An important ingredient of successful care is pet enrichment! Pet Enrichment is a catch phrase for things to keep your pet busy, mentally stimulated, and hopefully tired!

We  had our first prolific snowfall here in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland recently. As a snowboarder I don’t shy away from a good snow accumulation, but my dogs sure do! We have a senior dog  and 3 pit bulls, they’re big babies when it comes to going out in the snow and cold. Pit bulls, with their thin, sleek coat are the Canine equivalent of naked mole rats. I can’t say that I blame them for their lack of enthusiasm for the winter months.

Dogs that both hate cold weather but need plenty of activity require some creative problem solving to help them burn off their energy. Zoning regulations in our neighborhood prohibit us building an indoor race track or a UFC octagon  in our home. As an alternative to illegal home improvements, here are some alternative activities we’ve come up with! if the weather is too crazy when we’re scheduled to pet sit or walk your dogs. We use these with your kids too.


Interactive toys: There are several commercial products that can be purchased, we have test driven several of them and use them in our home. Clicking the links below will take you sites that sell our pets’ favorites, including The Bob-O-Lot, the Kong, all of the interactive toys from Nina Ottosson, and pretty much anything on this Amazon List. The drawback of this option is the durability versus cost dilemma. If your fur kids are like mine, they destroy things pretty quickly, replacing toys regularly may get costly.

If you are a little craft savvy or subscribe to Great American Knowhow, there are some inexpensive homemade alternatives.


Snuffle Mat:

A snuffle mat consists of a rubber mat with strips of fleece tied into it. You then sprinkle your dog’s kibble or treats for them to search out. Rubber mats can be found at craft or hardware stores. Cut strips of fleece about an inch wide and 5-6 inches long. Simply tie the strips of fleece into the mat,  more strips increase the degree of difficulty in finding the treats and will keep your dog occupied longer.

Snuffle Mat

PVC Pipe Puzzle

The PVC pipe puzzle is similar in concept to the Bob-O-Lot. You fill the pipe with treats and your dog knocks it around to release treats one by one.

Its simple construction requires only a few things (found easily at hardware stores) and a small amount of handiness and a drill! Choose a length of PVC pipe of an appropriate size for your dog and living space and 2 removable end caps that fit snugly over the ends of the pipe.Measure your doggie treats or take a few with you the hardware store. Find a drill bit that will make a hole a little larger than the treat.  The last step is to drill some holes in random places around the pipe for the treats to fall through. Just a small word of caution, drilling a curved surface can be a little tricky as the bit can slide off before it bites into the pipe, so keep your hands clear. Once the holes are drilled fill it full of treats and put your end caps on! Bam! Complete! Enjoy watching Fido chase it all around the house and using that pent up energy! A picture of the finished product:

Completed PVC Pipe Toy

Completed PVC Pipe Toy

Muffin Tin with Tennis Balls

If you want to make a food puzzle for your pet that requires a zero energy and time level for yourself, try this simple idea.This is a great game for dogs that aren’t totally tennis ball crazy. Drop treats in each cup, then put  tennis balls over each treat.. Voila! Great easy game for your dog! He will manipulate the balls to get to the treats, taking time and energy to reason out how to do that. Kitties may enjoy this one as well, you may need smaller, lighter balls such as ping pong balls..

Tennis Balls & Muffin Tin

Scent Games

If you do any shopping online you might have a collection of shipping boxes. Personally, mine are stacked as tall as the ceiling and have “Amazon” stamped on them. Before being placed in your recycling bin, these boxes can be put to good use.. Take a few of the boxes and write “FOOD” on them, and “NO FOOD” on the others. Put treats only in the boxes that have “FOOD” written on them but put all the boxes on the floor.

As your dog figures out the game, put boxes inside of boxes, slightly hidden under tables,on chairs, or any safe elevated place to increase the degree of difficulty as your dog gets better at this game. My blog editor believes this is my attempt to teach dogs to read and slowly take over the world.

Enjoying hunting out those yummy treats!

Enjoying hunting out those yummy treats!

Hide & Seek

This is a perfect game for days when multiple cold hating humans are stuck inside the house. One human should hold the dog while another hides in the house. Once the hider is in place,have the human holding the dog give the “Go Find (name of person, we’ll use ‘Mom’)” cue and send her on her way to search the house for the missing human. Once she finds Mom, Mom can send her out to search for the next human. Keep the game going as long as you want! This is a favorite in our house, “Go Find Momma!” gets them all kinds of excited!

Hide n Seek


TP Tubes in a Basket

Here’s another inexpensive pet enrichment food puzzle game. Get a plastic toiletries basket or box and stand as many empty toilet paper or cut down paper towel rolls in it as you can, open ends facing up and down. Once you have enough rolls in to make things snug, sprinkle in treats. Let your pets pull out the rolls to get the treats. This one is even great for cats!

Great for cats too!

Great for cats too!


I certainly hope you find some new pet enrichment ideas that work for you, your dogs and even your cats! I know our kids certainly love the bonding time and mental stimulation. Stay warm out there!