Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dog Kennel Enrichment Ideas

One of the challenges for staff working in a shelter is keeping the animals stimulated while in their care. In fact, boredom for dogs is a primary contributor to negative behaviors such as excessive barking, jumping, inappropriate chewing or licking, and even resource guarding. The dogs in the shelter cannot directly communicate they are bored or stressed, but they do indirectly let us know through these undesirable behaviors. So, it is of crucial importance for shelters to do everything they can to keep the dogs entertained and ward off any negative behaviors possibly attributed to stress and boredom.

Here are a few simple ideas to introduce kennel enrichment in your shelter:
  1. Physical Exercise: it’s no secret that a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. In a shelter, exercise can come in the form of walks, agility or fly ball training, time off-leash in a large outdoor kennel, or even supervised play groups with other dogs in the shelter. In many shelters staff is stretched thin with day to day operations and volunteers are the primary providers of exercise for dogs.
  2. Basic Obedience Training: sitting in a kennel for extended amounts of time can make even the most well-adjusted animal stir crazy, so mental stimulation is extremely important. Basic obedience training can achieve the mental stimulation as well as time out of the kennel and interacting with people.
  3. Mental Stimulation/Entertainment: here are some great ideas for providing kennel enrichment for the dogs for when staff and volunteers are unable to directly interact with them. If you cannot volunteer with your local animal shelter, consider donating some of these items:
    1. Frozen thick rope chew—dunk a rope chew in water and freeze overnight. For an even tastier treat, dunk it in meat broth and freeze.
    2. Kong—stuff with peanut butter, frozen water, or treats. If your shelter has space, consider freezing them—the treats will last a little longer! The Kong Company © has a donation program (; consider registering your local shelter or rescue for donations!
    3. Squeaky toys—any stuffed toy with a squeaker inside could be hours of fun for a dog.
  4. Meal time—even feeding time can be an opportunity to provide enrichment for shelter dogs.  Here are a few inexpensive ideas for making dinner stimulating:
    1. Crinkle up some kibble in a wadded piece of paper—the dog will have to rip through the paper to get at the kibble bits.
    2. Remember paper towel rolls for cat enrichment ( Dogs can get in on the action too! Shove kibble bits in a paper towel roll for dogs to get out. You can fold or bend the edges to make it more challenging.
    3. Freeze some kibble in an ice cube. Dogs usually go bonkers trying to get the kibble in the middle!
    4. Layered cereal boxes—hide kibble between the layers of nestled cereal boxes. This will be a challenge for any dog to get the kibble out
It is advised to always have supervision when the dogs are playing with any toys or food items. As easy as these ideas are to put together, it's could be just as easy for the dogs to inadvertently ingest something that may harm them. 

For shelters with a large and eager volunteer pool--put them to work collecting, creating, and distributing these enrichment ideas, and then ask them to also monitor the dogs while they enjoy!


  1. Great ideas! I found you by googling dog enrichment ideas.

  2. Glad you found the blog, thanks for stopping by!

  3. Those are some good dog kennel enrichment ideas that I'll have to try - once the weather warms up a little bit!

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