You want me to keep him quiet Doc – how do you expect me to do that!?
Environmental enrichment is a good way to control boredom, keep pets quiet when needed, and mentally challenge our pets. We have busy lives and go here and there but our pets often stay home alone. When it is nice outside, we walk our pets, which stimulates them mentally, however on those cold or rainy days we forget that they need stimulation then too. Environmental enrichment is the process of making our pets lives and living spaces more interesting and stimulating therefore decreasing boredom and problems that arise from boredom. Our pets crave stimulation just like we do. Wild animals spend the better part of their day looking for food, we give our pets food in a bowl and they eat in just a few minutes. Left unstimulated for the better part of the day they turn to barking at every little thing that the hear, chewing things that are not intended to be eaten (shoes, laundry, and even furniture), digging holes in the yard, and generally getting into trouble (think unsupervised two year old).
Food puzzles, food hidden around the house or in the yard, or food stuffed into toys makes the meal last longer. There is no reason that a dry kibble meal needs to be feed in a bowl, use it as treats throughout the day and to reward new learning. Rotating toys helps continue stimulation. Take half of your pet’s toys and put them away and rotate new ones that are out every few days – keep life more interesting. Spend time training your dog to new things, does your pet kiss you on the check on command, roll over and play dead, play “3 card monte” with treat cups, balance a treat on their nose and wait for the command to throw it in the air and eat it, or know the names of all their toys? If not, pick something new to teach your dog today.
Scent training is a great enrichment for dogs that are on exercise restriction. Begin by asking your dog which hand has the treat in it. When he picks the correct hand give him the treat, if he guesses wrong show him the empty hand and the treat in the other hand. Repeat the procedure until your pet is getting it right most of or all the time. Then try putting the treat under one of 2 or 3 plastic cups and again asking for your dog to tell you which cup has the treat. Now mix them up and play 3 card monte. This can be expanded to putting them in plastic tubs and hiding them through out the house, your dog needs to show you the correct tub – not just eat the treat. For the now exercise restricted pet continuing training with flyball or agility classes can be fun bonding time. Environmental enrichment for your pet is limited only by your imagination.