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As a Veterinary Behavior Technician, understanding and providing enrichment is a crucial part of my day. Sensory enrichment is used to enhance and improve the quality of a dog’s life by engaging their physical senses. Providing mental, physical and environmental enrichment can improve any domesticated animal’s overall wellbeing.
Enrichment also helps pets find appropriate outlets for their innate behaviors and physical activity. Enrichment can also be used as an outlet to alleviate tension or alleviate any fear, stress or anxiety the pet may be feeling.
This article will give three different examples of how sensory enrichment can be used and provided in every pet (dog or cat).
Sensory Enrichment Enhances Your Dog’s Life
Puzzle Toys as mental supplementation: Enrichment can be provided in many simple ways to add into any pet parent’s daily routine. Feeding your pet from a food bowl is overrated and unnecessary.
Giving your pet puzzle toys that will dispense treats or kibble can be extremely beneficial. This gives human-approved outlets of stimulation while also using your pet’s daily calorie amount. This type of enrichment can be more mentally stimulating than a five-mile walk! Using this can eliminate unwanted behaviors such as barking and other attention-seeking behaviors.
Enrichment through sound: Whether you are away from home or looking to create a sound buffer from your dog to prevent unwanted behaviors, there are a variety of ways your pet can be enriched through sound.
Through Dog’s Ear CD’s or ICalm Units provide pets with biorhythmic classical music. Studies have proven that classical music can help to reduce respiration and blood pressure.
DOGTV is another form of enrichment that can be used to give your dog visual stimulation while providing different forms of classical and calming sounds. White noise machines can also be added as another buffer to eliminate sounds happening outside of the pet’s home environment.
Enrichment walks: In my practice, I have recommended what I call “enrichment walks” as another form of sensory enrichment. These walks are provided as an outlet to burn off energy while also allowing the dog to sniff and learn about the environment.
In the text, From Fearful to Fear Free, they describe and compare this sniffing as a form of social media for your pet.
“Nose Book” and “Pee Mail” for your dog can be the equivalent to your reading a book or checking social media before bedtime.
This same enrichment can be used for felines if they are able to walk comfortably in a harness and leash.
Guest post by: Rachel Lees RVT, KPA CTP, VTS (Behavior)
Rachel Lees is a Veterinary Nurse and member of the Academy of Veterinary Behavior Technicians. She is also a Certified Training Partner through Karen Pryor Dog Trainer Professional Academy. She lives in Parma, Ohio and is the lead veterinary behavior technician at The Behavior Clinic.
She looks forward to continuing to aid owners in creating and maintaining a strong human-animal bond. Rachel is a Fear Free Certified – Level 3 Professional, is on the Fear Free Speakers Bureau, and a member of the Fear Free Advisory Panel. Rachel enjoys spending time with her Miniature Pincher Mix, Connor and her Orange Tabby Cat, Ernie. You can also catch her practicing yoga or reading.
Resources: Becker, Marty. Radosta, Lisa. Sung, Wailani. Becker, Mikkel. From Fearful to Fear Free. Iumina Media LLC. 2017; Shaw, Julie K. Martin, Debbie. Canine and Feline Behavior for Veterinary Technicians and Nurses. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2015.
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