At-Home Enrichment Schedule
with Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals, Training Advocate

Everything you'll need to create an at-home enrichment schedule for your dog -- including: understanding your dog’s 5 senses, what to do for supervised versus unsupervised enrichment, most common mistakes made in enrichment, and how to help your dog cope when you leave.


Common At-Home Mistakes With/Without Enrichment


Enrichment for senses are a great tool to use when you leave to help your dog cope, but dog guardians commonly make the following mistakes which make it harder for their dog to cope when they leave.


Common mistakes include;


-      Making your dog exhausted before you leave. A tired dog is NOT a good dog, it’s an overstimulated/over-aroused dog who will then be so wound up that they will think the couch is a great chew toy or have increased anxiety/stress and bark at anything they hear. It’s like taking a toddler out to McDonalds PlayPlace and actively playing with them for 30 to 40 minutes and then asking them to calm down and rest after. It’s just not going to happen.

o  No fetch as it has been proven to cause arthritis, joint pain and long term muscle damage- check out Canine Arthritis Management for more information at this link )

o  No running your dog for 45minutes in the morning

o  No 30+ minute training session before you go

-      Not putting on any auditory stimulation when you leave, leaving your dog in complete silence. Many dog guardians tell me that their dog is reactive to outdoor noises like people walking past their home/apartment door, cars, sirens or city life noises. This could be due to other behavioural issues, but most of the time your dog is reacting to these noises as they have nothing else to listen to and are bored.

o   In several cases I’ve helped with, certain sounds caused negative experiences that your dog will then become reactive or fearful towards anything that sounds similar

o  For example; in three of the cases I’ve helped; a dog was scared of sirens and would howl in fear when they passed by (not funny), a neighbor car’s backfired, and apartment neighbour doing jump rope in the hallways during COVID lockdown.

-      Leaving dogs with free for all food/constant food in a food bowl. Having a bowl always full of food is not stimulating to your dog, it actually is the opposite.

o   Imagine being in front of a buffet your entire day and that’s all you have to do, so you’ll eat because you’re bored and then that leads to potential obesity/higher body condition score.

o  Your dog loves to use their nose to find food, it’s what they do naturally, having free for all food decreases their ability to express natural behaviours

-      Leaving your dog with nothing to do and then getting angry that your dog has eaten your slippers or your favourite t-shirt/sweater when you get back.

o   Dogs that are bored get up to mischief or if your dog is anxious or stressed, they will chew as chewing relaxes them, especially something with familiar smells. Your dog needs something to do, to enrich their mind and body when you’re gone and to reduce their stress levels.

-      Leaving your dog with enrichment items that are safety hazards. It’s fun to leave your dog with a coconut, toilet paper roll or a cardboard treasure box, but what happens if your dog ingests something when you’re not around, chokes on it or it gets stuck somewhere in their insides? Safety First.


Your Dog’s 5 Senses


Dogs natural behaviours are to forage, chew, shred and dig. Think about that next time your dog digs a hole in your garden or chews on your slippers- it’s a natural behaviour! Engage these natural behaviours by including your dog’s 5 senses with enrichment


Touch- If your dog has not been exposed or experienced certain surfaces or textures, it can be scary to them to put their paws on such items as sewer grates or cement blocks. Use enrichment to create these introductions through a DIY obstacle course/Free Work course, have something your dog can manipulate with their paws, feel different textures and surfaces without fear and encourage/help them if they exhibit any fear. Make your dog a digging pit, a ball pit or a cardboard box lined with old clothes!

Taste- The worse it smells the better your dog will think it is. For their tastebuds something that grosses me out like a combination of pumpkin, tuna and hot dog popsicles or cookie, for dogs this sounds like a feast! (Or fox poo, rabbit poo, horse poo, cat poo…) There’s loads of fun dog recipes on Kong Company website or check out @bindisbucket on Instagram for great ideas. Always make sure you put a straw through the KONG/rubber chew toy to make sure it won’t create suction

Smell- Your dog has 300 million olfactory cells in their nose, compared to our measly 5 million, so use them! Buy scented smells from your local pet store or play scent games to engage your dog’s senses. Make the most disgusting treats for them, they’ll love it! If your dog is easily stressed use dog appeasing pheromones like Adaptil, Rescue Remedy and Pet Remedy

Sound- Auditory stimulation when you leave to drown out outside noises, or if your dog shows any fear, anxiety or stress play Relax My Dog music, Disney, white noise or rain drops on YouTube or even relaxing music you like such as reggae to help calm them. No EDM, punk, heavy metal or loud music as that causes stress in dogs!


How to help your dog cope when you leave


If your dog has separation distress message me for help or if your dog has full blown separation anxiety, I will refer you to a CSAT – certified separation anxiety trainer.


Anytime your dog has a toileting accident or chews something up when you’re gone, do not punish them! Your dog learns by associations and associate you coming home with fear. If you are upset when your dog does anything you don’t like when you come home, simply go into the nearest room close the door and deep breathe. Only greet your dog when you’ve calmed down. Your dog may have had to use the toilet due to something they ate in the enrichment that didn’t agree with their body and didn’t have you to help them go outside! Or they simply couldn’t hold it anymore, this is especially true for puppies where everything goes in and then out as their bladders are still developing. If your dog chews something that could indicate boredom, fear or stress from something that happened when you were gone.


Before you leave

Always make sure before you leave that your dog goes for a sniffari/a sniffy walk so they can use the great outdoor toilet and engage their senses. Sniffing is more mentally engaging than an intensive walk. Don’t force them to heel on a short leash as that’s not a walk and will cause more stress. Train for loose leash walking but let your dog enjoy their walk! Don’t run them into exhaustion before you leave, as this can overstimulate them and potentially cause more issues.

  • Do training 30 minutes in 1 day- 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon and 10 minutes at night
  • Try Ditch the Bowl ideas and/or teach your dog learn games to find food, as your dog finds these games easy, gradually make it more difficult so your dog has a great game to find hidden food around your home when you’re gone
  • Leave your dog with a variety of rubber chew toys and snuffle mat (at least 3-4 different things), all things that are safe for your dog when unsupervised. Rotate these every day so your dog is not bored with the same thing. Stuff the KONGs, Four Paws, K9 Connectables and make them in advance, storing them in your fridge or freezer
  •  Put on calming music (RelaxMyDog), the TV or a movie on rotate (like Disney!!) to help mask the sounds of the outside that potentially may scare your dog
  •  Just as you are about to leave give your dog their stuffables, scatter fed snuffle mat, toss a few treats in a scatter feed so that your dog thinks it’s a party when you leave!!


Your goal is that they are calm and confident when you leave the home. Leave for a very short time and if possible, video your dog to see what happens. If you see in the video any signs that your dog cannot settle like pacing, howling, barking or digging then message me for a consult.

When you come back, calmly interact with your dog, let them know you’re happy to see them, but don’t go over the top. Calmly do a trade/scatter feed with your dog for the toys you left, so you prevent any potential resource guarding issues or don’t create a game- it’s mine not yours with your dog.

Ruby Leslie of WelfareForAnimals

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Ruby because she brings her rescue experiences to our dogs - to increase our bond, decrease behavior issues.

Ruby guides you

New Dogs - Manners - Enrichment - Reactivity - Barking - Walking

Ruby is certified

Low Stress Handling - Fear Free Veterinary Professional - Fear Free Shelters - Shelter Welfare - Enrichment - & Canine Behaviour