As a behaviorist and director of an or-ganization that trains assistance dogs, I find that I am continually asked how we acquire animals and then obtain the desir-able behavior that everyone wants. Daily, our office receives calls about destructive dogs, excessive barking, dog bites, biting and plucking birds, over-active and biting & fighting cats and more.
It is important to remember that, even though pets have been a part of our lives for many years, our homes are artificial environments for all of them.
Many of the behavior problems our clients encounter can be resolved with the proper enrichment. Describing enrich-ment is not difficult. Even people need to be able to exhibit behaviors that are natu-ral for us. Nursing homes are beginning to realize that it is more enriching to have a few dining areas so that people can eat together in small family style groups, or watch television in family room settings. This fosters emotional health.
Zoos are making dramatic changes to provide enrichment, which is why you will see that even older facilities are creating natural habitats for the animals, instead of cages or glass enclosures. Many times, you will be observing animals through a one- way glass so they do not even know they are being observed. How wonderful!
Dogs, cats and birds need enrichment too. Try feeding your pet using food-dis-pensing toys. Living in nature, a lot of time and satisfaction would be derived from “working” for their food. We sug-gest an average of 5 food-dispensing toys to add variety. Try to provide your pet with interactive toys that help simulate natural behaviors. When your dog, cat or bird releases energy naturally, your furnishings are not nearly as appealing. Your pet is healthier emotionally, and you will be too.
The following is a partial list of enrich-ment items that can be used for most pets. Enrichment should be provided for all animals at least 4 times a day. Always be sure your pet is supervised when using these items. Nothing is 100 percent pet, or child safe.
• Kongs with food * Food balls • Filled marrowbones • Rope toy
• Kongs with food • Food balls • Filled marrowbones • Feather on line
• Kongs with food • Hang food balls • Seeded pinecone • Knotted rope
• Food on Logs • Mineral blocks • Browse • Boomer ball
Food for Kongs can include soft yel-low or cream cheese for dogs, and seeded sticks for birds. Food balls are food dis-pensing. Food on logs for horses can be simple sweet feed. Rope toys for dogs can be for chewing, tossing or tugging, Birds like to unknot rope. Use your imagina-tion and be sure that toys are safe ?rst, and fun second.
Debbie Winkler CPDT, AAB, CABC Director, Dog Ears and Paws Inc. 5399 Enterprise Street Eldersburg, MD 21784 410-655-2858 www.dogearsandpaws.com