Progressive & Thought Provoking Discussions about Wild & Domestic Animal Behavior, Animal Careers, Animal Training, & More!

E: Environment, Enrichment,
Education, & Endangered Species

All content © by Diana L. Guerrero unless otherwise noted and may not be reprinted without prior written permission. All rights reserved. Click here for reprint permissions and fees.

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 Four 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.

Another area where one might look to wild dogs for guidance is what one does when one brings home a new puppy. What humans in Western culture do with young animals and young humans is they designate for them a room by themselves and a comfortable bed, and when the new-born baby comes home from the hospital, or they bring the newborn puppy, it goes into its new, clean, special room by itself.

Of course, that's the opposite of what would happen in the wild to a puppy, and of course it's the opposite of what would have happened to newborn humans for the past few million years. It's the opposite of what a puppy would choose, and it's probably the opposite of what a human baby would choose. What a human baby would want would be continuous contact through the night with the touch, the sounds, the smells of their parents. Now, this isn't possible with puppies because they are being taken from their parents, but certainly being put in a sterile room smelling of clean laundry detergent all by themselves must be a very frightening experience for a young puppy.

One thing which could be done would be to give them some clothes of your own which has the smell of you on them. Another possibility to calm them would be to take a bit of cloth or some bedding material from the bed of their parents to calm them during those first nights. At least, if the smell of the mother was there, that is some part of the mother present. If some of your smell is there, at least it's a smell of another individual who's been in that area and it indicates that at least the area is safe, it's occupied by other individuals which the puppy knows are friendly. So, a pair of socks or a pair of underwear with a nice lot of perspiration and strong odours of yours would be good for the first couple of nights before the puppy's own smell is associated with its sleeping area.

Of course, a far preferable solution would be for the first few nights to bring the puppy to bed with you. That's the wild situation of puppies- living with other pups and adult dogs and sleeping with them. They seem to enjoy that contact. They sleep in a big ball and to be reassured by the other movements of the animal during the night. While we might be annoyed by another individual kicking us during the night, or moving, or getting up and lying down on our arm, puppies seem to like this.

So, the first couple of nights it would be quite a reassuring thing to bring the pup to your bed. Certainly something it would choose, certainly something which mimics the sorts of experiences it would have in the wild. These are all things you can do with your dog; things you might want to think about if you have a dog; principles to think about for you to develop a more interesting life for your pet.

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:


Subscribe to Blog

Click Here for RSS Feed


Guerrero Ink: Freelance Animal Writer

Join Email List