I actually left my comfort zone and took up a job with a zoological facility in Singapore recently in a bid to understand more about animals, particularly mammals such as big cats and bears. It was like a childhood dream came true. A tick added to the bucket list. That's my only excuse for the lack of posts and I am truly apologetic. :)
Today, I am going to share something about enrichment activities for your pets. Throughout the course of learning at the zoological job, one thing that struck out the most to me was that animals gets bored easily. An animal becomes bored due to a lack mental and environmental stimulation. Boredom affects the animal's weight, diet, health and mental well-being. One thing that we keepers (yes, I am an animal keeper there) do to prevent that from happening is to do enrichment activities daily for the animals.
A zoo animal's situation is fairly similar to our pet's (companion animals such as dogs and cats). They are kept at our homes for the most part of the day while we are at work. Some of us may bring our dogs down for a short walk in the park when we come home. Some of us may even take out 30 mins to an hour's time to engage in some form of play with them. Is this truly enough for them? What happens to them during the rest of the 8 to 10 hours when we are not at home?
They will sleep, stare into space, day dream and some mischievous ones will do some wreckage to your furniture. That's something I imagine a prisoner in jail does.
So what are the usual solutions pet owners have? Some would say, "Go for obedience training!". "Agility classes for dogs!" , or " Bring them to the dog run parks and let them spend their energy!".
I agree that obedience classes for dogs are important, but in reality, the training is for you, not the dog. Its about training you to work together with your dogs. Back breaking but totally worth it.
Agility classes, on the other hand, are for owners totally into drilling your dogs to do the obstacles like a recruit doing SOC. Drills are the fastest way to get someone to follow your orders. In essence, drills teaches obedience and discipline. They are both useful tools and avenues to spend their energy. You'll get a good workout too.
How about going to the dog run? Factors we need to consider would be the weather, the crowd there, your doggie's mood and personality. For example, Peanut (our chihuahua) is an extreme introvert. Going to the dog run means that he will be sitting under then benches with you the whole time. Total time needed to prep for this activity would take like 30 mins and another 15 mins drive to the nearest park. Too much to do.
What can we do to avoid all this blood, sweat and tears to make our pets happier? The simplest things are often the most useful.
Enrichment activity is the key.
For this post, I'm just going to introduce a simple game you can play with your pets. we often do it with the Serval cats. I shall call it "Magical Bowls". You will need the following items:
- 3 bowls or cups
- Your pet's favorite treat
How to play?
- Overturn 3 bowls
- Place one piece of treat in one of the overturned bowls. Make sure your pet witness you in case he accuses you of cheating his feelings
- Shift it as how you watch people play magical cups
- Let your pet sniff out where the treat is, and give praise as and when needed.
- Lastly, if he finds it, don't be a loser and let him have the treat!
Watch this video
What was achieved
There's a total of five aspect of enrichment activities that are achievable.
- Social - Relating to the social behavior of the animal
- Sensory - Relating to the five senses of the body
- Physical - Relating to the physical environment that the animal has been placed
- Nutritional - Relating to the dietary habits of the animal
- Occupational - Relating to how they would react and think in a particular activity
Everything will be done indoors, with minimum sweat, minimum hassles for the working class pet owners like you and me.
Call me lazy. Mission Accomplished. Happy dogs, Happy me.
More activities to be posted and experimented. Have fun trying it out!