Have you ever had a friend whose house seems to change a little every time you visit? I have a friend who rearranges her furniture every six months!

It gives the place a new energy. You suddenly notice how big a room can feel. There are so many cool details that go unnoticed when things stay the same. Psychology calls this tendency to tune out routine stuff, “habituation.” When we see, hear, or smell the same thing day in, day out, it fades into the background. We simply stop noticing it. Just like that pile of items that I need to take to Goodwill that's been sitting in my dining room for a few months now. 🤦‍♀️ That’s how habituation works. Here’s a great article about habituation if you’d like to learn more.

Habituation has its good side. When we aren’t distracted by every little routine thing, we can focus on what’s important. But if nothing new EVER happens and we’re habituated to most everything around us, it can lead to a big case of BOREDOM – for us AND our pets!

So, consider this idea to bring more enrichment to you and your pet's life—TOY ROTATION! 

close up of tennis balls

What is “rotation” and how do I know my pet will like it?  

Rotation is a way of strategically changing things in your pet’s environment like pet toys or your home setup to keep their brains happily busy! Adding new pet-safe decor, rearranging your furniture, or rotating toys on a schedule helps keep things fresh and fun!

You’ll keep your dog mentally stimulated by helping them bust through habituation, using rotation. A toy becomes new again when they haven’t seen or played with it in a while. Your home becomes an exciting new place to explore when the layout has changed a bit.

dog laying on floor playing with toys
cat sitting next to ball toy

How to rotate your pet’s toys  

Rotating your dog's toys is an easy way to keep life interesting!

I love rotating toys. By rotating toys, you keep the toys from becoming old and boring. Every time you bring out that old toy after a month of being in the closet, it can be like a brand new toy for your dog, cat, or other pet. Novelty keeps things fun, enriching, and interesting.” says Cassi Jo Perez, who is a certified trainer through Victoria Stilwell Academy (VSA-CDT) and Karen Pryor Academy (KPA-CTP), owner of Midtown Mutts and a founding trainer at The Freak’n Awesome Dog Project

  • Rotate toys weekly if you can. If you have a big bin of toys, this should be pretty easy! Put the bin away in a closet and grab a few out. If a toy is constantly ignored on every trip to the play pile, maybe it’s time for it to go. 
  • Leave the favorites out. If your pet has a favorite comfort toy they carry about or sleep with, you should probably leave it out for them all the time. 
  • Make sure a variety of toys with different uses are available.
  • Some toys should be interactive, so your dog gets a very special time with YOU. By playing fetch with your dog or helping your cat play chase and leap with a wand toy, your pet can expend energy and get valuable socialization time, too. 

Consider this before bigger rotations 

Like most things, there are best practices to follow. Before hitting snooze on your pet’s consistency, consider the following:  

  • Remember that some pets might get anxious over too much sudden change.
  • Changes in your home could disrupt your pet’s daily routine. Before you take Fido's favorite bunny away, think a bit about how it will impact your dog’s life. 

Photo by Anna Dudkova on Unsplash

And KEEP that fun in rotation 

Rotation of toys and changing up your pet’s environment should add interest and excitement to your pet’s life, so, to sum up: 

  • Add new fun new elements to your pet’s life, but when making big changes, ensure some familiarity remains. 
  • Don’t rotate your dog or cat’s favorite toy, as they may draw comfort from it. 
  • Avoid changes that unnecessarily disrupt your pet’s daily routine like changing their food too quickly or giving them a lot of new treats at once.