Schizophrenia is a devastating brain disorder caused by a complex and heterogeneous combination of genetic and environmental factors. In order to develop effective new strategies to prevent and treat schizophrenia, valid animal models are required which accurately model the disorder, and ideally provide construct, face and predictive validity. The cognitive deficits in schizophrenia represent some of the most debilitating symptoms and are also currently the most poorly treated. Therefore it is crucial that animal models are able to capture the cognitive dysfunction that characterizes schizophrenia, as well as the negative and psychotic symptoms. The genomes of mice have, prior to the recent gene-editing revolution, proven the most easily manipulable of mammalian laboratory species, and hence most genetic targeting has been performed using mouse models. Importantly, when key environmental factors of relevance to schizophrenia are experimentally manipulated, dramatic changes in the phenotypes of these animal models are often observed. We will review recent studies in rodent models which provide insight into gene–environment interactions in schizophrenia. We will focus specifically on environmental factors which modulate levels of experience-dependent plasticity, including environmental enrichment, cognitive stimulation, physical activity and stress. The insights provided by this research will not only help refine the establishment of optimally valid animal models which facilitate development of novel therapeutics, but will also provide insight into the pathogenesis of schizophrenia, thus identifying molecular and cellular targets for future preclinical and clinical investigations.