Dec 302008

One of our primary responsibilities as animal owners is to ensure their psychological welfare, and that means avoiding boredom, promoting exercise, developing confidence, etc.  While each of these things should be addressed actively, there are also times when you are not available to entertain your animals, but you can enrich their environments…

Here are a few suggestions. General concepts to remember: safety, of course–observe anything you give and make sure it is safe and does not frighten or overly stress your animal. Anticipate any way he could ingest, get stuck, fall, etc. Remember that change is good– anything new and different is enriching. The single best thing your animal can learn from enrichment is that he can influence the environment to cause a desired outcome. This decreases stress and increases learning in new situations as well as decreasing boredom! Not all of these suggestions will be good for you, they are some ideas to start from–be creative!!   Also remember that everything you do is teaching habits and reinforcing behaviors, so think about what you are training with any new activity. 

Training, Training, Training!!  You teaching new behaviors is the single greatest source of novelty!  Not just obedience, try freestyle or teach a few tricks.

Play.  Remember, play is a great stress reliever, so spend time each day consciously playing with your animal. Wrestle, play chase, etc.

Kong stuffed with cheese or peanut butter (Stick a Nylabone in the end to make it last longer)

A fountain that sprays for five minute after animal presses large button

Chicken broth giant ice cubes–these can be given to the animal, or hung so they drip all day

Buster cube or any object with food that comes out a hole

Large hard Plaque attacker (observe for the first few days make sure no large pieces are being removed and eaten)

Hanging tire

Tug toy from a rope attached up high to a rubber spring or you play tug with them yourself

Knuckle bones

Wobble board or large ball on which you teach the animal to balance. (Great for proprioception)

Treadmill or underwater treadmill

Loose crickets (assuming your stomach and ethics do not object)

Feeder fish in pool (assuming your stomach and ethics do not object)

Solid container with a screw on lid that has food inside

Different surfaces– bark, sand, rock, grass, astro-turf, metal, tile, etc.

Button to press that plays a song

An endless pool

A wind chime hung high

Some little mirrors or a disco-ball hung high that will make lights move around as they blow in the wind


A sprinkler or other water-spraying device, especially if the water moves.

Hang food where they cannot get to it, and give them a platform they can drag and climb on to get the food

Sounds– sometimes play stereo or TV, sometimes sounds of nature or dog shows

Smells– sometimes spray a new cologne at the base of a tree or other object in run. Place in their pen a blanket from another animal

Set up an aromatherapy infuser

Shallow water to play in

Visual barriers

Boomer balls

An animal in an adjacent enclosure

A slide

Hole to dig in

Nylabones slathered in cream cheese

Do not feed in the morning and hide food around run (bury some and put some up high, etc.)

New foods- broccoli, bananas, beef, whatever.  

Big branches or old dead tree

Beam or plank to walk on

Device that blows bubbles

Massage or T-touch.

Big wooden box with various openings leading to food–some should have screw on lids, others sliding lids, others the food should be out of reach, etc.

Buy or build toys with sliding doors that have to be moved to get to food (Like tic tac toe)

Build device that requires several steps to get food– pull one lever than go to other side of run and pull another and get treat

Vertical levels– build platforms at different heights and with ramps and steps

CHANGE– move stuff around, add stuff, take things out, etc.


 December 30, 2008  Posted by at 8:22 pm Tagged with: , , , ,

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