Considering dogs holistically and enrichment
Enrichment is a beautiful and wonderful thing we can do for our dogs and ensure that we meet biological needs in meeting their needs as a species and ensuring that they have mental stimulation.
But enrichment like anything in dog training can be misunderstood. This is because every dog is individual and unique and not all dogs will enjoy the same benefits from any one type of enrichment.
A recent study found that stuffed food enrichment wasn't as impactful for military working dogs on changing their behaviour or meeting their welfare needs when it came to behaviour. Gaines, S.A, et al (2008).
Studies have also found that for some dogs food enrichment does help with reductions in barking and stress and other studies have found that social interaction when the human is involved in the enrichment shows that dogs had greater sociability, decreased cortisol concentrations and increased relaxation. Belpedio, C, et al. (2010).
Researchers looked into Assistance dog's within an office setting and how enrichment affected their behaviour following different types of enrichment. The behaviours that they wanted to examine was a reduction in stress and barking and if enrichment provided relaxation and less anxious behaviour such as waiting for a noise to alert to.
This included stuffed food items, human involved enrichment, and a bubble machine. The findings were that although the dogs are and appeared to enjoy the stuffed food items, the greatest changes in the behaviour were from the bubbles which also included scent as the bubbles were bacon flavoured and human interaction enrichment such as tug or enrichment games played with the human. Hunt, R.L., Whiteside et al, 2022
So it's much better to engage in a variety of enrichment activities to help a dog to meet their biological needs and as a dog owner (guardian) see marked changes in behaviour over all.
I have worked with many people who share that their dog doesn't like food stuffed enrichment or isn't food motivated and this is completely valid and understandable.
Many times a dog isn't food motivated in 9 out of 10 of these cases because the dog has separation anxiety and is simply too anxious and stressed to eat when in this state, just like us,or there are visitors in the home or there are noises that are causing the dog to feel unsettled.
But there are things that can be done to help a dog with feelings of anxiety for whatever reasons, such as a tailored separation anxiety plan as generalised behaviour advice doesn't work for every dog because of all dogs being individuals.
Enrichment can be done as a part of a dogs daily routine and with bringing down cortisol levels is the best option to help our dog's to have healthier and more enriched lives.
Instead of filling this blog with lots and lots of info here are quick links to previous tutorials on enrichment.
Sensory enrichment https://youtu.be/-VxBoY10jCU
People Watching https://youtu.be/PixHp8J6kbk
Frozen enrichment https://youtu.be/9xHhwMIc3T4
Dog TV enrichment https://youtu.be/WNOls9-0On0
Beef bark enrichment https://youtu.be/VxR_QqfPQWU
Holee Roller enrichment https://youtu.be/g9tY6cVwd5w
Ball pool pits https://youtu.be/Q8A-uJQOhZ4
Safe foods for enrichment https://youtu.be/JD8VV2mfMXs
Destruction boxes https://youtu.be/8s0VzROEbf8
Enrichment Garden https://youtu.be/JwUfqJXTCO8
Muffin Tin enrichment https://youtu.be/oXTygiVcPmQ
Snuffle Heaven https://youtu.be/dn75ZLypetg
Water fun https://youtu.be/ABbgMCp998E
Dog pit https://youtu.be/Yvt8C1UHc98
Roll a carpet https://youtu.be/vVYVR4WAlPs
Treat and train https://youtu.be/Np5v5aMGk4M
Surface Circus https://youtu.be/bRQ3QNnTadU
Foundations of fun Scentwork https://youtu.be/D_0Fn_VtRXE
Benefits of lickimats https://youtu.be/YPPFGZZnq84
Suitcase madness https://youtu.be/jNiKq5vc7s4 https://youtu.be/Vr19p8Vpj4A
Tug benefits https://youtu.be/qgjyaImJYkA
This is definitely not an exhaustive list but hopefully these tutorials will help and of course training is enrichment, especially training through play!
Gaines, S.A.; Rooney, N.J.; Bradshaw, J.W. The effect of feeding enrichment upon reported working ability and behavior of kenneled working dogs. J. Forensic. Sci. 2008, 53, 1400–1404.
Belpedio, C.; Buffington, L.; Clusman, S.; Prete, F.; Sadler, A.; Whittemore, L.; Mungre, S. Effect of Multidog Play Groups on Cortisol Levels and Behavior of Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) Housed in a Humane Society. J. Appl. Compan. Anim. Behav. 2010, 4, 15–27.
Hunt, R.L., Whiteside, H. and Prankel, S. (2022) Effects of environmental enrichment on dog behaviour: Pilot study, MDPI. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/2/141/htm#B25-animals-12-00141