Enrichment is a form of aiding a dog to simply be a dog in a controlled happy environment. Or that’s how I perceive it anyway. Dogs often like to dig, sniff, roll, rip, run, and so much more. Here I will chat about how I encourage Scotia to be a typical dog and do dog things. How I meet her needs as best I can and help her feel the most comfortable as I can in the process.
I first came across enrichment after the this situation occurred. Scotia had gotten into my hiking day pack that had a granola bar in a ziplock bag, in a zippered up pocket, while I was out. I had completely forgotten it was in there. She didn’t.
She ripped through the paper towel, napkins, got into the granola bar, and ate it all. Given my determination to be positive reinforcement only, I wasn’t angry. I simply took it as an opportunity to meet the need that wasn’t met that caused this.
Since, enrichment has been a massive part of peeling away Scotia’s shell of fear. From puzzle toys, to chew toys with food in them, to cardboard boxes with treats. Scotia doesn’t have much interest in a lot of typical dog things: stuffies, squeakers, tug of war, frisbees, balls. However, she is very food motivated. I have used this to my advantage in the last year and a half. We have acquired many different feeding tools such as kongs, slow feeding bowls, and lick mats. She has a ball that has holes in the side that she has to throw and roll around to get treats out of it. She has had a few different puzzle feeders that she has to open or move things to get the food out of it. Although the puzzle feeders are a lot of fun, they can be quite expensive and only last until the dog has figured out the puzzle. This is why I usually use other household items: cereal boxes, egg cartons, clean cardboard milk cartons, toilet paper/paper towel rolls, packing paper, news paper etc. It’s pretty easy to create and it’s fun for both of us. I love watching Scotia dig into something and tear apart something I paid no extra money for.
Here are a few of the enrichment tools I use with Scotia regularly. The motion of licking, slows a dogs heart rate and it also takes longer for her to eat her food. The orange mats and the blue slow feeder bowl accomplish that very well. Most of her other puzzle-type feeders do the same along with adding some mental stimulation. If I freeze Scotia’s raw food into/on any of these, it can take her up to an hour to eat a meal. This has been a huge help in keeping her calm and distracted when I haven’t had time to walk her or when I am leaving her at home alone for a while.
The orange ball, holds treats that fall out when Scotia rolls it or tosses it. Without the treats, Scotia isn’t really into interacting with it; however, it does help her in getting more interested in play.
The green ball with large holes, I usually stuff with crumpled up news paper or packing paper with treats inside them. Scotia will then roll the ball around and try to rip out the pieces of paper to get the treats out. Yet another good pass time!
Although this is a tool I have really valued with Scotia, there are still negative components. For example, this advent calendar my mom made for me. It was individually wrapped sections of a puzzle. Key word: was. Scotia thought it was hers and tore through it.
Luckily she didn’t have any issues from it, but I was pretty bummed. Despite having a few occurrences like this, enrichment has aided Scotia in her comfort in the world. She has grown so much and this is just one of the tools that has helped her get to where she is today.
All this goes to say, I love enrichment. It has helped Scotia stay calm when needed. It has helped me distract her when she wants something fun to do. And on top of everything, she’s tired when she’s done! Enrichment is an incredible tool that can be used to meet any dogs needs and allow for a more well rounded pup, that’s chewing on useless recycling instead of shoes or couches.