Sunday, September 19, 2010

Enrichment: Purpose

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.

Our last piece of enrichment variety is not listed on the 'Shape of Enrichment' chart, but definitely deserves a mention with our dogs. A friend wanted to know where, for the lack of a better term, 'drives' fall into the chart. I didn't know. So I gave up trying to wedge them elsewhere.

Breeds were originally developed for a specific purpose. Even if our dogs have not been used for that purpose in more recent years, they are physically and likely mentally able to do at least parts of the task. Not all of them necessarily want to or can... but where applicable, it can be enjoyable for both dogs and humans to experience parts of that original purpose.

Look into the history of your dog's breed, or the best-guesses if you have a mix. Give your dog opportunities to get to try out those activities or an appropriate modern variation.

Golden retrievers were originally gun dogs, to bring back fallen birds. While that wasn't something I needed done, or a type of competition I'm very interested in... We still used pieces of those behaviors and experiences.

Griffin gets time to run off leash over large areas.

He gets time to swim.

We play retrieving games. Initially with toys, but now also with bumpers.
We've done some foundation hunting training. Learning to hold items still. Return directly to heel with the items. Go out a far distance to retrieve. Stay put until sent.
And a few months ago we got the opportunity to see what Griffin would do on real birds:

I love these pictures... but unfortunately I can't look at them without thinking "And THAT was the day he got Lyme..."

Blaze is also a golden, he gets more retrieving time (with toys!) than Griffin because he likes it more. He's had foundation field work and a chance to be on birds too, but that is a story for another day. He does not get as much running or swimming due to his behavior problems and the safety concerns. But I do try to let him be a golden.

Luna is a golden mix. Probably with a herding breed. She doesn't care about retrieving and doesn't appear to have any interest in herding, though she does love to chase (and probably kill) small animals. She does get a chance to run in our fenced yard, she likes to chase a toy on a rope, and she loves to explore and smell. We go on walks in the woods, on leash or the longline and sometimes I stick smelly things in the yard just for her to enjoy. I've thought about taking a herding lesson, but she is so shy with new people, I didn't think it would go well.

How do you give your dog opportunities to be a dog?

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