Enrichment Activities for Your Best Friend

Living in a winter wonderland can make it a challenge to provide your best friend with the mental and physical activity they need to be happy and healthy, even when the weather outside is frightful!

Enrichment activities invite your dog to explore their surroundings, use their natural instincts, and try something new! 

Enrichment activities for our pets are inspired by the programs that zoologists and biologists create to support the health and well-being of animals in captivity or rehabilitation facilities. The goal is to mimic the natural activities and elicit the skills the animal would experience in the wild. We can recreate similar frameworks and activities for animals in our care, keeping dogs and cats engaged and stimulated. Enrichment activities can improve your pet’s mood and interest in learning, reduce stress and boredom, build confidence, and teach various skills like problem-solving, nose work, and agility. 

Mental stimulation helps reduce behaviours that can be problematic for a family dog or cat, so if you want to reduce unwanted chewing, clawing, and destruction, get ready! Enrichment provides both dogs and cats with an outlet for their energy in a safe and monitored environment.

There are five experiences we want to consider and encourage while planning enrichment for our pets. At The Petropolitan, we will begin introducing a few activities at a time, assessing the interest and engagement of each new activity with a variety of guests. We can expand the activities we offer as time goes on based on what works for the pets in care. Some activities the animals will show a lot of interest in; others are more difficult for some pets, and they might give up or lose interest. Rotating activities and introducing new, different challenges keep the pets engaged and curious.

Let’s review the five experiences you can create for your pet to raise a wholly social, well-rounded, furry family member.



Social enrichment is the practice of promoting contact with dogs, species and environments in a positive, constructive way that builds confidence. You’re already providing your best friend with social enrichment by bringing them to daycare! Dog parks, meeting dogs and people on leashed walks, restaurant patios, visiting different stores, car rides, and exposure to children and seniors are all fantastic opportunities to socially enrich your pet. Not every exposure has to be intensive or hyper-focused on your dog’s experience. Visiting and creating the expectation that they behave and be happy and calm is the perfect enrichment experience for a happy pet.

Social enrichment can be particularly important for the health and welfare of cats to reduce stress while away from home, travelling, or having to visit the vet. A positive association with a cat carrier, regular car rides, handling, and meeting visitors are great ways to develop a stress-free kitty cat!



Nutritional enrichment encourages animals to use natural foraging/feeding behaviours to earn food. In the wild, a pet would have to hunt for their food! This can include activities like:

  • Puzzle feeders
  • Hide and Seek activities
  • Toys stuffed with food (frozen or stacked so it’s hard to remove)
  • Lick mats
  • Changing the time and location where your dog eats
  • Changing the surface/material your dog eats and drinks from



Occupational enrichment challenges dogs by giving them a “job” that encourages physical and mental stimulation. This can include activities like:

  • Fetching items, opening the fridge, learning another “chore”
  • Agility: maneuver around obstacles like chairs and items on stairs
  • Timed and focused training sessions working on a new skill
  • Weighted backpack on a walk (10-15% of their body weight, depending on breed)
  • Learn to herd class
  • Pull a wagon or learn to ride in a tow-behind bike trailer



Sensory enrichment can be used to stimulate the different senses, such as sight, sound, or smell. This is another enrichment we already utilize in the daycare and hotel environment in the following ways:

  • Soothing music to lower heart rate and stimulation
  • Utilizing dog-safe scent spray to promote relaxation and stress relief
  • Allowing dogs to sniff on their bathroom break walks (checking the pee-mail)
  • Playing with bubbles, balloons, new and different toys
  • Spraying smells of different animals on items to let them investigate



Physical enrichment includes altering the quality and complexity of the dog’s surroundings. This can include activities like:

  • Toy rotation vs every toy available at all times
  • Tug of war
  • Puppy burpees (sit, down, jump)
  • Walking on a treadmill
  • Visiting different parts of the city vs visiting the same park and parking in the same area and taking the same route all the time.