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Ultimate Guide To Enriching the Life Of Your Pets

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Pawsitive Thinking has helped thousands of people with enrichment ideas for dogs, cats, chickens and other animals. For those new to enrichment or seasoned pros, this guide offers information and inspiration for animal enrichment.

What Is Enrichment?

In essence, enrichment means improving and enhancing quality of life.  In practice, enrichment encompasses activities or management methods that allow animals to demonstrate natural behaviour and give them opportunities to exercise control or choice. Enrichment can be anything that promotes positive mental and physical activity. 

Enrichment is for all animals and it can be provided at home, in the garden and away from home in different environments.  The aim is for enrichment to be about income for the animal and not outcome- promoting health and positive emotions through action, interest and mental stimulation.

Why Bother With Enrichment?

It is widely recognised that good animal welfare extends well beyond just the provision of food and water. Enabling and offering enrichment hugely enhances well being and it is considered just as important to good welfare as appropriate nutrition and veterinary care. 

Animals that lead enriched lives are often happier and healthier. The consequent benefits to humans are improved safety, less unwanted behaviour, easier management and reduced financial outlay. Enrichment supports natural behaviour and lowers stress, which promotes positive emotions in both animals and people. 

How Can We Provide Enrichment?

Enrichment can be incorporated into an animal's lifestyle and management, as well as being provided through specific additional activities. There are numerous ways we can provide enrichment for our pets, which can be categorised into 5 main sections-

  • Cognitive
  • Social
  • Sensory
  • Food
  • Habitat

Enrichment doesn't have to cost money. With imagination and creativity, enrichment can be offered to your pet in even the smallest of spaces. 

Enrichment Ideas For Pets

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Cognitive Enrichment

Brain games are a great way to provide cognitive enrichment to dogs. In fact many enrichment ideas for dogs can be adapted for other pets too. For all animals, mental stimulation can be provided by teaching a new skill with positive reinforcement, or training an existing skill in a new environment. 

Novelty is a fantastic way of offering cognitive enrichment. Think about how you can add new things, move items or change them to introduce novelty into your animal's lives. Even the arrival of the wheelbarrow to muck out our chicken enclosure causes interest and that's enrichment! Something new to perch on, look at and scratch in creates easy enrichment opportunities.

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Social Enrichment

Many pets benefit from companionship in some way. Whilst species-specific friendships are vital for animals such as horses, we can also enhance quality of life by providing choice and variation too.

Positive opportunities for social interaction are important. It's obviously not enriching if an animal is scared, anxious or stressed by social interaction but if carried out appropriately, then social enrichment can be incredibly beneficial.

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Sensory Enrichment

We can enrich our pet's lives through touch, taste, smell, sound and sight. ACE Freework is just one way to provide sensory enrichment and it can be carried out with lots of different animals, not just dogs. In summary, the animal is unclothed and free to explore a variety of 'stations' without human intervention. Different materials, objects and surfaces are used with food and/or scent for the animal to explore. Valuable information can also be gained by us humans about how the animal moves, makes choices and interacts.

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Food Enrichment

As well as changing up the type of food on offer, enrichment can be provided by presenting and delivering food in different ways. For canine inspiration, read our blog about Ditching The Bowl. As with many animals, chickens and cats can also benefit from ditching the bowl too.

Getting creative with food is great fun and whilst we offer many tools to help, you can also create enrichment activities at little or no cost using your pet's daily food allowance.

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Habitat Enrichment

A great deal of enrichment can be provided within an animal's habitat by offering choice. For example, a choice of sleeping areas, a choice of eating stations and a choice of physical environment. A simple log pile can provide enrichment to many different animals- they can sniff, perch on, climb, move around, chew or jump it! Or a pile of wood chip enables scratching, digging, searching, foraging and rolling. 

Free Enrichment Map

If you would like a free downloadable pdf of the enrichment map shown in the pictures above, head to the Pawsitive Thinking Facebook group and join us. Members can access a printable version in the files section of the group, alongside other free resources.

Once you get into the enrichment mindset, you'll find ideas will start to flow. Inspiration will come from everywhere and creating activities can easily become part of everyday care. Enrichment isn't always complicated and sometimes even the most simplest of ideas can bring great joy to both you and your animals.

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Thank you for reading.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of enrichment ideas for dogs, cats and chickens as well as products to help you with their training and care-  SHOP HERE 

More blogs available to read here-

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Welcome To The Pawsitive Thinking Blog

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Thank you for popping by. This is the place to discover information, ideas and inspiration for you to help your pets lead their best lives. 

I love happy animals and happy people! Throughout my whole career I have strived to positively enhance welfare and promote mutually beneficial relationships between people and their pets. Please scroll down to find interesting and useful editorial on enrichment, training and care.

I originally started writing for newspapers and magazines, something which I continue to do 25 years later. Now with Pawsitive Thinking, a new home has been found for my writing. Informative guides, news, articles and thoughts will be added here, to share with you.

 Happy Reading!


February 2, 2022

What is enrichment and how can we provide it? In our guide to animal enrichment, we present enrichment ideas for dogs, cats, chickens and other animals. With access to a FREE downloadable resource.

