!!

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