Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Paw5 Enriched Life Challenge!

On October 17th, Sisci Godzilla, Zip, Ru, and I will be taking part in Paw5's Enriched Life Challenge! Enrichment is all providing your dog with experiences that engage their senses in new and different ways. It's easy to follow the same routine every day and find yourself stuck in a rut, but I can pick up a new book or try a new restaurant when I feel my brain cells dying. My dogs don't have that option. They're stuck with me and whatever I decide we're going to do every day.
Visiting human and doggy friends!
Playing with a friend!

What is Enrichment?

Enrichment means to add richness, to make something more valuable. Coming from a zoology background, I'm very familiar with the concept of enrichment for captive animals. Zoo animals that do not receive adequate enrichment tend to go a bit stir crazy in confinement. To prevent them from pacing and self-harming, we add new and different things to their environment. This can be as simple as hiding their food around the enclosure, or stuffing it inside bamboo tubes for them to fish out, or dragging in whole tree branches for them to strip the leaves off. Thanks to dedicated and creative zookeepers, enrichment often gets a lot more creative. Have you seen pictures of tigers lounging in cardboard boxes, or elephants stomping on pumpkins? That's enrichment in action!

Enrichment doesn't just mean adding things to an animals environment, though. It can also include social interactions, and visits to new and different places. Australia Zoo (remember the Crocodile Hunter?) has multiple opportunities for guests to interact with their animals, not just because people enjoy it, but because it provides the animals with novel experiences and social interaction. Most zoos also train their most intelligent animals to comply with routine medical procedures, both because it makes caring for them easier, and because training is so good for their brains.
Whether it's carrying a couple of water bottles, or pulling a cart, dogs know when they are being useful!
Doing a job!

What Does This Have to Do With My Dog?

Ok, so your dog probably doesn't live in a cage in a zoo, but he still exists in a somewhat limited environment. Is his world is limited to the yard, house, and a walk around the same block every day? Life can even get a little blah Godzilla and Zip, my working stock dogs. We get up in the morning, go to the ranch and work some sheep, chase some squirrels, fetch some tennis balls, come home and eat dinner, and often that's it.

Our dogs are stuck as long as we settle for doing the same thing every day. Enrichment means breaking out of that rut, and adding some things that adding value to their daily activities.

The Enriched Life Challenge

Paw5 is challenging dog owners to commit to daily enrichment for five days. Even though I spend a whole lot of time coming up with new and different things to do with my dogs, it can be tough for me to break out of my comfort zone of toys and treats. Fortunately, Paw5 has come up with six different categories of enrichment, with ideas and activities for each one. They've got a whole menu of sensory, social, and environmental enrichment ideas, and I can't wait to get started!

I think Ru is really going to enjoy the Enriched Life Challenge, he tends to get left behind a lot when I'm doing things with the big dogs. I'm also going to include the Hellions in the challenge, because cats deserve enrichment too. The fun starts on October 17th, want to join us?

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