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Unleashing a World of Benefits: Implementing Environmental Enrichment for Dogs

Environmental enrichment for dogs (Canis familiaris) has many positive benefits regardless if the “environment” is a rescue, home, or laboratory.

Recent research has confirmed what many of us have observed with dogs in our care. Dogs are happier, healthier, and calmer when provided with proper enrichment. Even kennel operators can offer enrichment as this Purdue University enrichment guide explains. The following is a summary of the latest thinking on effective canine enrichment practices.

A word about the importance of environmental enrichment

As animal professionals, we recognize the importance of catering to the physical and psychological needs of the canines under our care. While ensuring proper nutrition, sanitation, and veterinary care forms the foundation of good animal welfare, environmental enrichment offers an additional dimension by promoting optimal physical and mental well-being. This translates into better behavior, health and even experimental outcomes.

A 2022 pilot study set out to see the impact of seven types of enrichment activities on the behavior of ten assistance dogs undergoing training. Enrichment included conspecific play, time in a dog “playhouse”, and enrichment toys. The study evaluated dog behavior pre and post enrichment. The eight-week study indicated that stress behavior was significantly reduced when dogs interacted with handlers with tug of war toys.

Jolly Pets Tree Tugger


Another study research project studied the effect of feeding puzzle enrichment on kenneled dogs. Besides less stereotypic behavior, fur samples taken before and after enrichment indicated stress hormones reduction after using feeding puzzles like the Lickin’ Layers device.

Lickin’ Layers Dog Puzzle Brain


Enrichment benefits dogs kept under laboratory conditions. A 2008 study evaluated the response of dogs with and without the opportunity to interact with Kong extreme rubber toys stuffed with treats. The researchers found that playing with the Kong toy reduced barking episodes, improved appetitive behavior, and provided exercise opportunities for the caged dogs.

kong goodie ribbon with dog
Kong Goodie Ribbon


Practical benefits to canine environmental enrichment

Perhaps you do not want to sift through complex behavior studies and just want to know more about the positive effects of adding enrichment products to your dog’s world. We understand! Here are the real-world benefits of canine environmental enrichment!

 Boredom busters

Enrichment goes beyond mere entertainment. It is a strategic approach designed to stimulate their senses, encourage natural behaviors, and provide them with meaningful challenges. Bored dogs are anxious and generally unhappy. High-quality enrichment devices alleviate this type of stress.

Enhanced well-being

Enrichment reduces stress in dogs, leading to an improved emotional state, reduced anxiety and frustration, and a reduction in stereotypic behaviors like barking, chewing, and digging. This translates to a calmer environment for both dogs and handlers.

Cognitive stimulation

Enrichment toys like… cater to a dog’s natural curiosity by providing cognitive challenges. Food puzzles, scent work, and interactive toys engage their problem-solving skills, promoting mental health.

Kong Biscuit Ball


Stronger human-animal bond

Implementing and engaging in enrichment activities with dogs allows for positive interaction and bonding with humans. Games of fetch, tug of war, and even walks foster a deeper connection between caregiver and canine.

Fido Super Tugger


One size does not fit all dogs

The beauty of canine enrichment lies in its adaptability. Activities and toys can be customized to cater to individual needs, age, and physical capabilities. For energetic breeds, interactive games and outdoor exploration might be ideal, while for timid dogs, puzzle feeders and scent work can build confidence. We can even provide a treadmill for your pup.

Mazee Puzzle Play


Canine Treadmill


Safety first!

Ensure all enrichment products are safe and appropriate for the individual dog. Inexpensive toys are often poorly made and use potentially harmful materials. All of our enrichment products are manufactured of the highest quality materials and safe when used as intended.

Summing up canine enrichment

By actively participating canine environmental enrichment, we can go beyond providing basic care and truly enhance the lives of the dogs in our care. It does not matter if your canines are working dogs (military, hunting, law enforcement), personal assistants, companions, or even aiding in medical science, they will benefit from enrichment activities and products.


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The Remarkable History of Huskies as Working Dogs

The Siberian Husky, a majestic and energetic breed renowned for its striking appearance and unwavering loyalty, has a storied history as a working dog that spans centuries.

Originally hailing from the harsh Siberian region of northeastern Russia, the husky’s journey from humble beginnings to worldwide fame is a testament to their exceptional intelligence, endurance, and indomitable spirit.

