Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hot Topic: Canine Enrichment

Providing the necessary enrichment for dogs, is simple, you can do it from home... and it can be a lifestyle.

First lets begin with this. For an average working pet owner, what does their daily routine look like:

6:00am - wake up and get ready, feed dog, but no time for a walk.
7:00am - must be out of the house
6:00pm- return home, take dog out
6:30pm - feed dog
7:00pm - go for a short walk
8:00 pm - eat dinner, catch up on house chores, and more work
9:00 pm - shower, watch the news, go to bed

Let us take a closer look at the above schedule. Calculate the number of hours a dog in this family spends sleeping.

Approximately: 21.5 hours

Now let us ask ourselves, why is it that dogs chew, bark, dig, tear up things? Why do dogs have behavioral issues? Why do people complain about their hyper dogs?

"When considering the natural behavior of most canines, it is obvious that the average pet dog receives very low levels of environmental stimulation. Most non-domestic animals spend the majority of their time foraging for food. In addition, they must seek out or construct resting areas and avoid predators and other natural hazards. Pet dogs on average spend less than 15 minutes per day eating because they do not have to forage for food. They are kept in static and often monotonous environments. The majority of dog breeds were developed for some functional purpose (guarding, herding, hunting, etc.) yet few dogs actually participate in these activities, leaving them with no outlet for often high levels of energy and stamina.
Insufficient stimulation can cause or exacerbate a number of behavior problems including hyperactivity, destructive chewing, acral lick dermatitis, attention-seeking behavior, compulsive disorders and certain forms of aggression.
Environmental enrichment cannot substitute entirely for providing dogs with outlets for heritable behavior and heavy physical exercise. It can encourage a more normal range of behaviors in the animal and serve to constructively occupy the animal’s time and aid in reducing “boredom.”
I currently recommend that dogs receive their entire daily ration of food during training or from enrichment devices. All enrichment items should be rotated so the animal does not see the same items repeatedly every day. Not all dogs will be able to participate in all the suggestions that follow. Know the dog and its propensity for destroying and/or eating toys. Certain dogs should only get certain toys while under direct supervision." (Texas Veterinary Behavior Services. Lore I. Haug, DVM)

For all those that Doglando, you can guilt free leave your dogs home to rest... they need the rest in between their visits.

Others, are you enriching your dog's lives? Are you giving them a reason to practice good normal behaviors, or are they left to practice normal not so good behaviors?

Here is how you can help your dog live a happier, healthier more friendly life:

1. Toss the food bowls. Take their meals and hide small piles of them around the house for your dog to find.

2. Use buster cube balls or roll-a-treat balls to put the food in and let them use their mind and paws to figure out how to get it out.

3. Use other enrichment toys such as the Kong and Tug-a-jug.

4. Stuff kongs with: Yogurt, carrots, apples, bananas, a little bit of honey, then freeze. You can also use cottage cheese instead of the yogurt.

5. Place food in old socks. Tie the sock up in knots and let the dog shred it apart to get to the food. No this does not teach the to eat socks!

6. Go to your local big store Walmart and look for scents in their hunting department. If you have a BASS PRO SHOP near you, they carry a variety of scents. Dip a cue tip or soak a cotton ball in the scent and rub on to a stuffed toy. Let the dogs find them and then play with them. You can put them up to rotate them.

7. Build your dog a sand box. Allow it to follow its natural desire to dig; in an appropriate place. You can even hide bully sticks or biscuits and let dog find them.

8. Find a store that specializes in holistic pet foods. Most of them carry soup bones that you can buy in bulk. Keep them frozen, and give your dog a soup bone every time you have company over... make sure the soup bone is put away once the company leaves. Available at Doglando and Groom Grub & Belly Rub.

9. Buy a waddling pool for your dog. Fill it with water and let your dog enjoy the joys of splashing around.

10. Use unsalted broth or Gatorade powder and make ice cubes for your dogs.

11. Take a rope toy, dip it in broth and then put in zip lock bag and freeze. Give it to your dog (puppies love this) to gnaw on while you are watching TV.

12. Make sure your dog has at least 15 different kinds of toys around the house. They should be of various kinds: plastic, rubber, rope, jute, cloth, stuffed, tennis balls, wool, and whatever else you can find at your local pet store. Rotate these toys out with a different set of toys every 10 days or so.

13. Deer Antlers are great chews. They don't stain, splinter or smell. Caribou Antlers are a little softer, but the dog's love them. Doglando has our own line of both, called Howlin Antlers... naturally shed from Alaska.

14. Hang a rope off a tree in your back yard and off the rope tie a tug toy or ball. Entice and encourage your dog to jump for it, and develop his toy drive that way.

15. Save your water and soda bottles (the bigger the better). Shove them with food and let your dog go at it. Make sure the cap is very tightly fastened or removed depending on your dog.

16. Get the Amazing Treat Machine. Available at Doglando as well.

17. Nina Ottosson has a variety of enrichment toys for dogs. Check them out... available at Doglando.

If you have other ideas or activities you do at home with your dog, please email us at


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