As you build a canine enrichment program for your shelter’s dogs, keep the following general tips in mind.
- Think like a dog. A
rope toy soaked in meat broth, frozen, and then offered as a chew treat
may sound messy and gross to you, but dogs are fine with messy and
- You can offer canine enrichment without creating a lot of extra work for shelter staff. Mackenzie’s shelter enrichment program incorporates enrichment activities into the daily routine.
- You can create a robust program on
a very slim budget. For example, Mackenzie’s created food-dispensing
devices out of free and low-cost paper products, such as lunch bags,
copier paper, and paper-towel rolls. Great enrichment opportunities are
available in your recycle bin!
- Variety and change themselves are enriching experiences, and you can use this to your advantage. See The Daily Change-Up and Food, Glorious Food for simple ways to add variety to kennel life.
- Monitor your program to see what
works and what doesn’t. Add more of what works, and remove the elements
that don’t appeal to the dogs.
- Expect to fine-tune your program
for individual dogs’ needs and preferences. If the dog doesn’t interact
with it, it’s not enrichment. A toy or treat that sits untouched in the
kennel is not enriching that dog’s environment.
- Enrichment doesn’t replace
training and behavior modification. You can build some basic
positive-reinforcement training into activities with humans. Dogs who
are behaviorally at-risk still need separate behavior modification
sessions with a staff member or trained volunteer.
- Because dogs are social animals,
social interaction is extremely important to most dogs, especially dogs
who are confined separately in kennels. For dogs with no known
aggression toward other dogs, play time with other dogs and time with
humans are the highest-value enrichment experiences that you can
Photo courtesy of Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary