Budget Friendly Enrichment Options

Hi, I’m Ellen, and I have a RIDICULOUS amount of dog toys. I mean, after all, I need to test things to be able to provide instructions for my clients, right?

At least that’s what I tell myself. I know the draw of the new shiny dog toy. That new hot puzzle or foraging toy is all the rage on social media. But I also know that many of these toys get shelved in my house for more budget-friendly, and/or bandwidth-friendly options. 

So, this week, I wanted to share some common alternatives we use in our house that are budget-friendly alternatives to store-bought options.

Remember, enrichment is about meeting all of an animal’s needs. Since these are things we do in my house, these activities are geared toward meeting Griffey, Laika, and my needs. And to be honest, some of these may be more enriching for me than for them 😀


Stuffed Toys Alternatives

Y’all, I have little destruction machines in my house. Stuffed toys are skinned, dissected, shredded, and de-stuffed in a matter of minutes. See Exhibit A: 

And, while my partner and I enjoy getting typical “dog toys” for our pups, and letting them destroy to their heart’s content, it isn’t financially feasible for us to do all the time. 

So, instead, we turn to our recycling. Cardboard boxes, packing paper, and paper bags are awesome for dogs who need to shred and destroy and are often things people already have in the home. Plus, your dogs are helping you “break down your recycling” before you take it up to the curb!


And for pups that might have food allergies, or eat diets that don’t mix well with paper, you can always use a frozen food puzzle, or their favorite toy!

And for dogs that can’t have paper products, while not free, I have found toys like this one are great! It may not be free, but you can use it over, and over again!


Chewing Options

This is one of those areas where it may pay to pay, and make sure to clear any items you give your dog with your vet. Dental health is a big deal!

As part of our dog’s daily chewing routine, they get vet-approved dental chews and vet-approved veggies. To be fair, veggies are also things that we eat regularly, so nothing new is needed! 



We also lean on softer chewing options that still provide a sturdy “mouth-feel”, like Griffey shows below: 




We talk about sniffing for dogs all the time, so you’ve probably seen some of our go-to suggestions to promote sniffing.

You can check out this Training Challenge about “Find it” and this blog on scatter feeding for some additional details. 

My go-to is a combination of “find it” and scatter feeding. The less stuff I need to involve in this one, the easier it is for me, the human to execute. 

And, even just taking the time to let your dog sniff packages that come into your house, or your clothes when you get home can provide them a great opportunity to gather information about the world outside their walls. 


Get a Little Mental Exercise

Learning together is a fantastic activity that gives your brain and theirs a workout. In a few short training sessions (2-3 minutes), you can make incredible progress with your dog on something, or even just have a little fun! 

You can focus on something for paw or nail care. 

Or teach them to close the doors you may leave cracked. 

Or teach them to “Reach for the sky”.


Perhaps teaching them to back up would be helpful.


Or to stand between your legs.

The options are endless when you use your imagination! 


Spend Time Together

Dogs are a social species, and so are humans! Many of us got our dogs looking for a companion to join us on this adventure we call life, and sometimes that adventure gets a bit… hectic.

But enrichment doesn’t require you to be doing *something*. 

Taking a beat and finding ways to spend intentional time together can be good for both you and your pet. What this looks like will look different for each family. Sometimes that is a short snuggle session on the couch, sometimes it’s a mindful walk through the local park, sometimes it’s just holding their toy while they have a little fun. 


Now what? 

  • Have a little fun with your pet! Trial and eval some of these options and see if they are enriching for your pet or for you! You may find a new activity to add to your rotation. 
  • And I invite you to come to check out Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast where we talk about all things enrichment! 

Happy training,