A ‘sniffing walk.’ Puzzle feeders. Window perches. These are just a few of the ways that our supporters make enrichment possible for the animals at Operation Kindness. Animal enrichment not only provides dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens with a mental workout but also a way to relax and unload extra energy, anxiety or even destructive behaviors.
Our Behavior Manager, Karen Reese, likens animal enrichment to ‘Netflix for pets.’ Doing the same thing every day is like watching reruns of the same show, she says, while enrichment is like watching a new season of your favorite show.
When pets are bored, that can lead to destructive behaviors like digging and chewing. (For additional information, learn how to manage a dog who digs and destructive chewing behaviors). But enrichment offers pets the mental stimulation necessary to keep them busy and happy!
At Operation Kindness, we provide a wide variety of enrichment including stuffed Kongs, puzzle feeders, various toys, and even playdates. Our foster families also play a critical role in the enrichment of the animals in their care. Dogs can count on plenty of long walks and cats have windows to peer out of, while both are assured plenty of interactive play.
Here are a few tips to incorporate enrichment with your animals at home:
- Take a ‘Sniff walk’: Follow your dog’s lead and let them explore and smell as much as they want on the walk.
- Creative feeding: Try a puzzle feeder that requires your pet to slow down and work for their food. A few of our favorites are the Kong Wobbler, IQ Treat Ball, and snuffle mats. Or, for your dog, simply scatter some dry food in the front yard to encourage them to go on a ‘hunt’ for their food.
- A Cold Treat: Fill a Kong toy with your dog’s favorite foods (wet food, plain yogurt, peanut butter, etc.) and try freezing it for more advanced dogs.
- An Engaging Treat: Use a licky mat (available on Amazon.com or most pet stores) and spread wet food, plain yogurt, or peanut butter on it. Great for dogs and cats that love to lick!