Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Enrichment: Cognitive

Last week I came across The Shape of Enrichment, an organization focused on enrichment, primarily for zoological settings. One of the pages had this nifty flow chart about types of enrichment.

Introduction: Toys
Social Enrichment

Food Dispensing Toys
We know all about food dispensing toys. Crystal and Maisy have a fabulous post about these toys. Having a variety of toys will allow you to rotate. Some types you can make harder by stuffing the toy with balls or stuffed toys or crumpled paper. If it's a bit harder to get the food to come out, your dog will be more challenged. Different types of kibble will come out in different ways.

Training Sessions
My favorite thing of course! I've probably said it a million times, but this year at the Midwest Vet Conference we had the usual talks on puppies and problem prevention, but also several talks on senior pet behavior issues. And a constant was that we need to continue challenging our seniors as a way to prevent or slow cognitive decline. So... puppies or old dogs and everyone in between. Get some training done. This can on occasion be running through the behaviors your dog knows, but also make those skills harder or teach new behaviors.

If you're having trouble coming up with new things, get a book about a dog activity you don't participate in. Or better yet, sign up for a class.

Novel Experiences
Like we talked about in part I, variety is key. Experiencing new things in and of itself can be an enrichment exercise. Think about scents, foods, and different shaped items. Give your dog a whole fruit or vegetable (with supervision!), and watch as he interacts with it. You can get various animal scents at camping-hunting type stores. Or get pet-store bedding or bedding from pets belonging to friends. Pick up a few boxes at the grocery store (...note some types of bugs live in cardboard... maybe this is an outside game?...).

Soon to come: Housing/Habitat Enrichment

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