Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Of Sound Mind and Body!

People need it and so do animals, environmental enrichment, that is!  Imagine if your life revolved around getting up in the morning, showering, brushing your teeth, combing your hair and getting dressed only then to be told that you needed to sit in a chair for 8 hours with nothing to do!  What if you were told that this was going to be your life, day after day?  Now what if I also limited your outdoor enrichment to the backyard only, no car rides, no stores, no movies, and no excitement.  I only allow you to access your backyard and only to get a little bit of fresh air.  I will not allow you to garden or have any other outdoor enrichment activities.  I have also decided that you are not to have any friends, no company other than me, how boring!  Eventually, your life becomes quite boring and with no enrichment, you may begin to get depressed or perhaps develop physical and emotional issues.  Now let’s put your dog in that same situation. 

Humans are the first to complain that their dogs are behaving badly and the main culprit is generally the lack of environmental enrichment.  Dog owners seem to think that they are providing environmental enrichment by taking their dogs for short walks around the same old block, day after day, week after week, year after year.  This becomes very dull and boring for your dogs.  The problem with us humans is the fact that we are very committed to schedules and routines and that includes what and when we do things with our canine partners.   Many dogs are spending very long hour’s home alone, day after day, while their owner’s are at work.  Dog behavior problems are generally the end result.

Years ago, I designed and developed “environmental enrichment programs” and I began to incorporate these programs into my regular dog training classes, free of charge,  to anyone signing up for a course.  Dog owners were excited to be able to teach their dogs to walk on a leash, while participating in my hiking program.  I found that not only were the dogs having fun learning but the humans were having a blast while training their dogs.  Every living being thrives from an enriched enrichment!   

I like to call my training, “life rewards for jobs well done!”  We may take the dogs to the beach to teach them to be attentive to us and come when called, once they do, they get to fetch the balls, toys or sticks that we toss into the bay, life’s rewards for jobs well done.  During a loose lead walking class, not only are the dogs learning how to walk properly on a leash but they are getting tons of socialization skills walking through town.  By incorporating environmental enrichment programs into your training classes you will improve student attendance and motivate your students to get out and have fun with their dogs! 

Betty Laurin  CPDT-KA, CDBC

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