People often talk about enrichment for their dogs, but what does this really mean???
The Oxford Dictionary says it’s “the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something”, Vocabulary.com says “enrichment leaves things better than they were before” and that “enrichment makes things more meaningful and substantial or rewarding”.
When it comes to dogs what this means for me is that: we are going add something to provide a greater quality and variety of experience for a more satisfying and rewarding life.
We have bred dogs to highlight certain traits and this is true of specific motor patterns within their predatory sequence, for example a Border Collie has a heightened ‘eye, stalk, chase’ with an inhibited bite (or at least that’s how it’s meant to be), pointers will have the orientate, eye (point), but not the chase element, with a heightened hold (for picking up the shot game). The result of all this means that what is enriching for each individual dog is down to that individual dog and there may be some breed specific traits that build into this, but each dog should be treated as an individual. Preventing a dog from performing their innate motor patterns can at times lead to behavioural problems as a dog tries to express and find an outlet for these innate behaviours.
That said there will be some behaviours that are naturally rewarding for all dogs and should be promoted. Chewing for example is a great behaviour (assuming it’s on something appropriate), and can help a dog to relax.
Dogs come from a background of scavenging and this behaviour is also very rewarding for them, done well (when they are using their nose and also physically working), this can be both a mental and physically tiring for them.
Pay careful consideration to your individual dog when offering enrichment activities…some dogs like a challenge, some dogs less so, would you like to eat your soup with chopsticks every night??? If the challenge is to hard for the dog and they aren’t enjoying it, this is not enriching their lives but adding difficulty and stress to it.
Sheepballs…what does your Border Collie do when you don’t throw the balls?
Think about what your dog was designed to do (their working job), quite often your dog will enjoy activities that involve this e.g. Border Collies are designed to herd sheep (bring them all together), yes they will chase a ball all day, because it’s like an escaped sheep…how about working with several balls and looking at what your Border Collie offers, will they stalk and eye the ball you are working with? If left to it they will generally put all the balls together in a pile. Sheepballs is an actual game…if you and your Border Collie would like to know more about this then let us know. For some of your working gun breeds (Weimeraner, Pointers, Visla etc.) they will find tracking or Mantrailing really rewarding. We’ve got Mantrailing introduction courses on all the time so drop us a message to find out about this amazing dog sport or have a look at (https://www.mantrailinguk.com/).
Mantrailing…the dog sport of searching for missing people
As their primary sense a dogs nose is really important to them, unfortunately as owners we are often telling them to stop sniffing as we are trying to take them for a walk and haven’t time for that messing about…How about harnessing the power of their nose though, and becoming involved in something that they enjoy? We offer scentwork classes, workshops (http://www.scentwork.com/Talking_Dogs_Scentwork/Welcome.html) and fun sessions just give us a call or drop us an email to find out more.
There are loads of really useful Facebook groups that give ideas about enrichment activities, but think about what you are trying to get out of these if you use them…do you want something active to use up your dogs energy? Or something a little more relaxing to help settle them down and keep them calm? Check out these two pages https://www.facebook.com/groups/canineenrichment/ & https://www.facebook.com/groups/1747279312231501/