How to build confidence in your dog through enrichment activities

Enrichment for dogs confidence

We often talk about how enrichment can have benefits for our pets, it’s fun, it’s relaxing and can help keep them occupied while we’re busy with boring human things like work! But did you know enrichment can be more than just a bit of fun for our pets? It can help build confidence which is a vital skill for all pets, especially if you’ve got a young puppy or newly adopted rescue dog!

With Loki the rescue pup recently joining The Pet Carpenter team we wanted to explore some different enrichment activities that can help build confidence and try to explain why it’s so important.

You may think of confidence as being able to speak to new people at a party or going for that big promotion at work, but for our dogs their level of confidence can impact how they respond to new situations, such as meeting new dogs, visiting new places or even experiencing loud noises. It can also impact how quickly they recover from stressful events, whether that’s a visit to the vets, a holiday away from home or the commotion of events throughout the halloween and firework season. Confidence can even help improve how quickly they can learn new skills and tricks, so it can save you time in training sessions.

Just like people, different dogs will have differing levels of natural confidence, some dogs are really outgoing and brave, others prefer to observe from a distance and are more calculating in how the approach new situations. We love that our pets individual personalities are so unique. Whichever end of the scale they fall, they can all enjoy these activities with the help of encouragement and positive reinforcement. As always take everything at your dogs speed and take regular breaks from any activity.

Rumble Box

The rumble box is a perfect way to utilise those bottles and boxes you’ve got piled up for recycling. Grab a big box that your pet can easily move around and preferably get in and out of freely. If you’ve got a larger dog you may be able to utilise a washing up basket, or a small paddling pool. For smaller dogs a washing up bowl could work.

Throw in some plastic bottles, maybe some tennis balls, other smaller boxes, scrunched up paper and whatever else you fancy, there aren’t really any rules here. Sprinkle your pets kibble, or some tasty treats in amongst the different objects. You’ve got yourself a special snuffle activity. It may look like a mess but this ‘Rumble Box’ activity can help our pets build confidence with the variety of textures, smells and also noises. Snuffling in and amongst different items will cause different sensations and sounds around our pets head, while the reward of tasty snacks and treats promotes it as a positive experience.

Noisy bottles and clattering too scary for your pup? The best bit of this activity is it can be completely tailored to your pet, why not start with some soft blankets on the floor and build up to adding toys that make very little noise. Let your pet gain confidence and slowly add in more items over a couple of weeks.

Simple Tricks

How many times have you tried to learn a new skill and wanted to give up when you didn’t take to it right away? I’m definitely guilty of quickly loosing interest in hobbies that I don’t pick up easily and the same can be said for our dogs.

While there are some really cool and impressive tricks we can teach our dogs, don’t forget that simple tricks and easy learning will help boost your pets confidence and improve their ability to pursue with those more difficult tasks.

Why not teach your pet a simple hand target? We always like to encourage positive reinforcement training so we recommend the use of some tasty treats and a clicker.

  • Pop your hand out flat just in front of your pets nose, if they move forward to sniff, click your clicker and reward with a tasty treat.
  • Repeat this until your pet starts to look for your hand and target/tap your hand with little to no encouragement.
  • As your dog starts to actively seek out and target your hand add in a command word, (we use ‘touch’).
  • Try different positions and angles for your hand and continue repetitions. Watch how happy the easy wins make your pup!

It’s important to remember that while these easy tricks can be fun for our pets, you can have too much of a good thing, so keep training sessions short and always end on a win to avoid fatigue.

Other simple tricks to teach that require minimal effort and can be easy for dogs of any age include ‘Watch me’ where you build in a command and reward for making eye contact or of course the basic ‘sit’ or ‘paw’.

Hide & Seek

If your pet has a favourite toy or treat you can play games of hide and seek to help build confidence! As with all our other recommendations start simple with easy to find spots, maybe just under a blanket or towel and build up to hiding under the sofa or move outside to the garden to use some plants and bushes! This activity is also great for building a bond with your pup and you’re sure to both have fun.

Think you’ve found your pets new favourite activity? Why not consider looking for a local scent training group or man trailing instructor to build up the skills outside of the home!

Lickimats

If your pet is new to enrichment, lickimats are a great place to start. They’re extremely easy and take little effort but can be easily increased in difficulty by freezing. While the textures of the mat and act of licking can be relaxing for our pets, they also help encourage our pets to pursue with enrichment toys with a high reward rate that keeps them engaged and motivated.

Other Enrichment Toys

There are plenty of other enrichment toys on the market but be mindful of how much harder you’re making the ‘game’ too quickly. Stick to large openings that offer a higher reward rate and build up to those more challenging toys slowly. If you are trying something new, like a kong, try starting with dry loose treats that easily fall from the toy to help your pet understand the aim of the toy and build confidence around moving it and using it. You can then build up to soaked treats or wet food, before eventually moving on to fully frozen meals. Moving on to difficult frozen fillings too quickly may cause your pet to become frustrated and loose interest in the toy.

What do you think? Have we missed any of your go to confidence building activities? Or have you found something new you can’t wait to try? Have you also considered how beneficial enrichment activities can be when your dog is using their crate? If you try out any of our suggested activities we’d love to hear how you get on, don’t forget to tag us in your stories or share pictures on our Facebook page!

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