Environmental enrichment is an important part of daily life. Dogs require more than food, water, and a clean home to stay healthy. Animals need to be physically as well as mentally stimulated.
Enrichment can be divided into 4 groups: social, sensory, physical, and food.
Here is an example… Imagine that you are sitting in your room, feeling a little bored, and you suddenly notice a strange new something hanging from your ceiling. Something brightly colored, kind of round, with - could it be - a snickers bar inside? Chances are you'd be figuring out a way to check out this new thing pretty fast. Could you stand on a desk or chair, do you need a ladder, could you knock it down? You'd be using your natural human problem solving skills to try to figure out what this new thing was and what to do about it. If a scientist had placed this strange thing on your ceiling in order to get you to think and interact with your environment, she would have given you a form of environmental enrichment.
The basic goal of environmental enrichment is to get your dog to interact with their environment and use their natural skills and behaviors. Dogs that are raised in kennels don't have the same opportunities for physical and mental stimulation that I provide for my dogs. Enrichment helps keep life interesting by presenting them with challenges and new things to explore.
Here are a few tips and pointers to help enrich your new puppies life and the things we do for our dogs.
Social: Social enrichment is achieved by letting all of our dogs interact with one another, also introducing the puppies to the other adults helps with socialization. Other animals such as cats are great for this too.
Sensory: Sensory enrichment includes auditory, tactile, and visual enrichment. For auditory we use a stereo to play music or talk radio to get them used to different and sometimes distracting sounds. Tactile enrichment can be achieved while grooming your dog. Visual enrichment is achieved by what our dogs can see around the house, like a mirror or television.
Physical: Physical enrichment encourages the animal to exercise its body as well as its mind. We use toys like balls, kongs, and other toys that can be stuffed with treats, scented, or presented to the animal as is. Good toys will encourage the dogs to manipulate behavior, chase or fetch things, even pounce. Any of these interactions keep the dog’s active, which in turn builds muscle, coordination, and may encourage social behaviors.
Food: Food enrichment is typically any food item that is either presented in an enriching manner or a food item that is not a part of the animal’s daily diet (treat). Regular diet items can be frozen in ice cube trays using water, juice, or broth (depending on the animal’s taste), Sometimes we will chop treats up and scatter them around, toss them into a pool (we have a little kiddy pool they love to play in), hide them, or put them inside a favorite toy. Treats are enriching in themselves, but can also be presented in the same ways listed above. They love peanut butter and milk bones. Food enrichment is one of the most commonly used forms of enrichment since it typically stimulates social interactions, physical activity, and an array of senses used to seek and consume the food item. Food items and treats are also used for positive reinforcement and behavioral conditioning.