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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. In 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 Two 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.

Young pups when they are growing are very interested in chewing things. The presumed reason for this is the development of their teeth, keeping their teeth clean, having experience in processing various types of meat, bone, and playing with prey-like items which bones might be likened to. Of course, one of the bad side-effects from this is that dogs also chew other things. You can imagine a dog, a little pup, around its burrow with its mates, and it would chew on anything in the vicinity. This might be a bit of wood, or a bit of bone, or a bit of skin left over from a dead animal, or in your house that might be a nice wooden sculpture of a bird, a bit of material that was made into a rug, or a covering of a sofa. It's very difficult to teach young puppies that certain things are permissible for them to chew and certain things are not.

During that period of time, it's unreasonable to expect them not to chew things which may be worth several thousand dollars to you. If you can keep those things out of their reach, and if you can provide other things for them to chew, this will allow them to do what it is they have such a great drive to do which is chewing and playing with small items, and at the same time preserve your sanity. If you come home and see the couch chewed to bits, there really isn't much you can do about it. You can yell at the dog and teach him that you are an unpredictable person and for some inexplicable reason, there are times when you come home, that you become very angry at him and you do very un-dog-like things, you don't say "no", you don't growl "no" to him and give him a sharp punishment if he doesn't obey. What you do is become very abusive over a long period of time (very UN-dog-like) for something he can't possibly understand. And the problem is confounded if you have certain items which you give him which are permissible for him to play with and the at same time have other absolutely indistinguishable items which are not permissible for him to play with. For example, you may have a pair of old shoes which you give him to play and chew up, and you may have a pair of equally old shoes, or perhaps slightly newer shoes which he's not allowed to play with. You and I certainly know what are old shoes and what aren't, and we can talk about it and argue about the rationale of it, but to him shoes are shoes. They are old leather things with a lot of your smell on them. It smells like you've been playing with them, or you've been lying on them or somehow transferred your odour onto these shoes. So it's a very confusing thing. If you can clearly keep things he's allowed to chew and give him an abundance and a variety of those things, while he's a pup, that's much less confusing.

Also you are giving him quite a variety of textures that he can chew up. Soft wood seems quite a desirable thing, although they do chew it up and then produce a mess and we have to clean up. We can decide whether we want to give dogs something that they would really like to chew, something soft and that can get in between their teeth and, perhaps, give them the type of oral stimulation that they like such as wood or material that they can shred, or leather material. Or we can decide that "no, that's too much mess;" we'll give them the types of things which we want them to chew, which perhaps they're not so interested in. We know, or can discover, which the animal would prefer and we know what wild animals experience. We have to decide whether we are going to give them these things.

Dogs are also hunting animals, they appear to like to look around and sniff around an area, searching out interesting smells and the like. They seem to quite enjoy hunting around the house or garden or larger area for items of food. Although they don't spend a lot time (they may spend not as much time as they would hunting) but they will spend a good 15 minutes looking for food if you hide it around the house. You need to kind-of train dogs that this is a game and once they learn that food is hidden, they'll search it out. Dogs seem normally to search in those areas where they have found food in the past, but if you take small dog biscuits, these can be very small biscuits, even the very small cat biscuits, and place one or two of them in a location which the dog can reach without scratching your furniture, they'll spend a number of minutes searching around the house for these interesting foods. If you are going out into the garden and you feed your animals scraps you can do the same thing with bits of meat from the table, or whatever, and the dogs will search high and low for these hidden morsels - into the fork of trees, on the branches of shrubs, even under pieces of wood.

Continue to Part Three 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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