Welcome to Day 79 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!
Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.
Box o’ Stuffables
At a glance:
- nothing too complicated here: get some stuffables and jam them in a box or tub
- some are lined, some are filled, some are decoys
- chuck some other non-food toys in there too or toss some food rewards in and around the stuffables in the box
- add other puzzles too if you’re feeling adventurous!
- food based enrichment
- get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and these challenges offer lots of opportunities for children to use their imagination to come up with lots of puzzling fun for their pets
Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
- Prep will probably take you about ten minutes and for extra challenge prepare some frozen stuffables in advance
What do you need?
- open boxes or tubs big enough to hold a few stuffables or toys suitable for your pet
- a range of Stuffables
- to encourage a range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
- to do more feeding related behaviour than just eating
- to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of the stuffables and the stuffables out of the box
- adding different decoys and jamming the stuffables in different ways you can build variable, challenging puzzles that help your dog broaden their behavioural repertoire
While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.
Working out how to empty get to the food and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the stuffables and the boxes are examples of cognitive challenge.
Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value, and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.
Puzzles like these encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the box and its contents is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.
By offering a variety of puzzles, we want to help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!
What goals can you add to this list for your pets?
How can we achieve these goals?
- give your pet plenty of space for working on puzzles and bear in mind there will be mess, so think about spaces that are easier for clean up
- the more difficult you have made the challenge, the higher the value the reward must be so use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration!)
- if your dog just dives in, in full on destruction mode that might also be an indicator that they need an easier challenge so they get to experiment with a broader range of behaviours
What adjustments will you make for your pets?
Applications of Box o’ Stuffables:
These puzzles are another version of busy boxes and just adding a little extra with lots of puzzling fun within.
Changing the picture, for the dog, can provide them with further cognitive challenge, causing them to have to adapt to the new or different set up and adjust their approach to a puzzle they may have presumed was straight forward and familiar.
These puzzles are pretty adaptable – you can increase and decrease the challenge easily, making it fun and interesting for your puzzler.
Don’t go over-board, however. Keep the challenge appropriate and match your dog’s comfort and confidence level. This is especially important if your dog is worried or hesitant about sticking their head into the box – keep it easier with a wider opening, fewer obstacles to getting the yummy ones, and very rewarding stuffables.
Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in parts of this puzzle, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to it.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, boxes and similar puzzle equipment may not work or you might try using a plastic tub and supervise them closely. They will still eat plastic, it will just take them longer.
If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats in your pocket and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating the paper.
Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.
Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fastners, small pieces and plastic pieces. Play safe!
This is a pretty simple and straight forward one for the humans, but lots of fun for the pets!
First place to start, is with Stuffables from Day 1! Check all that out for all the ins and outs of making the best stuffable toys and edibles.
Try a combination of different stuffables today – maybe you have some Kongs, some K9 Connectibles, some edibles in there, along with decoys such as empty toys or other toys.
Add the yummies to the outside of the stuffable to help encourage the dog to engage if they are hesitant.
You could add some food rewards to the base of the box so that your dog needs to dig through the stuffables to get to the bottom.
Try adding some packing paper, some paper treat parcels or maybe every a towel to really get them working!
Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!
Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂
We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – have fun & brain games!