Beyond the Bone -Enrichment for Dogs

Beyond the Bone

Walking your dog around the streets of your home is one of the best things you can do to keep him physically and mentally healthy and well socialized and well adapted to normal things like strangers, vehicles and other dogs. But sometimes, we can’t get out there for various reasons or our dog needs a little more activity. Here are some alternative ways to exercise your dog’s body and mind.

1.     Hide toys, food stuffed toys or chewies in your house or yard and allow your dog to find it and enjoy it.  This can be done very simply while the dog is watching or can become a whole other level of challenge for the dog to sniff it out.

 2.     Build your dog a digging pit. My dogs have one and all their dog friends love it too. We dug up a space that gets some shade, removed about a foot of grass and dirt, created an edge with spongy things that look like bricks and dumped in some fine sand to fill it up. We later added a mini palm tree for more shade and aesthetics. It keeps the dogs cool when they lay in it and digging provides exercise and enjoyment in a location that I don’t mind holes! You can even spice this pit up by burying bones and toys in it once in awhile to keep the dogs interested. An indoor digging alternative is the iDig.


3.     Try a Tether Tug ( if your dog loves tug-of-war. This toy entertains your dog without you being present. Other like items that cost less are a Tumbo Tugger or the Highland Farms Select Dog Interactive Training Tug Toy


4.     A Tail Teaser ( is a great toy for all ages and all types of dogs, so even a small child can play safely with the dog and tire him out quickly. Keep the toy on the ground to prevent injuries.


5.     For about $10, a kiddie pool can be a great addition to your dog’s exercise and enrichment, especially here in Florida. Fill it with water, balls, or any size cardboard items and toss some kibble in there for search and find.


6.     Find an enclosed space that is rarely used and let your dog run free while you sit and watch, walk alongside or use a chuck-it or tail teaser in the open space. Tennis courts, baseball fields, even playgrounds are often empty if it’s during school hours or drizzling.


7.     Invite a friend with a friendly dog over to play.


8.     Put your dog’s bowl away and feed him only from toys like a Kong, Kibble Nibble, Squirrel Dude, Snuffle Mat or anything that food can be put in. There is a feeding toy for every type of player. My dog’s favorite is simple – put her food and some scraps in a solo cup, cover with broth and freeze. When I tear the cup away, she has a frozen treat. On a really hot day, fill a large Tupperware with water or broth and stick some treats or toys in there, cover it and freeze. Dump the frozen treat in the yard and your dog will be cool and entertained for hours.


9.     Toss your dog’s food all over your backyard and let him go. Free, simple and your dog will take a long time to find each piece.


10.  Sit on a park bench or in your car with a  nice view and play a simple, but profoundly effective training game with your dog. Let your dog sniff the air, watch things pass by and generally ignore you for as long as he wants. When your dog looks at you, feed him a treat. Repeat each time he looks at you. This teaches the dog to focus his attention on you, that you are highly valuable, and gets the two of you out and about.


11.  Doggy IncrediBUBBLES taste like peanut butter and are ok to injest.


12.  A LickiMat Soother is a very inexpensive and soothing activity. Smooth on some pureed meat, canned dog food, smashed banana, Greek yogurt or anything you can think of that your dog will like and let him lick to his heart’s content. These are made to stick on your bathtub too to assist with bathing by keeping your dog stationary and entertained.


13.  Don’t neglect the simplicity of a good chew. Your local feed stores and online stores have lots to offer. Bully sticks are healthy, digestible and come in all sizes. No-Hides are pricey, but digestible and dogs really like them. Real marrow bones from Publix are cheap and a good teeth cleaner -feed them raw! Duck heads, chicken feet, tracheas, dried fish….you name it. The stinkier, the better.


14.  If you have games you play that I haven’t mentioned, please share them with me at my email below.