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E: Environment, Enrichment,
Education, & Endangered Species

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Enrichment in Domestic Canids
©1997 by Arnold Chamove

Welcome to E! This section is dedicated to the environment, enrichment, and education about animals and related topics. You'll find a variety of information here. This four part series discusses canine enrichment.

Editor's note: The following article is the view of an enrichment expert out of New Zealand. Terms and strategies of enrichment for domestic animals have long been overlooked. Many of the terms and strategies used in this article are different from those used by professionals in the United States. New Zealand has long been a leader in innovative strategies. Iin the past, concern regarding the dietary recommendations made within this series has been expressed. This article is meant to stimulate thought but check with your nutrition specialist before changing any dietary changes or strategies.

Enrichment in Domestic Canids
(Part One of Four)

Copyright ©1997 by Arnold Chamove

Due to the length of Enrichment in Domestic Canids it has been broken into four parts for ease of reading. Part One: Canine nutritional oriented strategies of feeding and food variety; Part Two: Sensory and predatory behavior in canine destruction and hunting; Part Three: Oral and tactile behavior of canine licking and petting; Part Four: Integration of a new canine from day one.

Let's look at how one might improve the life of one's dog.

Dogs are hunters, which means that every couple of days they would normally get together, mill around quite excitedly, and then the leader of the pack would set off for the week's hunt. As a consequence, some people recommend not feeding their animals every day of the week, and it's quite common now for animals in zoos, such as lions and tigers, not to be fed for one day of the week. This would probably be more likely to be the case if they were fed in the same way that wild animals would be fed, which means large amounts at one sitting and then not fed for a couple of days. Lions, for example, would eat large amounts and then other scavengers would eat the food and they would be unlikely to feed again for a couple of days until they hunted again. A similar thing is probably true of dogs.

Dogs are also scavengers. One of the biological adaptations to that is that in humans if meat is allowed to remain at room temperature for a period of time, various bacteria get into the meat and some of the bacterial excrement is highly toxic. Food-poisoning is often caused by botulina toxin. It's the excrement of the botulina bacteria which survives in meat which is in conditions where there's no air. That's why when they say when you put meat in the fridge, you should loosely wrap it so that the botulina toxin which is floating around in the air does not grow well. The botulus also doesn't grow well under low temperature conditions, but if you have meat which is at room temperature, such as some cooked meats, and it's there for a while, it grows, feeds and multiplies and excretes well. That's how some people get food-poisoning. Dogs are not susceptible to botulina toxin which means they can eat meat which has been sitting at room temperature for several days and, in!

A lot was learned about what was necessary to produce certain types of behaviour patterns, some of which were believed to be normal, and some of which people didn't know if it was normal or not. For example, in the fifties when the dog work was done and in the sixties when the monkey work was done, people didn't go into the wild and observe wild dogs, wild monkeys, wild cattle, wild chickens. But as the number of students increased, as the number of universities increased, and as travel became less expensive, people started to do these things and soon it was discovered what it is that normal wild dogs do. Of course, many people would say they don't want a normal wild-type dog. They don't want a dog which goes out and kills animals, which forms packs and hunts down animals eating them before they are even dead. The benchmark for normality (not desirability) was behaviour in the wild.

Fact, if you give them certain types of meat which is difficult to process, such as the head of a cow, they will prefer to eat that when it's about three, four, five days old.

So, the meat that goes off in your fridge, which is beginning to get a bit mouldy, and perhaps a bit maggoty, is quite a desirable item, much more desirable than the fresh meat to your dog. The other parts of animals that dogs quite like are the offal, the non-steak, non-muscle parts. If you wish to give a dog the type of diet that it's been evolved to eat over millions of years and seems to do well in the wild, you may wish to include a variety of meat types. There's the muscle which we normally give it, there's fat in mince/hamburger which it would normally not get in the wild , there are things such as intestines, lungs, which are a bit more difficult to obtain but which would be the type of thing that dogs would eat in the wild.

You will notice that there are certain varieties of meat that dogs really like. Probably the most desirable meat for dogs would be rabbit. Dogs really go crazy around the smell of either raw or cooked rabbit, and if you give them a whole dead rabbit, you will find that they skin the rabbit and, except for certain of the intestines which are often filled with grasses that the animal had been eating, they will eat most of the rest of the animal including the bones and a lot of the rest of the internal organs.

Other animals are not so desirable, particularly raw chicken. You will find that for some reason they are not that keen on raw chicken. However, cooked chicken is quite desirable to dogs and still other animals are often not eaten until they are several days old. Possums are an example of these.

Enriching the life for a dog and enriching the life for any hunting animal for that matter, has not been well studied. In general, people have observed that hunters have brief moments when they are very active and then a considerable amount of time when they are very inactive. Of course, it's more convenient for us to have periods of moderate activity when we take the dog for a walk, and periods of very high activity are sometimes more difficult for us to provide

Continue to Part Two of Canine Enrichment.

About the Author: Dr. Chamove has practical experience with laboratory animals as Director of Research. He has taught various courses related to Animal Behaviour, Clinical Techniques, and Research Methods. In addition, Arnold Chamove has done collaborative research with H.F.Harlow on primate learning and social development, taught at Stirling University in Scotland and is currently at Massey University in New Zealand. He is the recipient of the Anderson Prize from the Laboratory Animal Science Association for his work on enrichment. Special Thanks to S.J. McComb who made a contribution to both the ideas and the execution of this article. Contact the author by Email:


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