This is an excerpt from Linda’s new book, Do No Harm™ Dog Training and Behavior Manual, available to download here.
Provide enrichment for your dog with ongoing training, games, toys, and jobs for your dog in order to improve the quality of life and to enhance your relationship. Meet your dog’s social needs with regular walks, outings, and activities. Consider participating in dog sports to provide novelty and to increase your dog’s confidence.
By April Bove-Rothwell
The overall goal of enrichment is to increase the behavioral repertoire of an animal. Enrichment goes far beyond just encouraging natural behaviors; it has the power to modify behavior when carefully planned and executed. Specific goals may include increasing natural behaviors like food foraging in order to increase activity. Observing and evaluating your dog’s response to enrichment is crucial to assess if it is meeting the goals of a behavior modification program.
Environmental enrichment is an effective behavior modification tool that is often overlooked. Providing a stimulating environment enhances the physical and psychological well-being of an animal by allowing them to express the range of behaviors typical of their species. Environmental enrichment may significantly alleviate boredom or stress, as well as prevent or modify maladaptive behaviors caused by boredom, stress, or fear. It both passes time and expends energy. Enrichment allows dogs to express natural behaviors appropriately with games and enrichment devices instead of the undesirable behaviors, such as incessant barking or chewing inappropriate items.
Environmental enrichment can be categorized by each of the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. An enrichment program should aim to utilize all of the senses in various combinations.
Food is a very popular method of enrichment. Presenting food in a variety of feeders, locations and times throughout the day is very enriching. A dog’s diet can be easily presented in a variety of ways (whole, chopped, frozen, blended), hidden in different locations, or scattered to promote foraging.
Tactile enrichment provides dogs with different surfaces or substrates with which to interact. Puzzle feeders are a tactile enrichment that increase foraging time and enhance problem-solving behaviors.
Changing the locations and times dogs spend in different areas of the home adds variety to a dog’s day. Exploring areas where other dogs have been allows dogs to smell objects used by others. They may also benefit from increased visual access to other dogs, but need to be able to retreat if desired.
Enrichment works because it influences behavior, even when we are not present. In-home environments may become predictable and boring, especially when there are behavior problems that make it difficult to bring the dog outside. A variety of enrichment items should be provided and can include interactive food-based toys like stuffed Kongs®, sand boxes with hidden toys for digging, games like hide and seek (with you or their toys), nose work with items like scented boxes, and tug toys to encourage play behavior. Enrichment gives dogs choice and control, which tends to increase overall welfare and the likelihood of thriving.
Enrichment, along with positive training, helps dogs cope with the unnatural human world we thrust upon them and increases their physical and mental well-being, so they can live happy lives.
Adapted from BARKS from the Guild (2016) “Living In A Human World” by April Bove-Rothwell
The Do No Harm™ Dog Training Manual was designed as my own personal guide for teaching basic manners classes, and evolved into a reference manual for my private behavior consultations. Created as a practical guide for either or both training formats, it is also helpful for pet parents who want an inside look at dog training and behavior, as well as for those who seek force-free solutions for specific problems. Written with love for the “heartbeats at our feet”.