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Canine Enrichment: Is It Just A Fad?

‘Canine enrichment’: two words that seem to be on everyone’s lips lately. 

But at Tug-E-Nuff Dog Gear, we’re firm believers that canine enrichment isn’t just a fad; it really can have a positive impact on the lives of dogs of every age, breed and temperament. 

Arguably, its dogs in rescue centres that need enrichment more than any others - and our motivational dog training toys are fantastic aids for achieving this. 

We recently announced that we’ve teamed up with Hope Rescue in Llanharan, South Wales, as part of our Big Birthday Give Back, but the reality is we’ve been proud to help rescue centres across the world as much as we can since the very start.

Earlier this year, Tug-E-Nuff customer and enrichment expert Jo Woodward, who runs FurryTails Dog Training in Surrey, got in touch to tell us about a trip she was making to 2nd Chance Dogs in Cyprus. 

They are rescue centre is run by dog lovers who have a ‘no kill’ policy, and instead work to treat and re-home each of the dogs that comes into its care, usually having been abandoned as a pup, shot at by hunters, dumped on the highways or worse. 

Jo asked if we’d donate some toys for her to take out to help the dogs, in particular a pup called Tommy who had been hit by a car and was struggling to get back on his feet. Of course, we packed up some of our most popular toys for enrichment, like The Clam and our Crazy Thing Bungee Tug, and got them to Jo.

When she returned, she kindly told us all about how she got on and shared her enrichment tips…

What was the aim of your trip?

Jo: ‘I’m a qualified dog trainer through IMDT (The Modern Institute of Dog Training) and I run puppy classes at Aspen and Ewell vets in Surbiton and Epsom. I’m really passionate about enrichment and had the privilege of being asked to go out to Cyprus to help out as a volunteer with 2nd Chance Dog’s rescue centre.

‘My main focus on the trip was to put in place an enrichment programme in place for Tommy who was sadly hit by a car on Christmas Day 2018 and lost the use of his back legs. His owners dumped him at the rescue centre after finding out the extent of his injuries.

‘Building an enrichment centre for the other 60 dogs that are at the centre was also a priority.

‘The charity was started by dog-lovers Mario and Doris three years ago. The couple go above and beyond to care and look after these dogs. The kennels are spotless and each dog gets two 45 minute sessions daily of outdoor play time in one of the large play zones.

‘Many of these dogs get rehomed to the UK as they then stand a better chance of finding their forever homes.’

What was it like?

Jo: ‘We were lucky enough to have donations of Tug-E-Nuff and other enrichment toys to take out with us so we could show the team how to keep the dogs mentally stimulated, happy and healthy. 

‘Spending time with these beautiful dogs was humbling and I felt we really were able to make a difference in the short time we were there by getting the dogs used to people and earning their trust after some of the horrific things that had been done to them. The dogs were all so pleased to see us and loved a good cuddle and a few well deserved treats.’

What were your highlights?

Jo: ‘It was great to meet and set up enrichment for Tommy who I had heard so much about. He rushes around in one of the play zones with his wheels and doesn’t appear to have a care in the world.

‘Hopefully one day Tommy will find his forever home, and who ever gets him will be the luckiest person going.

‘While there, I worked with a very timid young dog called Tina who is around nine months old. She’s been at the centre since she was abandoned as a young puppy. Through the enrichment activities I set up using the toys and with lots of patience, Tina, who wouldn’t normally go near anyone, eventually started to come over and even started to slowly take food from my hand.’

Why is enrichment so important?

Jo: ‘Enrichment can be so beneficial for all dogs in their day to day lives by helping the dogs to gain confidence, build positive relationships with their owners and keep them mentally stimulated.

‘Just 20 minutes of sniffing is equivalent to an hours lead walk. Life can be very stressful for some dogs. Encouraging things like sniffing, chewing and licking as part of our dog’s daily routine, can be very calming activities as they release endorphins.

‘In turn, this makes it easier for them to focus and take in everything that is happening around them in a calmer, more positive way. That’s when we can then work on the dogs training when they’re in the right mind state to concentrate without all the stresses of life. 

‘Enrichment and training should be fun so that you and your dog enjoy doing it and it’s great for building fun positive relationships.’

What are your top toys for enrichment?

Jo: ‘My favourite toy by far is the Tug-E-Nuff Clam. Our own dog Frankie loves it for playing hide and seek. She loves working for her food and often won’t take it if it’s offered to her free. 

‘Frankie has a heart murmur that is unfortunately getting worse and she gets tired easily when we take her out for walks so we make sure that we do lots of enrichment to keep her mentally stimulated.

‘Our other dog Lulu is getting old and has major leg surgery last year so we don’t exercise her too much either so again it’s so important that we keep their minds busy with enrichment and problem solving games. The Clam is perfect for this.’

Find out more about Jo’s work here and check out 2nd Chance Dogs here.

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