Dogs are undoubtedly one of the most playful, energetic, and fun-loving groups of animals, which is one of the many reasons why they make excellent pets.
They thrive in situations and environments where they have a great deal of variety to help keep them busy, healthy, and happy. Things like outdoor activities and games or daily walks in the park are vital to keeping your pet dog in the best possible health.
However, much like human beings, dogs also tend to become lazy and get bored when they have nothing exciting to look forward to in life. For instance, if you leave your pet dog alone at home each day for hours while you’re at work, the chances are that over time your little furry companion might begin to display unusual and unhealthy behaviors. Some common examples include excessive vocalizations and repetitive movements, most of which are considered to be signs or indicators of chronic stress.
Outdoor enrichment is absolutely vital for dogs, which primarily involve changing their environment and surrounding conditions for their own betterment.
Outdoor Enrichment: What It Is and It’s Types
The underlying premise behind outdoor enrichment is based on how the environmental conditions of numerous pet animals such as dogs should and can be changed to promote normal behavior patterns, boost the quality of animal care, and reduce the occurrence of abnormal or unusual behaviors.
This kind of enrichment is imperative if you’re looking to keep your pet dog in the best physical, mental, and psychological shape.
If you own a pet dog in your home, there are five main types of outdoor enrichment through which you can increase their quality of life.
This form involves altering the animal’s living space by providing a greater number of toys to increase interaction levels. You can even introduce raised platforms, physical features like a kennel, and easy access to the outside, to name a few. Another very important thing you can do here is provide them with outdoor outlets like sandboxes to encourage normal digging behaviors. This will also target their pooping behaviors, making it easy for you to clean up dog poop and ensuring proper dog waste removal.
The main goal here is to promote mental and physical stimulation in your pet by giving them a ‘job’ or engaging them in sports-related activities to alleviate boredom.
As the name suggests, sensory enrichment involves stimulating all their senses with the help of visually-enriching objects such as images, auditory stimulation through music, or olfactory enrichment through essential oils or scented cloths.
One of the most important types of stimulation, sensory enrichment, has to do with facilitating interaction and contact between dogs and other animals, as well as dogs and humans. Some examples include group housing, playgroups, going to dog parks, etc.
This is also referred to as ‘feeding enrichment,’ and it comprises the use of tools to encourage natural feeding behaviors in dogs. This can include things like using puzzle feeders, food-searching challenge, food-based rewards, etc.
Important Tips for Outdoor Enrichment
Regardless of which forms of enrichment you choose to adopt or what specific methods you follow, there are a few important things you must bear in mind to make the most of it.
Know that the success of any environmental enrichment program is crucial to its careful and mindful implementation.
Here are some essential tips for outdoor enrichment for dogs that will help you keep your pet healthy at all times.
Know the Difference between Enrichment and Behavior Modification
When caring for your pet and trying to improve the quality of animal care, always be wary of the difference between ‘enrichment’ and ‘behavior modification.’
The latter involves completely changing your pet dog’s behaviors through tools like classical and operand conditioning, while the former focuses on increasing their emotional well-being, reducing stress levels, and stimulating them in different ways.
As a pet owner and caretaker, your goal is to enrich their surroundings in order to alleviate boredom, stress, fatigue, and self-injurious behaviors.
Make Sure to Always Variety
Dogs can easily get bored when they are subject to the same routine or environment for a period of time. Therefore, it’s very important to provide them with proper variety and a combination of enrichment methods. For instance, this could include a wide range of their favorite toys, giving them access to different outdoor views, and subjecting them to various fascinating experiences like a mix of scents or different types of music.
Consider the Preferences of Your Dog
No two dogs are alike, and it is possible that your pet dog has preferences of its own in terms of what kind of enrichment it needs. In other words, if playing with toys works for your dog one day, there’s no guarantee that it will interest them the next day as well. Preferences are ever-changing, and as a pet-owner, you must be able to figure out what your dog wants and give it exactly that.
Don’t Over-Stimulate Them
One of the primary goals of outdoor enrichment is to stimulate the animals both mentally and physically; however, you need to do it in a balanced way. It is very easy to overstimulate them, leading to increased stress levels, and perhaps even triggering abnormal behaviors like excessive barking or rapid back-and-forth pacing.
For instance, if your dog shows interest in listening to certain music and you play it on loud for hours on end, it is likely to cause over-stimulation.
Always Consider their Current State
You should choose appropriate enrichment strategies after carefully assessing the dog’s current mental, physical, and emotional state. For instance, your dog might find a particular approach as scary or intimidating – an example of this is playing with other dogs in the park. For the time being, you should avoid taking your dog to the park and gradually help them get over their fears. The key is to consider their present state of mind before implementing a certain change in their routine.
Dogs can be quite sensitive creatures sometimes, so it is essential for you to be mindful of their surroundings and give them what they need. Implement the right kind of outdoor enrichment methods to make things easy for your dog and also for yourself, be it picking up dog poop or engaging in fun games with your dog.