Friday, July 23, 2010

Canine Enrichment?

I don't hear much about Enrichment with regards to domestic (pet) animals. Perhaps that is because we assume they are already enriched with our presence(?) or at least by being in our homes, although we do talk about enriching children's learning and experiences...

I tried to look up the definition for Enrichment (as in Behavioral Enrichment or Enrichment Activity) and found:

Enrichment is “… a process for improving or enhancing animal environments and care within the context of their inhabitants’ behavioral biology and natural history. It is a dynamic process in which changes to structures and husbandry practices are made with the goal of increasing behavioral choices available to animals and drawing out their species-appropriate behaviors and abilities, thus enhancing animal welfare (AZA/BAG 1999)."

(I kept looking...)

Enrichment is an "animal husbandry principle that seeks to enhance the quality of captive animal care by identifying and providing the environmental stimuli necessary for optimal psychological and physiological wellbeing" Shepherdson, D.J. (1998)

(Right... ummm... perhaps we should just move on...)

Wikipedia, ever practical, says "Most enrichment stimulus can be divided into six groups" and lists them as:

  • Sensory: visual, olfactory, auditory, tactile, and taste
  • Feeding: Different methods of food presentation encourage animals to think and work for their food as they would in the wild
  • Manipulative Toys: items that can be manipulated in some way via hands, feet, tail, horns, head, mouth etc. simply for investigation and exploratory play
  • Environmental: enhance the animals' zoo habitat with opportunities that change or add complexity to the environment
  • Social: the opportunities to interact with other animals
  • Training: training animals with positive reinforcement

... and if you go browsing on various Zoo web sites you'll often find a page that lists various animals' enrichment programs, or how enrichment is done. Disney has a nice site for the average reader, including some simple examples (like THIS ONE for an Anteater.)

Ok - enough background, what about my captive animals (the four-footed ones)?
  • Sensory: I think they really love the texture/hardness/give of the Lacrosse balls, the softness of the woolie toys, plus they get to play "Find it!" every day.
  • Feeding: They certainly get a large variety of foods, from kibble to cookies to carrots. Peanut butter is a crowd pleaser, as are hot dogs, deli-chicken, and cottage choose. But the mode of feeding isn't at all imaginative (bowl/fingers) and has nothing to do with "the wild".
  • Manipulative Toys: They have plush toys that they love to carry around, toys they like to find, toys they get to eat (chewies), toys to chew (Lacrosse balls make AWESOME chew toys), and toys for playing tug. They get to rip apart boxes/bags (frequently!) and sometimes I put things into the boxes/bags to make it even more fun.
  • Environmental: Their environment is my environment, but as they don't use a computer, watch TV, or have their own set of earbuds, their environment is probably lacking. There is a yard, which they are free to go into, but other than to get rid of the zoomies they rarely go there. They do get walked a couple miles each day, but that's about it. 
  • Social: So long as human's count, we're good. These are house dogs, who live and sleep with us. Plus they have each other for company, and they really do seem to enjoy being and playing together. They also get out to the pet store and sometimes to meetings or classes.
  • Training: Yes! They love training (class) time, and they get at least 5 "formal" sessions a week. They also get countless mini-sessions as an excuse to toss them a cookie.

If I was to give myself a grade?
  • Sensory: C
  • Feeding: C-
  • Manipulative Toys: B-
  • Environmental: C
  • Social: A
  • Training: A-/B+
Obviously, there is much room for improvement...

Speaking of Enrichment - below is the Word Cloud (using Wordle) for my previous post, "Find It!". Words like "boxes, squirrel, hiding, hunter, squeaky, and activity" give me hope...

1 comment:

Katie, meeka and maizey said...

hey Kathleen, love the idea of enrichment! I think there are so many people who do feel as if just living in our homes is enriching enough for our 4legged friends, but is that really enough for them? I know I don't think so and I clearly have room for improvement!

I think I fixed Meeka's trick video on
It's not nearly in the league of your flix, but it was fun.:)