The main purpose of enrichment is to reduce stress, improve behavior and increase overall well being of the animal by providing physical and mental stimulants that allow the dog to perform species-appropriate behaviors such as digging, chewing and foraging.
But what does this have to do with raw feeding?
I believe that as raw feeders we want the absolute best for our dogs. We strive to make their lives all-around better and raise them as naturally as we can.
So why wouldn't we want their nutrition AS WELL as their brains to be at peak performance?
Enrichment is just another way to contribute to your dog's life in a drastic way.
So, today I will be sharing my favorite ways to easily incorporate enrichment activities into your dog's life so she is balanced in every aspect of her life, not just nutrition.
#1 Recreational Bones
Recreational bones, also known as weight-bearing bones, are bones such as femurs, trotters, and knuckles that are extremely good at "brushing" your dog's teeth.
When I transitioned to raw, I found that Stormy did not need her teeth brushed daily like when she was eating kibble.
This is because of the motion of tearing meat off of raw bones scrubs and floss the tartar and plaque off their teeth!
Recreational bones allow the dogs to chew which stimulates saliva enzymes and prevents plaque build-up and gingivitis (gum disease).
Also, chewing on raw bones provides your dogs with vitamins and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus.
If your dog gains access to the bone marrow it provides essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin K2, omega-3s, omega-6s and minerals like iron, zinc, selenium, boron, and manganese. Marrow from beef and lamb bones also contains CLA (Conjugated linoleic acid) which is a naturally occurring fatty acid that helps maintain weight and lean muscle mass.
When feeding recreational bones it is always important to never leave your dog unattended.
Since these bones are very dense and not soft there is a choking hazard.
I usually give recreational bones for 30 minutes and then take them up for another time.
Theses are also a great option for teething puppies!
#2 Puzzle, Maze & Stuffing Toys
Puzzle, Maze & Stuffing toys alleviate boredom (especially for puppies), provide (a small amount) physical exercise, prevent anxiety and can help onset dementia in older pets.
These toys are made in various shapes and sizes. When first starting out, begin with the easiest toys such as the Snoop where you can throw in some treats and your dog can have a blast.
For raw feeding or wet foods, I recommend Toppls and puzzle toys since they do not require the toy to be flipped to access the food.
To make the level of difficulty even harder, you can freeze the stuffing toys in your freezer!
Canines forage because it is vital for their survival and reproduction in the wild. Since our precious dogs aren't in the wild, they don't have to forage to survive now. But this instinctual behavior is still coded in their DNA. Whether your dog searched the house floor for crumbs or finds goodies (good and bad) outside, your canine companion is foraging.
We can stimulate their foraging needs by giving them exercises to use their senses in a beneficial and enriching way.
Now I know what you're thinking. "Outside...duh"
But here's my creative twist to up the amp: use treats! You can throw a handful of treats outside in your backyard and your dog will have a blast using her nose to find the goods which allow the dog to get mental and physical stimulation.
(2) Snuffle Mats
You can make your own DIY snuffle mat or there are tons out on the market. This tool brings the outside snuffle mat indoors. It also can be used as a slow feeder for dry food diets but not raw, unfortunately.
It is so great that there are now so many enrichment products available! Enrichment is a critical part of raising a happy healthy dog in every aspect of her life and you will definitely see the difference when incorporating these into your dog's life. I hope you learned something new and try some enrichment exercises with your dog soon! As always, thank you so much for stopping by and Always Keep Exploring.