Physical Enrichment seems pretty obvious as to what it is, but what may be less obvious is the array of ways to achieve this beyond going for a walk or a run. Physical enrichment can be added simply by changing or adding complexity to your pet’s living space, like mazes or tunnels. Or to a more extreme level, such as Agility or Dock Diving.
A feral animal may spend up to 70% of its day foraging for food. That is a lot of time spent moving. The type of movement or physical enrichment that is best for your pet is largely based on species and breed. Having a digging area set up for Terriers or other vermin hunting breeds might satisfy them much more than a swim. Taking your Retriever to a pool or lake for a swim may be more enjoyable than a long-distance run. Having a safe, wide-open space for a Sighthound would be much preferred over a long slow hike up the mountain.
Enrichment can be the key to helping many ‘problem behaviours.’ The real secret behind this is not stopping behaviours, but rather channelling them into appropriate outlets. When we see a child drawing on the walls, we don’t tell them they can never colour, we give them paper to teach them that’s where to draw. This way of thinking often isn’t transferred into the way we problem solve with our pets. You will likely have much more success getting your dog to dig in their own sandbox, rather than stopping them from digging altogether.
Adding enrichment to your pet’s life shouldn’t be stressful for either of you. Teaching your pet to put 2 or 4 paws on objects can be a great way to add that little bit of extra fun and physical challenge. When your pet knows how to put its feet on things, your daily walk can become a whole new adventure! Playgrounds and meridians become opportunities for endless fun.
Stumps and logs take on new value!
You don’t need fancy equipment or huge amounts of space to make your own obstacle course for your pet. A little creativity can go a long way to enriching our pet’s lives. Overturned buckets with a broom handle on the top make perfect jumps. Blankets over stools make great tunnels. And logs make good dog walks. Your pet doesn’t need to know the difference! As long as you are being safe and having fun, the end result is the same.
Like everything in a pet’s life we need to look at our pet as an individual and decide what works best for them. Even though genetics may dictate a specific activity, that may not be ideal for your pet. By watching what your pet does in its free time, you can get a pretty good idea of what they find enjoyable. Physical enrichment is about keeping their bodies healthy and having some fun while doing it!