Enrichment on a budget

Enrichment doesn’t need to cost the earth – you can pretty much pay what you can afford while still providing your dog with a variety of experiences to entertain.

Most of #100daysofenrichment challenges are free, but priceless: spending time with your pet, exploring the world together, opening your eyes and seeing what your pet is really asking for.

Indeed, #100daysofenrichment is free in and of itself!


Some of the most popular food-based enrichment toys right now: a snufflemat, a slow-feeder bowl, “Treatimats”, and stuffables, large Kong and a large Toppl.

But, what if I told you that enrichment is not about the toy?!
Enrichment is about the behavioural outcome from which the animal benefits as a result of choosing to participate in the enrichment activity.

Don’t be turned off providing an outlet for your pet’s normal, natural, necessary behaviour just because you don’t have, can’t get, not able to afford a particular toy.

Look carefully at the sorts of behavioural outcomes associated with these toys – that’s what we want to replicate and we can do that without the toy itself.
But, don’t get bogged down with a specific solve – how the dog does it is always right!

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This clip, doing the rounds on social media, tries to suggest that the dog has the wrong idea. But that, in itself, is inaccurate. However the dog chooses to engage and ‘solve’ the puzzle is correct – the animal can’t be wrong.

These slow feeders are often a source of frustration for many dogs and as such might not be all that enriching for many. This dog has developed a strategy that allows him/her to solve the puzzle and win the prize. That’s just perfect!

Affordable Alternatives

Making enrichment affordable allows every one to participate and benefits every pet, whether they live with a family, in foster, in kennels.

Make sure you know your dog and consider safety with ALL enrichment devices and activities.


Stuffable toys are generally costly as most are longer lasting and tough. Buying appropriate stuffable toys is a bit of an investment and might even last you through your next pets too.

I love the Toppl from West Paws as a stuffable but it’s not quite as hard wearing as many of the Kong toys so I take care with it with Decker.


But, you don’t necessarily need to invest.

See Day 1 for more on stuffables and Day 37 on lappalbles and lickables that can be adapted to budget options.


Any toy with holes in can be used as a stuffable toy, like the range above.


Stuffables don’t have to be stuffed; you can add the filling to the outside which is especially helpful for novice dogs or dogs that get frustrated with hard-to-reach goodies.
Freeze it to add more challenge and a different sensory experience.


Take a durable chew toy, like a Nylabone or similar, and smear something yummy in the uneven surface created by chewing.
Freeze it to add more challenge and a different sensory experience.

Try edible stuffables, like these cored and stuffed apples.


Freeze just the stuffing and enjoy a stuffable without a stuffable!


Like Lickimat or Treatimat from ALDI.

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While licking and lapping can certainly be relaxing for dogs, make sure to keep frustration low, especially with the more challenging designs. Enrichment must be enriching!

See Day 37 for lots of ideas.

Alternatives to these are so wide and varied and include using plastic inserts from biscuits or chocolates, paper plates, muffin pans, ice cube trays, and upturned dog bowls.

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Suspend lappables such as paper plates to keep things safer and to change the challenge.

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Just smearing the sides of the bath, or the table, for grooming and husbandry procedures is efficient and fast. Securing silicone devices to the sides of the bath or shower makes clean up easier.

Slow feeder

This ALDI slow feeder bowl is quite nice as there’s lots of space, just encouraging the dog to use their tongue, and hopefully not become too frustrated.


You can use the underside of this slow feeding bowl, as a mould or as a slow feeder too:


While these can certainly be used with kibble, to slow the enthusiastic eater, they also make excellent feeders to encourage lapping of soft foods. Raw feeders might prefer to feed raw diets in these, rather than in stuffable toys, as there will be less mess.

Adding kibble, with water or something to suspend it in, tinned foods, meats, mixes and so on and then freezing within slow feeders and alternatives can be fed in the container itself or tipped out to create a pupsicle.

  • each gap in a muffin pan, right side up


  • each gap in a muffin pan, upside down


  • each gap in an ice cube tray, right side up


  • each gap in an ice cube tray, upside down


  • in an upside down non-slip dog bowl


  • a dish drainer


Cardboard eggboxes make great slow feeders too!

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Snufflemats really started as home-made enrichment devices and making one yourself is a sure way to keep the costs down.

Purpose made and re-purposed snufflemats offer great snuffling and sniffing challenge and most dogs love it!

See Day 13 for lots of snufflemat ideas, including commercially made, re-purposed and how to DIY one.

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Grass and vegetation are Nature’s snufflemat so whenever you can scatter some of your pet’s food and treats to get them sniffing and snuffling.

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Foraging boxes are a great way to encourage snuffling and exploration, while using what ever safe and appropriate items you have to hand.

Day 31 gives you lots and lots of ideas from ballpit balls to bottles, from toilet roll tubes to toys.

Enrichment is for everyone

No matter the budget or your abilities, there are lots of simple and cheap ways to enrich and entertain.

Charities such as rescues can start a donation campaign for enrichment devices and pet owners can go through your pet’s toys regularly to see what could be donated to a rescue organisation or another needy pet owner.

Add your best budget ideas too so we can all benefit from our community by putting our heads together!

Check out the full #100daysofenrichment program for so much more!

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