What do we mean by “enrichment”?
Enrichment is a term more commonly used with regards to the keeping of captive wild animals, particularly in zoos, where it has long been understood that both physical and mental stimulation are important aspects of animal welfare that can significantly impact quality of life. It is only within recent years that these well-established principles have made their way into the more mainstream consciousness of pet owners.
So what exactly IS enrichment? Commonly termed “environmental enrichment” or “behavioural enrichment”, it is a principle of animal husbandry that seeks to enhance the quality of animal care by providing the environmental stimuli necessary for optimal mental and physical wellbeing. The techniques used are intended to stimulate the animals senses in a similar way to how they would be stimulated in the wild. Enrichment can be provided in many different forms, often limited only by the imagination of the provider!
Engaging your dog’s senses using enrichment techniques provides an outlet for their natural drives, allowing them to express natural behaviours that will improve their wellbeing and lead to a happier, calmer, and more engaged dog. These techniques can be as simple as scattering bits of food in the garden for them to sniff and “forage” for! Food is one of the primary motivators in a dog’s life, and so it is an extremely useful tool both for training and for providing enrichment opportunities. This has led many people to ditch the traditional food bowl and find more novel ways of feeding their dogs, using products such as puzzle-feeders, snuffle-mats and Kongs to make meal-times more exciting and enrich their dog’s lives.
Many dogs retain their keen predatory desire to chase, so this is another behaviour that can be utilised for enrichment purposes – chaser toys, that consist of a furry toy on the end of a very long handle, enable you to engage in fun, fast-paced chase games with your dog!
As a professional dog walker I hope to offer more to your dog than a quick plod around the block (although the different sights, sounds and smells can still be good enrichment!). I like to keep a “bag of tricks” in my van, filled with items I can use to stimulate your dog’s senses so that they get a little bit more out of their walks and visits. From snuffle-mats and puzzle feeders, to simple cardboard boxes, and of course plenty of treats, I’m sure I’ll have something your dog will love!