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Do dogs still need enrichment during quarantine?

Updated: Jan 13, 2022

It can seem as though the majority of canine enrichment options out there are meant for the times we are away from home. Dogs are given stuffed Kongs as we head out for work, and their food is deposited into work-to-eat toys before we leave for soccer practice. Now that the majority of the world is homebound, is enrichment still something our dogs technically need?

It may seem arguable that our dogs don't need all that extra enrichment now that we're home all the time. But is that really true? The thing is, our mere presence isn't inherently enriching.

"But Glenna, our dogs are getting even more walks now that we're home!" I'm sure they are, and that's great! There is, however, a mistaken notion that walks are the end all, be all of doggie entertainment. This is not always the case. Especially if a dog is made to keep pace and heel, being robbed of the opportunity to explore all the smells passing by.

We should also consider all the time spent indoors. Many of us are still working 8 hour days, sending emails and making phone calls. Some of us have even inadvertently trained our dogs to go lay down when we open our laptops. They've learned over time that when the computer is open, nothing interesting will be happening for a while.

Let's try an experiment. The next time your dog is asking for face rubs or tossing their tug toy at you, try opening up your laptop. Watch and see if they take this as a signal to look elsewhere for entertainment.

Sorry folks, as much as our dogs may love us, inhabiting the same physical space doesn't count as enrichment. Therefore, I encourage everyone to keep up your Kong stuffing routines and continue to feed your dogs from work-to-eat toys. The only change should be in timing. Instead of providing these things to your dog as you leave, do it just before you log online for the day.

Now that many of us no longer have a commute, consider taking this time to do some training. Plenty of trainers are transitioning to weekly online classes and there's bound to be something out there that peaks your interest. If you're not terribly tech savvy, you could try a new training book. See below for a list of recommended books.

Regardless of how you spend your time with your dogs these days, remember that those of us who have dogs at home can really count ourselves lucky. What a bore quarantine would be without them!

Recommended training books:

Awesome Obedience by Hannah Branigan

Tricks & Games to Teach Your Dog by Sophie Collins

Cooperative Veterinary Care by Alicea Howell & Monique Feyrecilde

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