Enrichment Activities for Dogs

By Ashley Diaz on August 20th, 2023

When my dog’s arthritis stopped us from going on longer walks and hikes, I was forced to find other ways to meet her physical & mental needs. I found it challenging at first, disappointed that she wasn’t the ‘normal’, active dog I thought I wanted.

But the challenge pushed me to be creative and dive into the world of enrichment.

Enrichment encompasses activities that engage our dog’s senses, stimulate their minds, or encourage natural behaviors. While these activities differ for each dog and breed, all types of enrichment contribute to our dogs’ overall health and wellbeing.

Some things within my dogs’ physical abilities that SHE found enriching included learning new tricks, going for car rides, visiting pet friendly stores, training games, playing tug, watching squirrels, social time with her favorite humans, and best of all … using her nose!

And although every dog is unique and find some activities more enriching than others, most dogs LOVE to use their nose.

Dogs take in information through their noses in a way that we don’t always appreciate or understand. An analogy that resonates with me is likening sniffing to our act of reading or engaging with social media. It’s how they learn and connect with the world around them!

Today, so much of my dog’s enrichment revolves around using her nose. Our walks are rarely about going from point A to point B. They’re a meandering and joyful journey from one good smell to the next, taking breaks to watch the world go by, pausing at the most interesting scents and taking moments to bond, train, and play along the way.

This way of ‘walking’ hasn’t only been more enriching for my dog but has made walks more enriching for me. Forced to slow down, I take notice in the simple things … the clouds shifting with the wind, the bees buzzing around a nearby flower and best of all, the joy of seeing my dog engage in what is meaningful to her. No longer just a walk, it becomes a practice in being present while honoring & fulfilling both our needs.

As I watch my dog stop and take in the smells around her, I envision a little enrichment meter getting fuller and fuller. I know her cup is being filled, and so is mine.

Ashley Diaz is the owner of K9 Ascent in Boulder, Colorado, providing services that bring joy and enrichment to the daily lives of dogs. To learn more about Ashley and the adventures she offers for dogs, visit her website or check out her services on Facebook and Instagram.

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