Note: The ASPCA strongly recommends that canine enrichment and adoption follow up programs be put in place before focusing on behavior modification. Together, these programs help ensure success by supporting the needs of your dogs and adopters.
What Happens without Enrichment
One standard definition of enrichment is: "Additions to an animal's environment with which the animal voluntarily interacts and, as a result, experiences improved physical and/or psychological health."
It is important to support dogs in your care with enrichment opportunities. A wealth of research demonstrates that stress levels increase when enrichment is not provided to animals in shelters. Behaviors such as hyper-arousal, depression, and obsessive/compulsive behaviors are not uncommon when enrichment is absent.
Dogs and puppies may display behaviors that make adoptions more challenging simply because these canines are not given the opportunity to chew, exercise their bodies and minds or have the opportunity to make choices in their environment. This is especially true for canines with behavior challenges.
Basic Elements of an Enrichment Program
In general, overall enrichment should include:
Daily walks, controlled and monitored,
Social interactions, both human and canine when possible,
Food games using food/treat dispensing toys such as KONG®, Tug-a-Jug®, etc.,
Opportunities for sensory stimulation including:
Sound, such as classical music or other calming music,
Odor, such as lavender, spices, and even a bit of bedding from the cat area,
Textures, such as the feel a brush against the skin, soft bedding, and hard Boomer Balls® to nose around the play yard.