Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Fitting Enrichment Into Your Schedule

How can you fit enrichment activities into your daily schedule?

Azul takes a pause after a walk to enjoy the environment.

Finding time to help our dog's do Dog Things can be very challenging!  Everyone has a busy, often overwhelming, schedule with too many things on our plate.  One of the biggest issues that I deal with as a trainer is clients calling me overwhelmed because they thought they did everything right, stepped out of the house for a bit, and came back to destruction from a bored adolescent.  And let me say right up front, I've been there!  Then there is the opposite end of the spectrum with clients that are stressed because in trying to give their dog the best life possible they are exhausted from entertaining their dog.  It can be extremely difficult to find balance in various aspects of our lives.  My goal as a dog trainer is to help you find that balance for you and your family, including your pets.

We find balance easiest in the routines we set.  With my autoimmune issues, routine is hard to come by as one day I can walk, talk & do like normal person, then some days I can't.  So I'm going to start be describing the perfect day for me with my dogs.

Like most of you, we start out with a potty break for everyone.  This takes care of a physical need for all of us, but is not enrichment.  Most of what we do in life is based on such activities.  Will the dogs are outside in the yard, I prepare breakfast, again not enriching since this is typically a bowl with kibble and some raw mixed together.  Then my dogs chill for a few hours while I get some work done. (Not Enrichment -average time 5-10 min)

Late morning is when we really start the enrichment activities in our house with a sniff-a-bout on our property, typically to sniff where wildlife visited then night before.  Sometimes it's a short 5 mins or sometimes it's an hour depending on the weather and the rest of our plans for the day.  If either dog did not finish eating their breakfast, it usually gets added to a lickmat or scatter feed in the grass or snow outside. Then it's more down time till after lunch. (Enrichment Sniffing - average 15-30 min)

Today's playdate and sniff-a-bout partner, Nala!

Somewhere in the afternoon we try to either set up a playdate and/or training session with a client,  On days that we don't see a client, we try to do a trail walk to practice leash skills.  This winter finding activities that can be done indoors has been a must with some pretty frigid temps.  I always keep a list of "indoor activities" that can also be done during this time.  This can be anything from Find It Games to Skills practice.  (Physical and Mental Enrichment - average 1-2 hrs)  

We tend to have an early supper, then we will do one final sniff-a-bout.  This winter our plans have changed quite drastically and we haven't been doing as many training sessions with clients or as many hikes.  It gets dark quite early in the winter so we've been playing some longline zoomie games in the evening for some exercise.  We practice recall during this time so we mix fun and training.  (Physical & Training Enrichment - average time 15 min or less)

Today for example, we had a client in the morning and another client in the afternoon, then family stuff in the late afternoon.  Which totally changed our routine.  During that time, Azul was able to run, sniff, and be social but we didn't really do anything mentally challenging so this evening before bed, we added in some Find It games to encourage Azul to finish his dinner with some mental work.  (About 10 min)      Izzy, the 4 month old Great Dane puppy pictured to the left was my morning client
This leaves my total enrichment time for sniffing (most important to Azul), games, and training to be around 1.5-2 hours on a typical day.  Which is about perfect for Azul.  My last German Shepherd Pup needed about 3 hours of fun and games a day including at least 2 high speed exercise games.  But that was my poor training in teaching her to love playing ball at much too young of an age.  

Remember this is the "perfect day" scenario and none of us lives in a perfect world!  If you can't cover all of your dog's needs on a certain day, figure out what is most important to them and at least do that activity.  You can double up on other types of activities on other days.  My goal is to have more days where I'm meeting their needs then days where I don't.  If you don't meet their needs too many days in a row, you will start to see some behaviors that you don't like!

Of course my schedule is not perfect for everyone else!  But I can help you determine what your dog needs and how you can develop a routine that will fit your busy schedule and all that you are trying to accomplish in one day!  For the rest of February, I will be offering 1 FREE Zoom Meeting to anyone who wants to discuss creating an Enrichment Plan for your family.  To schedule this send me a chat request or email at!

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