When we make recommendations about environment, they Include both the living environment (home) & your dog’s personal environment (health, wellness, happiness).
Our environment section focuses on helping our dogs feel safe, healthy and fulfilled. In Environment, we reduce stress, provide for breed/species needs, and give choice. We also include physical health here because we are addressing both external (surroundings) and internal environment (the body).
Stress: Meeting needs and giving choice reduces stress. Other ways to reduce stress include optimizing:
The Physical Environment
Think about things in the home that may be scary and work to change the responses.
The Internal Environment
We look at ways to improve health, avoid disease, etc. For newly onset behavior or new, significant worsening of behavior, medical causes must be ruled out.
Needs: A key component to environment is about meeting needs. Let’s review how we can help improve our dog's life by creating opportunities for doing natural dog things like sniffing, etc. Low hanging fruit is to get creative about feeding times! (see Enrichment entries in your Classroom); for any dog not using a snuffle mat for meals, this is a great place to start!
Choice: Choice is about giving your dog some freedom to move away from things if desired. If they don’t want to be pet, interact, walk, etc. that is ok. This is one of the most important things to consider for every family.
A Key Component of Environment
Let's do a quick look at enrichment, one of the components of environment that focuses on meeting our dog's needs.
Enrichment encompasses many ways to provide fun and stimulating 'entertainment' to exercise your dog's body and mind. Enrichment can also be a mindset - by thinking to ourselves, how can I make a game or a training session or even hanging out a little more interesting, challenging, or stimulating?
Let's take food. We ask, "how can I make mealtime a little more interesting, challenging or stimulating?" Ditch the bowl and mix up the way you feed your dog? Eating breakfast from a snuffle mat and dinner from a puzzle feeder amps up each meal's mental challenge. Need more challenge? Split breakfast in thirds and add another fun game.
Enrichment helps satisfy some of your dog's basic needs. "The key to a happy and healthy dog is regular enrichment and allowing them to engage in their innate behaviors, such as playing, chasing, smelling, chewing and scavenging. By allowing your dog to engage in these behaviors, you allow them to be physically, emotionally and mentally satisfied. Dogs who don’t receive stimulation tend to find ways to enrich themselves, resulting in unwanted behaviors" (ASPCA).
Here are some fun ideas for DIY Enrichment Games
Here are some of ASPCA Pro's fun recipes:
If you're on Facebook - search for Canine Enrichment groups. There are many good ones in which people share ideas, tricks and videos.
A Video Primer
Fear Free Happy Homes created a short video primer on some of the ins and outs of enrichment.