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Downtown Dog Enrichment and "The Sniffari"

by Christine Foster of Pawsitive Difference Professional Pet Care

Pawsitive Difference Professional Pet Care

Downtown Dog Enrichment? What is all this you may ask? What does enrichment for my dog mean? Some consider this “new age doggie parenting”. However, allow me to provide a few definitions for you. But before I get to that let me tell you what it is not. Enrichment is not tossing a toy in front of a dog or setting a bone on its paw. Enrichment is not trying to get your dog or cat to amuse themselves.

“Enrichment is the action of improving the quality of something” – Oxford Dictionary

“Enrichment gives animals an outlet for enjoyable mental activity, the act of providing low risk activities in which the dog actively wants to participate” – Shay Kelly

Simply put, these are engaging activities designed to stimulate the mind. In my examples below I speak to enrichment for dogs and cats. There are enrichment opportunities and activities for almost any animal. The great deal of clients I work with are dogs and cats.

I use enrichment in my scope of work in many ways. It compliments my “pawsitive reward-based training” and encourages participation, engagement and focus. Enrichment has also proven useful in providing medications or personal care to animals. I have cats who willingly take their pill off my finger or dogs who eagerly sit on a yoga mat, enjoying a lick mat suctioned to the fridge while I administer ear drops. They happily consent to this. As a Fear Free Certified Professional, I am Force Free. I gain the pet’s trust and engagement. Sometimes this requires a great deal of creativity! Enter- Enrichment!

There are a great many benefits to working with enrichment activities with your pets:

  • Promotes engagement and bonding with your pet
  • Good for the dogs’/cat’s mental and emotional wellbeing
  • Challenge your dog/cat, and have them focus on the task
  • Reduces stress in your dog/cat, reduces separation anxiety
  • Can help to reduce problem behaviours

Remember just as children learn differently, and have different tastes, and likes, this is true also for our pets. 

Enrichment is meant to do 1:1 with your pet. There are various types of enrichment. The possibilities and creativity within the scope of enrichment are endless!

Meal Feeding Enrichment: From things like slow feeders, puzzle feeders and wobbles to scatter feeding, box lunches, and lick mats to name a few!

Enrichment Games and Activities: And there are hundreds! Some I learned in school, some from reading Shay Kelly, and some I invented myself. Just this week my husband invented a new one for our dogs and it’s a big hit! After seeing the benefit of enrichment for our two labrador retrievers, my husband is “all in” drinking the enrichment cool aid and has his creative hat on helping me create more enrichment experiences for our pets and the pets I care for! Find it and Dig pile, cups and ball maze are examples of indoor “brainy day games” I would use on extreme weather days to stay indoors with a pet. Just a few examples of enrichment that utilize their favourite sense – the nose – but also provide physical and mental activity.

SNIFFARI Walk (off-duty walk = permission to sniff): The dog chooses the path, walks (I follow them, they are the leader), and sets the pace. Sniffing is one of the best ways for a dog to decompress and helps to relax them.  There are many great areas in Stratford for a Sniffari, areas where lots of animals and people have been. Playgrounds, trails, school yards, sports areas, skate parks and of course downtown and city hall area.

Rucksack Walk: A long line, a rucksack with specialty items. The dog chooses. Tailored to your dog!

These are specialty enrichment walks – engaging the need to sniff and allowing that choice and need for the dog to be met.

When do you offer enrichment? Anytime! Whatever time works for you and your dog. I offer enrichment multiple times a day to pets. Always offering enrichment before bedtime to relax the dog.

Enrichment activities and equipment items are not meant to be left out. They are special and you bring them out to spend that quality engagement time with your pet. We keep enrichment sessions short, engaging and interesting for them.

I toggle between items and activities, as well as the type of walk we have. 

There are 5 Elements of Canine Enrichment (Shay Kelly writes):

  1. Safe environment
  2. Natural dog behaviour
  3. Companionship and bonding
  4. Food enrichment
  5. Non-food enrichment

These help us to understand all of the dog’s enrichment needs. 

I am continually amazed at the results of enrichment work. This area has become a personal passion for me. It is value added to the pet’s quality of life and actively contributes to their emotional and mental well-being.

Our companion animals want relationships, interaction, and engagement with us. What a gift we can give them by enriching their lives in gratitude for that companionship.

To learn more about the benefits of Enrichment for your pets visit www.fearfreehappyhomes.com


At the start of the pandemic Christine Foster‘s dog Bailey crossed the rainbow bridge.  The loss was devastating, the grief – overwhelming. Still, the pandemic proved to be the right time for her to leave her job and return to school. In honour of Bailey, she began Pawsitive Difference Professional Pet Care to offer care to pets where they are most comfortable and least stressed – right in their home. In addition to being a Certified Fear Free Professional, she is a member of the Pet Professional Guild, and A+ accredited with the Better Business Bureau.

 

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