With many people taking part in social distancing in the next few weeks, most routines will be significantly different. This applies to not only people but also their pets. Today, we will discuss some ways to help your pup avoid getting cabin fever!
Enrichment is important for all pets, and for dogs much of their enrichment that we typically think of includes going outside and possibly being around other people. Since social distancing has been recommended, pet owners may have to get creative with ways to get their pet some excitement without leaving home. Taking a walk through the neighborhood can still be a great way to help your pet get their energy out, as long as you are still following the recommendations for social distancing set by our local government and health departments. Recommendations as of 3/16/2020 from the Illinois department of health can be found here: http://www.dph.illinois.gov/sites/default/files/COVID-19_SocialDistancing.pdf.
5 Types of Enrichment
According to Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, environmental enrichment techniques fall into 5 categories: Food-based enrichment, Sensory enrichment (sight, scent, touch, hear, taste), Novel objects, Social enrichments, and Positive training.
- Food-based enrichment involves one of many dogs’ favorite things, Food! This can include items such as chewy treats, treat dispensing toys, and puzzle toys. There are many commercial products on the market that work very well for this purpose. Once your dog has been introduced to a treat dispensing toy, you can even use the item to give them one of their daily meals which increases enrichment even more.
- Sensory enrichment items are self-explanatory, they stimulate your pet’s senses. Soft surfaces such as beds or blankets can be present for dogs that enjoy getting cozy. It is important to remember that some dogs like to chew items like blankets and beds, so judge your options based on your specific pet. There are many toys on the market that make noises such as squeaking, crackling, or even bird noises. The key here is finding what your pet enjoys and does not enjoy.
- Novel objects can apply to new toys or even items that you already have at home. Rotating toys can help your pet feel like they are getting a new toy every few days. Be cautious with rotating types of treats as quick changes in diet can sometimes lead to vomiting or diarrhea.
- Social enrichment includes activities with people or other pets. Even a ten-minute play session between you and your pet at home can fulfill social enrichment needs for your dog. If you have multiple dogs at home, it is likely that your dogs play together and complete social enrichment daily! It is important to remember during this time that social distancing is important, so a small playdate with a family member’s pet may be ok, but areas, where many people gather such as dog parks, should be avoided.
- Lastly, positive training helps your dog learn new things and keeps their brain active. The majority of dogs enjoy learning new tricks and small training sessions at home throughout the week can be a great way to combat boredom. If you are unsure where to start, there are many online resources such as https://www.clickertraining.com/ or https://www.lauramonacotorelli.com/training-videos where you can find information on how to get started with your pet at home. Even working with your pet on a round of skills they already may know as review can be a great way to enrich your pet.