The origins of the Siberian Husky can be traced back to the indigenous Chukchi people of Siberia.

These nomadic tribes relied heavily on sled dogs to survive in the unforgiving Arctic climate. The dogs were essential for transportation, hunting, and even as companions. Through a process of selective breeding, the Chukchi cultivated a breed that could withstand harsh conditions, pull heavy loads, and maintain a friendly temperament. The Chukchi people treated the dogs as family members. The dogs shared their food and slept with them for warmth. The close-knit relationship between humans and huskies was crucial for survival in such an extreme environment.


In the early 20th century, Siberian Huskies caught the attention of the world when they played a significant role in the 1925 “Great Race of Mercy,” also known as the Nome Serum Run. An outbreak of diphtheria struck the town of Nome, Alaska, and the only way to obtain the life-saving serum was to transport it over 600 miles from Anchorage to Nome. The serum was transported by a relay of mushers and their teams of Siberian Huskies, covering the treacherous terrain in freezing temperatures to deliver the serum in record time. The heroic efforts of these teams saved countless lives and firmly established the Siberian Husky’s reputation as a reliable and resilient sled dog.


As transportation methods like snowmobiles and airplanes became more common, the need for working sled dogs diminished.

However, the Husky’s extraordinary qualities were recognized beyond their traditional roles. Their endurance, intelligence, and friendly demeanor made them ideal candidates for search and rescue missions and exploration expeditions.


During World War II, the U.S. Army established the Arctic Search and Rescue Unit. The Siberian Husky, along with other northern breeds, played a crucial role in these military operations. They proved invaluable in locating downed pilots and assisting in various rescue missions.


In the 1920s, people from different parts of the world were captivated by the breed’s beauty, loyalty, and hardworking nature. Enthusiasts began breeding them in other countries. As the breed’s popularity grew, they transitioned from primarily working dogs to beloved family pets and show dogs.


Today, Huskies are cherished as wonderful family pets in addition to working dogs.

Many people engage them in recreational dog sledding and skijoring (a sport where a person is pulled on skis by a dog or dogs). Additionally, Huskies participate in competitive sled dog racing events, like the iconic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.


Huskies are highly intelligent and active dogs that require various forms of enrichment to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Providing enrichment is essential to prevent boredom, reduce destructive behaviors, stress, and maintain their overall well-being as this Purdue University document explains. Here are some popular forms of enrichment used for Huskies.

Otto Environmental can provide these time-tested canine enrichment products for your dogs.

  • Huskies have lots of energy and require regular exercise. Long walks, running, hiking, or engaging them in dog ball play can help burn off their excess energy and keep them physically fit. We recommend Jive Balls and the Kong Goomz Footballs because they can take rough play.
  • Puzzle toys, interactive feeders, and treat-dispensing toys, like the West Paw Toppl are excellent options to stimulate their minds (video). These toys challenge Huskies to figure out how to get the treats, which provides cognitive enrichment and prevents boredom.
  • Huskies have an exceptional sense of smell, and scent games tap into this natural ability. Hide treats around the house or in the yard, and encourage them to use their nose to find them.
  • Huskies are known for their strong chewing instinct. Providing durable chew toys not only keeps their teeth healthy but also gives them an appropriate outlet for their chewing needs. Our exclusive Zigg and Zoy range of chewable enrichment toys are favorites with canines of all breeds.
  • Many Huskies love water! The Kong Aqua will engage them with water games, which is an excellent form of physical exercise.
  • During hot weather, you can make frozen treats by filling a Kong Wishbone with peanut butter or yogurt and freezing it. Our Chilly Penguin is also a favorite “frozen treat” enrichment toy. The process of licking and chewing the frozen treat is entertaining and keeps the dogs cool.

The history of the Siberian Husky as working dogs is a tale of endurance, loyalty, and adaptability.

Today, they continue to hold a special place in our hearts, captivating us with their striking appearance and loving personalities. Be sure to browse our extensive line of canine enrichment products designed to enhance your dog’s life.

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The Benefits of Ball-Style Enrichment Products

There’s something fun and exciting about rolling, throwing, and catching a ball.

