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9 Unusual Enrichment Ideas for Reactive Dogs

David Adams photo

David Adams

July 09, 2020

Dog Reactivity

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Many folks in the Sniffspot community are looking for more enrichment options for reactive pups. We did some research to find the most interesting enrichment options for reactive dogs by 1) asking reactive dog owners in the area, and 2) asking some local trainers for input to make sure these are the highest quality options for you (see the end of the article for more information on the trainers that reviewed this article). 

For those of you not familiar with canine enrichment, enrichment is about providing activities for dogs that stimulates their brains and their bodies. By enriching your dog, you can make them happier and healthier. Specifically for reactive dogs, enrichment can help them with focusing on positive stimuli rather than negative stimuli, and reduce reactivity.

We recommend some local options for getting started with these, but you don’t need to take classes or work with a trainer to get started. You can also get great resources online, for instance, the Canine Enrichment Facebook Group.

1. Try truffle hunting

This may seem strange to you, but truffle hunting is actually a popular outlet for reactive dogs because of the concentration required, game aspect and being alone in the woods! Kristin Rosenbach at Wagnificent K9 is a good resource in the Seattle area for this!

2. Recycle things into dog toys

You can really do anything you can imagine here. We recommend empty cardboard milk cartons with peanut butter for an easy everyday option, but use your imagination. Make sure it is safe and there are no pieces that could tear off and cause issues if swallowed. Here are some more ideas.

3. Try nosework

Nosework is a sport where dogs need to find a hidden object using smell and alert their handler. It’s popular for reactive dogs because it is generally solo and it teaches concentration. A local trainer we recommend for this is Erica Wells at Dogs Day Out.

4. Try out a snuffle mat

A snuffle mat is a mat with rows of fleece strips where treats can be hidden for the dogs to find over time. Reactive dog owners are raving about how much their dogs love them! You can find these to order on many online outlets.

5. Give them a sandbox to dig in

Some dogs love digging, but most dogs don’t get to do it very often. Give them free rein to dig to their heart’s content by creating a sandbox for them. You need the yard space to cordon off a small area for the sandbox. Or you can visit one of our wooded or farm sniff spots to let your dog dig all they want.

6. Take your pup swimming

Swimming is an amazing way for dogs to find a new way to exercise and explore. Give them time to get used to the water and get comfortable. Make sure to always swim in a safe area and use a doggie life preserver if appropriate. Check out some of our most popular sniff spots for areas to swim.

7. Have fun with a flirt pole

Flirt poles are like fishing poles for dogs, except instead of a hook at the end, there is a dog toy. They’re great for teaching self-control to dogs that have a hard time focusing, because they allow you to control the toy. And they are just a lot of fun to give your pup a work out. You can read more about them here.

8. Try sheep herding

Ever wondered whether your dog would be good at herding? Well, you can now find out! Many of the highest energy dog breeds actually have a history in herding and this can be a very productive way to get their energy out. In fact, many herding breeds tend to be more reactive than other breeds. You can try herding out with your pup at Fido’s Farm, located just south of Olympia.

9. Try canine parkour

This is a great activity for reactive dogs in urban environments. Parkour can help to focus pups on their activity, so they are less focused on scary things in their surroundings. You can read more about parkour here.

Of course, our local sniff spots also offer myriad opportunities for enrichment for your pup. Check them out here!

Trainers that reviewed this article

There is so much misinformation out there, we want to make sure we only provide the highest quality information to our community. We have all of our articles reviewed by qualified, positive-only trainers. The trainers that review our content are reviewed by other trainers to ensure that we have the best quality filters on our content. 

These are the trainers that reviewed this article:

Lori Stevens.

Lori Stevens (CPBC, CPDT-KA, CCFT, SAMP) is an animal behavior consultant, a professional dog trainer, a canine fitness trainer, an animal massage practitioner, and a senior Tellington TTouch® Training practitioner. She continually studies the interactions among animal behavior, movement, learning, fitness, and health. She uses intimidation-free, scientific, and innovative methods, in an educational environment, to improve the health, behavior, performance, and fitness of animals. Lori's most recent of three DVDs By Tawzer Dog Videos is co-presented with Kathy Sdao and called 'The Gift of a Gray Muzzle: Active Care for Senior Dogs' --it focuses on improving the life of our aging dogs. Lori gives workshops worldwide and has a private practice in Seattle, WA.  She also teaches online classes at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.

Lori gets joy from helping others help their dogs whether for competition or daily life. She enjoys hiking, training, and playing with Cassie, her Australian Shepherd.

Read more about Lori Stevens at

Eric Sueltenfuss

Eric Sueltenfuss is a Certified Canine Specialist through the Northwest School of Canine Studies.  He is dedicated to furthering his knowledge through continuing education courses and trainings. He has studied animal learning theory and a broad range of science-based training techniques and practical applications.

Bridge The Bark is part of a community of Force-Free practitioners, dedicated to changing the world of canine training.

Read more about Eric here.

David Adams photo

David Adams

July 09, 2020

Dog Reactivity

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