January 31, 2022

This fun and tasty West Paw Toppl recipe is sure to get tails wagging! Show your dog some extra love this Valentine’s day.

January 25, 2022

Many dog owners are familiar with Kongs, the stuffable dog toy. West Paw Toppls are a different version of this canine enrichment classic. Toppls have many benefits over Kongs and have rightly gained a huge fan base. So what’s the buzz all about? Here are the top 5 reasons why people prefer West Paw Toppls over the Kong.

October 6, 2021

Ditching the bowl can be fantastic enrichment and really useful for training success. Done badly it can create negative emotions, frustration and stress. Natalie highlights the importance of ethical consideration when ditching the bowl.

September 21, 2021

The complete lowdown on natural dog chews! Chewing time, key benefits, typical nutritional analysis, age guide and safety tips.
A whole host of ideas for training and enrichment.

September 13, 2021

Pawsitive Thinking is pleased to be working with Canine Arthritis Management (CAM) to help improve and extend the lives of dogs suffering with arthritis.

November 26, 2020

When is a natural chew not natural? Natalie identifies why some chews commonly sold as natural, could actually be detrimental to your dog. The hideous chemical processing of dog chews is revealed.

June 17, 2020

Unwanted behaviour in dogs is a major cause of rehoming and even euthanasia. An American vet specialising in animal behaviour, stress evaluation and canine aggression has reported some interesting findings.

June 12, 2020

Chickens don’t have any teeth, you’ve probably heard of the expression ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’. Without teeth, they have a different way of grinding food and that’s where grit comes in.
Here’s the information you need to understand all things grit!

May 24, 2020

Dogs are making choices all the time, so we need to train our dogs to make the right choices. This is where reinforcement comes in. If you add the right reinforcer at the right time, it will encourage more of the behaviour you want.

May 19, 2020

What does ditching the bowl mean? Why bother? How often? What about Raw?

Your questions on ditching the bowl answered plus ideas to get you started.

May 16, 2020

Mighty middle is a really useful game that you can play with your dog to help with recall, proximity to you, confidence and focus in distracting environments.

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Why Feed Chicken Grit?

Chicken enrichment

Chickens don’t have any teeth, you’ve probably heard of the expression ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’. Without teeth, they have a different way of grinding food and that’s where grit comes in.

Insoluble or Digestive Grit

When your hen eats pellets or corn, the food passes into her crop. Food is then stored in the crop for up to six hours, this is where it softens and starts the process of digestion.  During the course of the day the food leaves the crop and enters an organ called the Proventriculus,  which is the first part of the stomach. At this stage in the digestive process the food is mixed with enzymes, to break down protein and peptides and assist with absorption.

After the food has left the Proventriculus, it enters the second part of the stomach called the Gizzard. This is basically the grinding mill of the gut, to replace the lack of teeth. Grit is needed here to help grind up vegetation and break down the hard husks of grains and seeds that your hen might eat. This grinding enables the food to be processed into a form which allows the nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Without insoluble grit, your hen can’t digest her food properly and can become unwell. If there is insufficient grit in the diet, hens are more prone to impactions as the gut can’t deal with large lumps of food.

Soluble Grit

The other side to grit is soluble grit, which provides the calcium needed to produce egg shells. Without enough calcium in the diet, hens can’t produce healthy, strong shells. Thin, brittle shells are a sign that the hen may need more calcium. Eating their own eggs is another symptom that they may need more soluble grit in the diet.

The best chicken grit

Free Range Vs Coop Kept Diet

All chickens, however they are managed, should have access to a free supply of grit. Chickens kept on a large outside area are able to source some natural grit from their environment, so they generally eat less supplementary grit because of this. It is still necessary to supplement their diet though, to minimise the potential health problems found from insufficient grit in the diet. Chickens kept in a coop cannot obtain enough grit from their surroundings, so it is even more imperative that they have a readily available supply.

What’s The Best Chicken Grit?

Having tried several different brands and types over the years, we can confidently say the best chicken grit we have ever used is Gastro Grit. Whereas the other grits would often sit in their pots relatively untouched, Gastro Grit is far more palatable. This made a huge difference to the quality of our eggs, most notably the shells went from being paper thin and breaking when picked up, to needing a good hard crack to open them. Egg production increased and our ex-caged hens also stopped eating their own eggs.

Gastro Grit on the left, straight oyster shell on the right.

Gastro Grit contains soluble and insoluble grit, as well as other beneficial extras such as brewers yeast, seaweed and charcoal. The added herbs and aniseed contribute to the enhanced palatability.

You can get Gastro Grit in two sizes, 1kg pouches for a smaller flock and for those with more hens, 5kg bags are also available.

Gastro Grit put to the test.

Thank You For Reading

If you would like a FREE guide to chicken enrichment, CLICK HERE.

Natalie Bucklar, BSc (Hons), MSc is the owner of Pawsitive Thinking. We offer a tried and tested portfolio of products to help you with the training, care and enrichment of your much loved pets. SHOP HERE 

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