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Enrichment

/inˈriCHmənt,enˈriCHmənt/

noun

noun: enrichment; plural noun: enrichments

1. the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something.

"enrichment of the soil for more plant growth"

Behavioral enrichment is a principle that seeks to enhance the quality of animal care by identifying and providing the environmental stimuli necessary for optimal psychological and physiological well-being.

It has become common knowledge that animals in captivity need special attention in order to stay as happy and healthy as their wild brethren. Toys and simple "hide and seek" games keep animals such as tigers, antelope, and monkeys physically and mentally active. Snakes and lizards get special enrichment with different rock textures, water pools and unique smells placed all around their enclosure. Birds get mirrors, bells, other toys and jungle gyms. Even aquatic animals such as fish, sharks and whales get a daily dose of mental stimulation and your guppy or goldfish can even be trained to jump through hoops.<br><br>A range of methods can be used to assess which environmental enrichments should be provided. These are based on the premises that captive animals should perform behaviours in a similar way to their ancestral species. Animals should be allowed to perform the activities or interactions they prefer, and animals should be allowed to perform those activities for which they are highly motivated, i.e. motivation studies.


Environmental enrichment is a way to ensure that an animals natural and instinctual behaviors are kept and able to be passed and taught from one generation to the next. Enrichment techniques that encourage species specific behaviors, like those that are discovered in the wild, have been studied and found to help to create offspring with natural traits and behaviors. &nbsp;Those traits and behaviors that enriched parents pass on can include how to live in a human world.


Whether your pet is an iguana or a dog, many enrichment activities can fit into the general categories of:

Hunting

You can make your pet hunt for its meals by hiding stuffed food puzzle toys or small piles of kibble around your house. Hide one of your pet's meals right before you leave him home alone, and he will have a great time hunting for his food while you’re away.

Giving your dog a chance to use his powerful nose can really wear him out! It’s easy to teach your dog to find hidden treats, your smelly socks, or give your dog a job and teach him to detect mold in your house.

Chase

Most pets love to chase things. There is a great video on YouTube of a turtle chasing a toy. The Chase Game is perfect for all animals whether furred, finned, scaled or feathered

Social Interaction

Giving your dog a chance to use his powerful nose can really wear him out! It’s easy to teach your dog to find hidden treats. When you introduce the Find It game, start out by choosing hiding spots that allow your dog to find the “hidden” treats easily. Try placing treats behind the legs of furniture, partially in view. After you’ve hidden the treats, go get your dog and say “Find it!” right before letting him into the room. Encourage him to look around for the treats. (You might have to point them out the first few times you play the Find It game.) As your dog becomes better and better at finding the treats, you can hide them in more difficult places, like behind pillows or underneath objects.

Chew Shred Dig

Pets of all ages need to chew and will spend hours doing it to keep their jaws strong and their teeth (or beak) clean. They also chew for fun, for stimulation, and to relieve anxiety. Whether you have a puppy or a parrot, it’s important to provide a variety of appropriate and attractive, and sometimes nutricious, chew toys.

Play

Play is its own reward, its own reason for being. When you play, you aren’t locked into a set way of doing things.  You can experiment and invent. 

* Play is done for it’s own sake.  Play has no direct survival value.
* It is voluntary.  You don’t “have to” play.
* Play is inherently reinforcing.  Play is fun so you want to play more.
* Play provides freedom from time.
* Play produces a diminished consciousness of self. 

Challenges

Imagine if our dogs can help us around the house. With our dogs doing the chores, life would be so much easier, right? Some trainers say we should give our dogs jobs in order to solve their behavior issues, and in reality, that is pretty much exactly what you should do. However, putting on a backpack and adding a jar of pickles for weight is not a "job"; it does not challenge the dog in anyway except physically.

Although most modern dogs are kept as pets, there are still a tremendous number of ways in which dogs can and do assist humans, and more uses are found for them every year. Most of those "jobs" are pretty specialized however, and the majority of owners have neither the need for a working dog or the time necessary to transport the dog somewhere to do it's "job". But teaching your dog to do the laundry helps you nearly everyday and you don't need to fire up the car.