Enrichment doesn't have to be fancy or even expensive, for that matter. I want to share something with you, a DIY brain game for your dog, a simple, cost-effective way of keeping your dog entertained that you can create yourself at home using everyday items you can find around your house.
The simple DIY brain game for dogs I will share with you in this blog is called a snuffle box. Let's dive in!
How to set your dog up for success with dog enrichment
Before starting any dog enrichment activity, it's important to set your dog up for success to ensure they will get the most out of it and have fun! Here are six tips on how to do this:
- Supervise your dog at all times when giving them enrichment activities.
- Support your dog and guide them as they need it.
- Let your dog investigate the enrichment activity at their own pace.
- Never force them to interact with it.
- Remove the enrichment activity after use.
- If you know that your dog may eat anything in snuffle box, they shouldn't; this activity is not suitable for them.
What is a snuffle box?
The idea of a snuffle box is similar to that of a snuffle mat; it encourages natural sniffing and foraging behaviours. You may have also heard it called a noise box, a busy box or a destruction box.
In a nutshell, the snuffle box is simply a box filled with a range of materials that you'd find around your house. Food or treats are scattered and hidden within the box for your dog to find.
A snuffle box is an excellent way of keeping your dog busy whilst providing enrichment and mental stimulation. Sniffing and foraging are activities that help lower energy and excitement levels whilst also promoting calm behaviour. They can also help build optimism and confidence around noise and movement.
How to make a snuffle box?
What you’ll need:
- Empty container, e.g. cardboard box, play pit, laundry basket, washing-up bowl or something similar - I use one of these boxes for our snuffle box as we play this game a lot, so we often have one ready to go.
- Yoghurt pots
- Plastic tray inserts
- Plastic bottles (minus the lid)
- Packing paper
- Toilet roll tubes
- Egg boxes
- Biscuit tins
Please avoid using any paper or leaflets with a shiny coating on them, as the coating on these can stick to your dog's teeth.
How to play:
Simply take your chosen container and fill it with a selection of household items from the list given above.
As you fill the box with your items, scatter some food or treats inside; this is a great way to use part of your dog's daily food allowance.
When ready, release your dog to rummage around to retrieve the goodies in the snuffle box. You can add more food as needed to keep the game going longer.
Tips for making and using a snuffle box
I recommend building your snuffle box based on the dog in front of you and tailoring it specifically to them.
If they've never played before, you may want to start building confidence around the empty container on its own. Reward any interaction with the box with lots of praise and treats outside the box. Gradually add some treats inside the box, and if they take these treats, give lots of praise again with more treat rewards outside the box.
As your dog masters this, you can gradually introduce items into the box. Start with ones that aren't particularly noisy but add that extra element of movement into the mix, e.g. cardboard toilet roll tubes.
As their confidence grows, you can gradually add "noisier" items, such as bottles that make a sound when moved or plastic trays that crackle when stepped on. You can even put food inside the bottles, so your dog has to move them around to get the food out.
And remember, if your dog isn't comfortable with you adding something new to the box, don't be afraid to take it back a step. Take it slow and remove some items from the box; we want this to be a fun and positive experience.