Kennel Enrichment
Keeping Dogs Happy and Healthy in a Shelter Environment
interns 031 (2)
lexington (14) (1)
ice bucket

Enrichment in Shelters

No matter how good a shelter is, it still isn’t a home. It can be a stressful environment for dogs, especially those who stay longer than two weeks. Enrichment keeps dogs relaxed, which reduces the stress-induced behaviors that are often barriers to adoption. While it’s widely accepted that enrichment benefits shelter dogs, some shelters greatly restrict the types of tools they use, and some avoid it altogether.

Shelter dogs spend the vast majority of the time in their kennels. They need a variety of physical and mental stimulation to keep them occupied, happy, healthy, and sound until they go home with adopters. 

Enrichment reduces stress, boredom, and undesired behaviors by supporting a dog’s sensory and social needs. It also adds value to your shelter dogs’ lives by teaching them basic manners and giving them the confidence to make a good impression on potential adopters. 

Unhappy, frustrated, or bored dogs will not show well in their kennels and that will put off potential adopters. Enrichment helps to counter kennel-induced behaviors by making the dogs’ environments more stimulating and challenging. Toys, puzzles, sensory games, playgroups, and other novel experiences are perfect for this.

Increase happiness and adoption rates with simple enrichment activities for your shelter dogs.

IMG_8398 (1)

Feed the senses

Stimulate a dog's Mind through their sensory needs







Kennel enrichment creates a more positive and productive shelter experience for the dogs in your care. Click below for more enrichment ideas.

DIY Kennel enrichment

Get creative with these inexpensive enrichment items

Shelter life is B-U-S-Y! We get it. It seems impossible to add another item to your daily to-do list. Enrichment can be simple, fast, and inexpensive. Remember, even the smallest changes make a big difference! 

Reach out to your community for support. You’ll find people who will donate the necessary materials for these enrichment items, as well as volunteers who will want to help make them for your dogs. 


Playgroups increase the quality of life for many shelter dogs. Socialization can be one of the most valuable forms of enrichment in a shelter. Most dogs enjoy being social, so playgroups keep them happy, but it’s also an effective way to exercise and enrich many dogs at once. 

Staff and volunteers will gain the chance to learn more about each dog’s social skills with other dogs. This important piece of information will help dogs go home faster. 

Enrich the lives of shelter dogs by giving them social time with other dogs.

Benefits of group play according to Aimee Sadler, founder of          Dogs Playing For Life (DPFL):

  • Mental and physical energy burned through intense social interaction
  • Decreased territorial behavior within the shelter
  • Decreased on-leash reactivity with other dogs
  • Increased attention and focus in training
  • Staff’s time and resources maximized
Learn More

Enrichment Toolkit

Find out more about how to implement enrichment activities into a shelter environment by visiting our Enrichment toolkit   

More Shelter Resources

AFF's Complete Resource Library