Puppy & Dog Enrichment Tips and More

If you’ve brought home a puppy recently, or are planning to bring a puppy home soon, there are some essential things to keep in mind and prepare for. At Central Bark, we have over 15 years of experience with dogs of all ages and we know there is a lot that goes into raising and caring for a puppy!

Puppies are cute, fuzzy bundles of joy who chew on everything and like to be busy. In this blog post we are going to discuss two easy dog enrichment tips to keep your puppy busy and relaxed while you foster healthy habits and build your relationship together.

But before we dive in, it’s important to first understand the physical development of dogs and how it shapes our approach to dog enrichment. Puppies’ bodies grow and develop until they reach physical maturity. For some breeds, that means their growth plates and bones aren’t fully mature until over 2 years of age. As a result, physical exercise and play should happen in short sessions to allow for healthy recovery and rest. This is especially true for our young, growing puppies and is one reason Central Bark has always incorporated rest periods into our daily play schedule.

Dog Enrichment activities

With healthy physical development in mind, there are countless ways to enrich puppies’ lives while maintaining healthy rest periods. Kong Classics have become a staple in nearly every dog’s home. That’s because Kongs are no ordinary rubber dog toy; they’re durable, stuff-able, freeze-able gems that can cause a dog’s eyes to light up with excitement! And there are endless nutritionally sound stuffing options that you can choose from. Among our favorites are peanut butter, canned pumpkin, plain yogurt, and canned dog food. Feel free to get creative by layering different healthy options, novelty and variety will keep your puppy engaged. Just fill, freeze and offer to your furry friend!

Licking and chewing activities

Licking and chewing activities help dogs of all ages settle and de-stress by lowering their heart and respiratory rates and giving them a chance to practice self-soothing behaviors. The addition of food also releases serotonin in their digestive tract and dopamine in their brain to promote calm, happy relaxation.

Relaxation and rest

Relaxation and rest are very important for all dogs, but especially puppies. We’ve all heard the saying “a tired dog is a good dog” but if you have ever been around an overtired toddler, you know that isn’t always true. Puppies, like toddlers, can become overtired which can result in undesirable behaviors like excessive barking, biting, chewing and jumping.

Being able to moderate these types of behaviors takes impulse control and self-regulation. These are learned behaviors that puppies need our support to develop. That’s why having a thoughtful management and dog enrichment plan that includes stuffed, frozen Kongs is important. Not only can we redirect our puppies from practicing undesirable behaviors, we encourage them to self-sooth while they lick their yummy Kongs and engage their brains. While their bodies are resting, their minds are working! This deep thought leads to a tired puppy, even if it doesn’t look like they’re doing much.

Trick Training

Another enrichment favorite of ours is Trick Training! Simple tricks like “spin” and “bow” are easy to teach, get our puppies thinking, and help their bodies develop. Nerd talk (science—YAY!): learning “spin” helps your puppy learn proprioception or body awareness, and “bow” promotes relaxation by stretching the muscles along the spine and engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. Other benefits of teaching fun tricks are building a relationship with your puppy and helping them find a balanced “tired” both mentally and physically.

To learn how to teach your puppy spin and bow, you can follow the below links for a short video tutorial: 

Trick Training: How to Teach Your Dog To Spin

Trick Training: How to Teach Your Dog To Bow

One-on-One Dog Enrichment Sessions at Central Bark

If your puppy is enrolled at Central Bark ask about our One-on-One Enrichment Sessions.  One-on-One Enrichment Sessions include Brain Games and Puzzles, Fetch and Retrieval Games, Training Tutor and Trick Training, Canine Fitness and Agility, and Rest Period Enrichments. Then you can continue the learning and fun while your puppy is away from home. Combining play and learning together to make for one happy, healthy puppy!

Keep your eyes out for Part 2 of this blog post that discusses Puppy Socialization Dos and Don’ts.

See you next time, at Central Bark!

– Carla

Dog Enrichment Specialist

Carla is an Operations Field Representative for Central Bark and co-owns a dog training and behavior consulting business, Good Karma Canine. Carla has three dogs Karma, a seven-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier Mix; Gypsy, a five-year-old Bull Terrier/Lab Mix; and Newt, a two-year-old Chihuahua.