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Canine Enrichment!

I am feeling guilty. I thought I was giving Rex a really good life. He has a loving home, regular…

Do Dogs Need Mental Stimulation?

I am feeling guilty. I thought I was giving Rex a really good life. He has a loving home, regular walks, a trunk-load of toys, great nutrition, and the best veterinary care. He has a bed in every room, a water bowl that’s never empty, and the freedom of the run of the house. But I learned today that Rex is bored. Bored out of his adorable little furry head. I saw the signs… his lack of enthusiasm when we go on his regular walk around the loop, his expectant looks as he follows me from room to room, sleeping too much, and eating too many treats. I should have known.

Many, many years ago, Rex’s ancestors lived busy lives. They lived in the wild, hunted for their food, lived in a pack. They worked hard to assure their survival and the survival of their pack. Less than a century ago, Rex’s ancestors may have had a good family home and a predictable bowl of kibble, but they were generally “outdoor” dogs. They naturally socialized with all the neighborhood dogs and had an endless source of stimuli in their environment. Dogs in the past were very active. What does Rex do? He lays in his plush bed and eats doggie bonbons.

We completely understand that in today’s world, it is much safer for a dog to live indoors. And it is important that we provide for them the best we can. But dogs were created for a different purpose, one that is more like their ancestors. They were meant to live active lives. They have amazing, intelligent minds. They need to be challenged and active. Our dogs crave the opportunity to work at something, learn new skills, problem-solve, participate in activities, and have positive social interactions with people. The comfortable life we have created for our dogs makes it difficult for them to meet their intellectual needs.

Our dogs crave the opportunity to work at something, learn new skills, problem-solve, participate in activities, and have positive social interactions with people.

When we try to think of ways to cure our dog’s boredom, what do we think of? Taking them for more walks? Making sure they get more exercise? Those are both really good things, but mental stimulation is something that is often overlooked. It is our responsibility as good pet parents to provide our dog with the enrichment that they crave.

What is Canine Enrichment?

Enrichment is defined as “the act of enriching, or the action of improving the quality of something”. Enriching is supplying an abundance of anything desirable; or to add greater value to. Canine enrichment is adding value to our dog’s lives to result in a more “balanced”, more self-assured pup. It makes their lives richer!

Let’s take a look at the domestic environment we have created for our dogs. Day after day, many dogs see no further than the confines of their home, they take the same neighborhood walk, they eat the same food, smell the same smells. As much as our dogs enjoy structure in their life, an animal designed as intelligently and as capable as the dog would find that life very frustrating and mind deadening.

Compounding that situation, the pandemic has created a “co-dependency” type of relationship with our dogs. Many now suffer an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on us. It was great being home with our pets while we were under stay-at-home orders, but our dogs have now come to expect our presence. In hindsight, by becoming the sole provider of recreation and “entertainment” for our dogs, we have limited or even eliminated their social and intellectual fulfillment. Looking to the future, it is probable that our dogs will experience a sort of separation anxiety when we all return to work.

Why is Canine Enrichment Important?

Separation anxiety and boredom are common reasons for behavioral problems in dogs. While being under-stimulated, our dogs may resort to destructive activities like chewing or destroying things in the home, attention-seeking behavior, soiling in the house, even the development of compulsive behavior such as excessive licking, incessant barking and pica. The good news is that these problems can be greatly improved with enrichment. Enrichment will reinforce desirable behaviors and good social interactions.

Understanding the need for and providing opportunities for enrichment in our dog’s lives is crucial to having a stable, well-adjusted pup. Enrichment provides activities that the dog will actively want to participate in. It will be engaging and interesting to them. We have developed an Enrichment program at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts that uses a variety of activities designed to challenge and stimulate the dog’s mind, while having fun. Activities include simple tricks, jumping hurdles, leaping through a hula-hoop, puzzle toys, chasing a flirt pole, or chasing bubbles. There is no pressure. We are not looking for “obedience”. We are just enriching the dog’s world, fulfilling their need to have something interesting to do, and stimulating their senses and abilities.

What will the Enrichment program at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts do for your dog?

In addition to decreasing boredom, the canine enrichment program will

• Build confidence in your dog
• Provide the opportunity to learn new skills
• Develop your dog’s problem-solving skills
• Reduce anxiety and lower stress levels
• Allow your dog to utilize their natural instincts and abilities
• Slow cognitive decline
• Provide satisfying social interactions
• Contentedly tire them mentally and physically
• Alleviate restlessness
• Have fun!

Enrichment is a fundamental need in your dog. It gives your dog a purpose and allows them the opportunity to affect outcomes. It will improve their psychological as well as the physical well-being. At Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, we strive to create joy and meaning in your dog’s life by providing one-on-one enrichment sessions, as well as Camp group sessions. These sessions are available to add to any Holiday Barn Pet Resort services, whether it be a Vacation, Staycation, Spa visit, Training, and, of course, Day Camp.

Give us a call today at either of our two locations: Glen Allen (804)672-2200, or South Richmond (804)794-5400!

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