Enrichment: The secret sauce you didn’t know your training protocols needed.

Enrichment: The secret sauce you didn’t know your training protocols needed.

Are you tired of your dog obliterating their toys, or sharpening their teeth on your feet and clothes as you walk around the house?

Or maybe it’s hot as all get out outside and it's hard to stick to your dog’s normal exercise routine?

Frustrated dog owners often ask me, as a professional dog trainer, for ways to improve their dog’s behavior and bring some much-needed calm to their home.

My response?

Training is obviously crazy-important in modifying behaviors, but it will only get you so far if you are not meeting your dog’s enrichment needs as well. 


Enrichment Training? What’s That?

Enrichment involves identifying your dog's natural needs (the essence of their “doggyness”) and meeting those needs with different activities that stimulate the brain and burn energy. 

The key is to identify what type of enrichment your dog needs, and how you can deliver it.  Consider, “Where does my dog find joy?” and “Where does my dog put most of his energy?” “Where are they getting into trouble?” Your pup’s pastimes are often rooted in their DNA, so trying to suppress them or hoping they will just go away is often unrealistic and can cause the “problem” behavior to crop up elsewhere. 

When your dog is being destructive or engaging in an activity that you find problematic (but is fun for them!), there are many low-stress, high-reward activities to help your dog behave better and put their energy to a much better use. 

Here are some of the most common complaints I get from clients, and my tips to help restore peace and order in your household.


Help! My Dog’s Hunting My Feet 

If your dawgs are achin’ because your dog is chasing them constantly, you might have a herder on your hands. 

Picture this: you’re walking through your house when your dog starts chasing your feet, biting your shoes, or they decide to pants you. This often occurs in dogs that are excited by movement - these pups love to chase, and your feet moving through the house are a very convenient outlet for that instinct. 

Many dogs like to chase things as it’s a very natural part of the predation sequence (a series of genetically-rooted behaviors they exhibit when hunting and capturing prey). 

I often suggest starting out by training relaxed mat behaviors as a way to build calm and get your dog to ignore the pitter patter of human feet. But that's not going to work by itself, because we haven’t yet addressed your dog’s very real need to herd or chase. 

So maybe your dog stops chasing your feet, but then starts chasing the broom, chasing their wildest dreams, etc …and the cycle continues.

If this sounds like your dog, one of the best enrichment activities you can turn to is to work your dog on a flirt pole. Something like the Chase n Pull Flirt Pole with its squeaky and fuzzy attachment to get your dog moving and focused on something other than your feet!

My Dog is Stapling Holes in the Furniture 

Dogs chew. It’s what they do. But it really sucks when their target is your expensive furniture or brand new shoes.

These are often some frustrating outlets for teething puppies, high-energy dogs, or bored dogs.

But it’s just a phase, right? Not necessarily!

If your dog is tearing up the inside of your house, now's the time to redirect their energy towards a less destructive outlet before it becomes a life-long habit. The easiest fix here is to provide an object that mimics what your dog is gravitating towards. 

If a pup is seeking out couch legs or your family’s 19th century antique dining room table, look for an enrichment item that has a firm wood-like texture but has a little bit of give to it. 

I really like wood pulp chews (like Bam-Bones) as well as the ever-popular Bully sticks as furniture chewing stand-ins.  


My Dog Just Mercilessly Massacred Another New Toy

Does your dog love to rip things apart? Carpets, important papers, or even all the brand new plushies you bought, hoping they would lovingly snuggle up with them? 

That's dissection. 

It’s an incredibly satisfying part of the predation sequence that a lot of dogs find really relaxing and engaging.

Sometimes, out of frustration, people will tell me that they stop buying their dog toys because they end up getting obliterated, but that's actually your dog’s version of playing with the toy… it’s just not how you want them to interact with it (look for an upcoming blog about letting them continue to play with what you believe to be a “ruined” toy!)

My solution? Provide your own dissection activities to bring out your dog’s inner huntress and keep your Mercantile vintage rug safe from harm. 

I often suggest looking for toys that involve pulling items out of a container like the Zippy Paws Popcorn Bucket Hide & Seek Toy. Or you can hit up the recycling bin and hide some treats in a cardboard box, toilet paper tubes, or paper towel roll tubes, so long as your dog won’t eat too much of those at the end of the game…

My Dog Won’t Stop Barking and My Ears Are Bleeding 

Dogs bark for many reasons. 

Sometimes it’s behavioral (such as when they’re nervous about something), but for a lot of my clients, it can happen out of frustration or boredom.

For example, your dog is making a formal (and loud) request for a taste of that amazing dinner you just cooked. Or you’re checking emails on your laptop and your dog starts their broadway number to get your attention. 

If you know that your dog is going to feel unsettled, frustrated, or bored at a certain time, get ahead of the problem and set your dog up with a long lasting, low-arousal enrichment activity like a stuffed frozen,Kong or a licking mat, or a long-lasting chew like a Frankly Collagen Roll, Himalayan yak chew, or one of many rawhide alternatives, such as the Nothin’ to Hide Twist Stix, especially great for the little guys.

Now that you have a few new and exciting ways to keep your pooch mentally stimulated and burn off excess energy, any training that you invest your time into will have a chance to really shine. Try some of these enrichment ideas with your four-legged kid and see how they can buy you both time and piece of mind. 

Happy training!



Audrey Culp Bio: A Philadelphia native and dog-kisser since she was in diapers, Audrey’s drive to understand all things dog launched a lifelong fascination with behavior. She got her start training at the PSPCA in 2007 where she interned and assisted with training classes under two different training directors, gaining the experience needed to be a lead trainer from 2011 thru 2018. Audrey has continued to educate, develop curriculums and consult with local training companies and started her own training company, Constellation Dog Academy. Audrey has a deep love of teaching and is known for her expertise leading group classes, private lessons, and designing programming. Audrey feels strongly about helping dogs when they need it most and has a passion for working on behaviors like reactivity, aggression and separation anxiety.

You can reach Audrey to help teach your pup these and many other new things (or unteach other things! https://www.constellationdogacademy.com/ 





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