Create a Backyard Paradise for Your Dog
Guest Author: Cathy Habas
A fenced yard for your dog(s) is a wonderful thing, but it also has some drawbacks. In particular, it’s easy to get lazy and not take your dog for walks as often. After all, your dog now has the luxury of walking and running in the yard for exercise, so what’s the harm in a skipped walk? Canine enrichment is the answer.
For one thing, dogs can easily get bored if they stay inside their own bubble day in and day out. A walk provides plenty of exciting smells, sights and sounds to delight your dog’s senses, and having to walk for a sustained period of time is much better exercise than meandering around the yard.
So, walks are a great activity for your dog’s body and mind, but there are some instances where it’s just not fun. Based on some dogs’ personalities or socialization, walks can be downright scary or dangerous. If you’d rather not take your dog on walks because he drags you around, defends you from everything that moves or is terrified of other dogs running up to him, you’re not alone.
You also don’t have to go through hours and hours of training to make a walk enriching and enjoyable for both you and your dog (although it’s certainly a good thing to do). You can provide enrichment at home by making your backyard a doggie paradise. That way, your dog can stay active and curious without having to put a delicate paw out into the big wide world.
Cater to All Five Senses
The goal of canine enrichment is to get them to use their minds and bodies in new ways. A dog who sits at home on the couch all day is sort of like a child who plops in front of the TV all day. And canine enrichment activities are the equivalent of brain teasers and playgrounds for kids.
A good foundation is to make sure your yard caters to each of your dog’s five senses. Assuming your backyard is safe for your dog, here are some ideas to get you started:
- Touching. Give your dog different textured surfaces to walk on, lie down on or to roll on. You might also want to give your dog a special place to dig. Sand, dirt, pebbles and mulch are just a couple of examples.
- Smelling. Dogs learn a lot about the world through their magnificent sense of smell. While you or I would like to smell flowers outside, your dog would love to smell the footprints of critters like squirrels. Set up a feeder to encourage wildlife to visit.
- Tasting. You’ve probably seen dogs chewing on grass before. It’s a natural response when their tummies are upset, but it’s also natural for dogs to just give plants a nibble here and there. It’s important to make sure you incorporate plants in your landscape that are non-toxic and to not use pesticides, which are known to cause cancer in dogs. Some dogs, for example, like to eat dandelion flowers. You can even plant specific herbs for your dog to chew on when he feels under the weather.
- Hearing. Most neighborhoods are full of background noise, but the sound of a waterfall might be soothing to your dog. Wind chimes can also be a novel sound for your dog.
- Seeing. Dogs don’t rely heavily on their sense of sight like we do. However, they’ll still get a kick out of watching birds and squirrels gather around a feeder or watching koi fish swimming in a pond. (You can put wire mesh over the pond if your dog wants to eat your beautiful fish!)
Keep it Fresh
The important thing about canine enrichment is to try new things all the time. Keep things fresh by adding things to the landscape for your dog to investigate, moving bird feeders around, tossing some treats randomly into the yard for your dog to find, and more. You can even build tunnels and hills right into the landscape for your dog’s enjoyment. The sky’s the limit! Think about what your dog loves to do, and make him a backyard paradise that you can both enjoy together.
Guest Author: Cathy Habas
Author bio: Cathy Habas has been a “crazy dog lady” from a very early age. She currently has six dogs who all enjoy a large and entertaining yard. Cathy is a freelance writer and can be reached at www.cathyhabas.com
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A QUESTION FOR YOU:
What do you do to enrich your dog’s environment to prevent your dog from becoming a couch potato?
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