Maybe you’ve played fetch with a dog or watched a cat bat a ball around. The truth is many animals, both exotic and domestic, obtain entertainment and comfort with ball enrichment devices. Balls facilitate exercise, exploration, interaction with the environment and other animals, and can also be a bond-forming between animals and caregivers. We have ball-style environmental enrichment products for all sizes of animals ranging from mice to hoof stock. Keep in mind when it comes to enrichment, the only limit is your imagination. A tough dog ball works with pigs, horses, and primates. A tiny bird ball can be used with small cats and even rodents like mice and rats.

The Jolly Ball Push-N-Play was designed to be an indestructible dog ball. These balls hold up to fetching, chewing, and rough play. They even float! That makes the Jolly Ball ideal for pigs, zebras, wolves, and primates ranging from apes to macaques. The Texas Biomedical Research Institute recommends the use of balls for primate manipulative enrichment. In particular, hard plastic balls, like the Jolly Ball, are recommended.

Jolly Ball Push-N-Play

Feeder balls, like the Stubbs England Horsey Ball, have proven to be effective enrichment with a variety of animals like zebras, horses, pigs, wolves, coyotes and other foraging animals.

The Horsey Ball is a “dribble feeder.” The idea is to load the ball with appropriate biscuit or kibbled foods. As the device is rolled, nudged, or handled, food is slowly dispensed. This multisensory enrichment using treat-based puzzle-solving has proven effective with swine, primates, and bears. Treat-dispensing balls have even helped with captive walruses!

Stubbs England Horsey Ball

Research continues to show that enrichment is beneficial and even essential for small animal health in zoo, shelter, and research settings. Soft ball products like the Ferret Sport Ball are easy for animals like mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small mammals to nudge, carry, roll and nestle. The Atomic Nut Ball is an all-wood toy designed to be chewable. This satisfies the desire of rabbits and other small animals to gnaw and chew, preventing boredom and stereotypical behavior in enclosures and petting displays.

Atomic Nut Ball
Ferret Sport Ball

Don’t forget the birds!

Conures, African grays, cockatoos, cockatiels, and other parrots love to manipulate, taste, rattle, and tug on small balls. Foraging balls provide puzzle-solving activities with a food reward and have been shown to be effective with parrots. The hanging Buffet Ball provides parrots with needed visual, tactile, and taste stimuli.

Buffet Ball

Caring for large animals? They’ll benefit from large balls!

Amber Barnes, writing about horse enrichment for, recommends rolling enrichment devices coupled with food dispensing. Sheep, goats, cattle, large primates, and bears will benefit from products like the huge 30” Planet Ball. It’s big, tough, and easy to roll!

30″ Planet Ball

No matter what type of animals you have in your facility, there are ball-style enrichment devices that improve animal health, quality of life, and research outcomes.

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What’s the deal with KONG?

You probably recognize the KONG brand of dog toys. Did you know KONG has been producing enrichment products for exotic and companion animals since 1976?

KONG is recognized by animal professionals around the world as a manufacturer of exceptional enrichment products for all kinds of animals. Whether in a zoo, home, laboratory, or shelter, these products will help animals feel secure in their environment.

KONG products have been the subject of primate enrichment research studies and found to provide effective enrichment through novel product design. The Texas Biomedical Research Institute recommends KONG products like the Hanging Rubber Forager and Stuff a Ball, in their Primate Enrichment Manual. But the Kong enrichment products go beyond primates.

hanging red rubber foraging device
Hanging KONG Classic

Amber Banes, writing about enrichment for horses for the Open Sanctuary Project, says “Add things they can manipulate with their hooves, like balls, and things they can toss around with their mouths.” KONG manufactures durable balls suitable for horses and other hooved animals. Research indicates that horses and other animals fare better when they are offered grazing variety and challenges. Slow-feeding reduced stereotypical behavior. The KONG Zoo Classic is designed to make it easy to provide this form of enrichment.

kong zoo classic gallery with sku
KONG Zoo Classic (3 Styles)

You’re familiar with KONG dog chew toys but they’re great for all canines. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (Phoenix, AZ) found that KONG toys stuffed with treats helped dogs stay calm while in quarantine. You can use the same technique for all canids: like wolves, jackals, and foxes. Whether in an enclosure, during transport, while in veterinary care, or when acclimating a new arrival.

Perdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science notes that canine boredom is a real issue and can be countered with enrichment products stuffed with treats, tossing a ball during human-canine interaction, and even tug of wars with other canines. It’s also important to periodically change the enrichment toys to keep the animals interested and challenged.

We can’t forget about cats, large or small!

Don’t be fooled by their stoic behavior. Unhappy felines can appear calm but have elevated stress hormones. The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM) have published the Environmental Needs Guidelines for cats. Larger cats in zoo and park environments have similar enrichment needs. All have a desire to stalk, pounce, chew and explore interesting scents, tastes, and textures. KONG has created a full range of enrichment products for any sized cat. The Nibble Crtitters Catnipillar is ideal for small cats. The Duratreat Ring is a food puzzle that you fill with interesting scents and tastes and can be enjoyed by larger cats.

There is no limit to where you’ll be able to use KONG products in your animal care facility. Chickens and other birds can become stressed if not provided with an interesting environment. One of the ways to keep birds happy is through the use of enrichment toys like colorful balls and feeding puzzles.

chickens playing with kong genius leo
KONG Genius Leo

No matter what animals your caring for KONG has safe, durable products that will fit right into your enrichment program.


YouTube video of KONG manufacturing:

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Customer Favorite: Kong Quest Wishbone

dog excited by kong quest wishbone

Like most animals, dogs need to play. It is how they socialize, explore their environment and burn off excess energy.

A good game of fetch or tug-of-war can be great fun for you and your pup, but there are also a few games that only dogs can play alone – like the Kong Quest Wishbone.  

kong quest wishboneDogs that don’t have the opportunity to play with different toys or people can get bored quickly and begin to exhibit problem behaviors, like anxiety, chewing, digging, jumping up, biting, and even depression. As with all animals, it’s essential to have a variety of dog toys.  

Dog toys like the Kong Quest Wishbone have different functions, and to get the most fun out of your dog toys, you can also stuff them and freeze them for your pup and keep some other toys hidden away for later on.  

Dog toy trunks come in handy for this, especially if you’re like us and enjoy perusing the pet product sections, whether for dogs, horses, cats, or livestock. 

The Kong Quest Wishbone is an excellent toy for dogs that like to chew. It’s crafted from non-toxic, durable rubber and has a hollow center that you can fill with treats as a tasty reward. The Kong Quest Wishbone is also great for interactive playtime. You can hold one end of the toy while your dog chews on the other or use it to play tug-of-war. 

The Kong Quest Wishbone is available in two sizes: small and large, and is crafted in a few colors like purple (large breeds) and orange (small size).  

Kong toys are known for their durability and quality, and the Kong Quest Wishbone is no exception. It is made from high-quality materials and is built to last. It’s also dishwasher proof for an easy wash!  

If you are looking for a fun pet toy that will keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated, the Kong Quest Wishbone is a good chew interactive dog toy. Here’s the takeaway: 

The Wishbone is a treat dispensing toy with loads of personality! 

  • Features a unique design to challenge and engage 
  • Cleans teeth and helps with teething 
  • Allows for high-value treats and kibble insertion for fun, interactive play. 
  • Crafted in assorted colors 
  • Suitable for all breeds and life stages 

Fill the Kong Quest Wishbone with your dog’s favorite treats or kibble, and watch them have a blast trying to get to the goodies inside. Not only is the Kong Quest Wishbone a great way to keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated, but it also helps to clean their teeth and massage their gums.  

The takeaway with this interactive dog toy is that it keeps your pup entertained while also being suitable for their health! The Kong Quest can be helpful for the following: 

  • Separation anxiety 
  • Puppy teething 
  • Boredom 
  • Canine depression 
  • Excessive barking 
  • Noise sensitivity 
  • Minimize destructive behaviors 
  • Anxious behaviors 
  • Mental stimulation 
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder 
  • Recouping from surgery 
  • Suitable for rescues and shelters to ease boredom and stress 

All-in-all, remember that dogs feel a bunch of emotions just like us. From boredom, sadness, anxiety, and stress to excitement and a need for play, our interaction with our dogs via interactive dog toys allows for further bonding and a deeper understanding of our dogs.  

Ultimately, interactive dog toys like the Kong Quest Wishbone help to create a well-rounded dog that is happy and healthy. Also, they are less likely to develop problem behaviors when combined with positive training, dog sports, pet vacays, and more.