Welcome to Day 80 of #100daysofenrichment and thank you for joining us on this journey!
Although our challenges are directed mainly at dogs, we want all species to enjoy and benefit from #100daysofenrichment so, please join in, adjust and adapt to help your pet or companion live a more enriched life.
Entertainment for Dogs!
Not to be left behind in the digital entertainment explosion, there are all sorts of ways we can hang out with our dogs and assess their interest and enjoyment of different forms of entertainment.
On Day 4, we talked about just being; a challenge for both pets and their people. In our modern go-go-go world, spending some time appreciating the here and now can be difficult.
On Day 38, we combined these experiences with some Massage & Mindfulness.
There are no big plans or training exercises today. We are going to dial it way back and be…with some entertainment…
Learning to just be is not necessarily a skill that comes to most pet dogs easily, and indeed to many people. Just being is a lost art; in the age of smart phones and on-demand entertainment, we don’t have to be very often or for very long.
But, this is such an important skill for companion animals, who, at the whim of their humans, must be able to be in environments that don’t always cater for their natural tendencies.
Entertainment for Dogs
Today we are going to try out some different forms of digital entertainment to add to our hanging out.
Many social hang outs we have with other humans revolve around entertainment such as going to the movies or a concert, hanging out listening to music or discussing our favourite books.
Hang out and be with your dog, and listen to some relaxing music or maybe even watch some dog TV.
Let’s try that a little today!
Auditory Enrichment for Dogs
You have probably heard about music that has been developed specifically for dogs, for example, Through A Dog’s Ear.
But we have a little evidence that certain classical music may have a calming effect for dogs in shelter accomodation. (Bowman et al, 2015)
Classical music is likely the most effective, not surprisingly, over heavy metal (Kogan et al, 2012).
Particularly interesting work published a couple of years ago, (Brayley & Montrose 2016 )
showed that playing audiobooks may contribute to reduced barking and stress related activity in a shelter environment. What a novel way to provide kenneled dogs with some ‘human’ interaction!
Audible might be the place to start if you would like to share an audiobook with your pet.
Not only may music soothe stressed dogs, sound can be used to mask aversive sounds too. Playing White Noise type sounds may help drown out sounds that a dog finds unpleasant or arousing. For example, here.
While this might be relaxing, sounds can also be arousing. Hoffman et al, 2017 found that dogs are more attracted to the sounds of prey animals (cats) than visual representations.
You could try playing some prey related sounds for your dogs, such as bird sounds and cat sounds.
Have some relaxation music afterwards, with a yummy Stuffable, to bring everything back down again.
Here Decker responds to dog-sounds on clips I am picking out for a presentation:
Auditory & Visual Enrichment for Dogs…DOG TV!
With TVs being bigger and the image better quality, I tend to see a lot of dogs who bark and lunge at images of animals, even cartoons, on TV.
Take care with this one, and use a smaller screen such as your phone, tablet or laptop, rather than a big TV.
Decker, if on my lap, will be interested in the plus-sign cursor in Excel. I will move it back and forth to mimic a fly and he will gently mouth at it, as if it’s an insect.
This isn’t something he is too intense about and would need to be prompted, so I’m not too concerned about it. But, know your dog!
Here he watches a video of himself and a buddy during a presentation I am giving:
Try some Dog TV!
Enrichment Must Be Enriching
While spending time with your dog listening to relaxing music, practicing just being, sounds lovely, we must remember our enrichment goals.
The animal must be able to choose how, and whether they are exposed to enrichment. Let’s be careful how we introduce these enrichment protocols by allowing the dog to choose if they wish to be exposed or not.
You might, for example, play the music in one room and hang out in another adjoining room with the dog, or have your device on your lap and allow your dog tune into Dog TV or to move away.
A lot of these things are marketed as relaxing dogs or helping dogs with “separation anxiety” but be careful. If you only present the radio, music or even a Stuffable when you are leaving the dog, that presentation may become a trigger for the distress the dog experiences when left alone.
Be; really be
- Where can both you and your dog be? Practice there.
- When can both you and your dog be? Choose times when your dog is already calm and have had all their needs met. When the house is quiet and when you can be calm.
- Don’t introduce toys, treats or other signals that might suggest that this is a training exercise. So, practice in a different location, wear different clothes, practice at times that are not associated with training sessions, activity or play.
- Set up so you are comfy and so that your dog can relax in their favoured position – this helps to reduce shifting and fidgeting. You moving might cause your dog to be on alert, thinking that you are going to leave or going to engage your dog in some activity.
- Put your phone away. Turn off the TV or radio. (Well, for these challenges make sure devices are on only for you and your dog to enjoy together!)
- Settle close together. You don’t have to touch, if that’s not your dog’s thing.
- Breathe slowly, calmly and steadily. Match your dog’s breaths.
- Sigh. Sigh deeply.
- Ask your dog. Do they consent to being touched?
Touch your dog in a favourite spot. If your dog moves away, moves any part of their body away, starts to lick at your face or hand, or if your dog gets active or goes very still, stop touching.
Touch for a three count and withdraw. Ask them. Listen to them.
- Massage your dog gently. Trace their muscles and bones, gently. Move slowly enough so that you can feel what’s happening under their skin.
We have talked about using some touch based aspects of T-touch here.
- Think about your dog’s breathing. Think about the feeling of the lay of their coat. Think about your dog and how they bring light to your life. Think about your relationship with your dog. Think about just being, with your dog.
Dogs and other companion animals must learn how to be around people and people-goings-on. Dogs gain these skills by being around people, especially when they are young.
Spending time isolated from opportunities to be around people is detrimental to behavioural and social development. Dogs who are alone for large portions of the day, especially young dogs, may be at risk of suffering negative effects.
To help these dogs, we are tempted to spend the little available time with them go, go going. We think we are making up for lost time by providing the dog with activity, exertion and excitement. While all that stuff may be a good addition, consider just being as just as important a skill and a vital part of helping and supporting them, when you can spend time with them.
Now it’s your turn. Show us what you and your pets, of any species, can do with these challenges!
Post to your social media accounts, using the #100daysofenrichment so that we can find you and join our Facebook group to share your experiences, ideas and fun!
You can comment right here too 🙂
We look forward to hearing from you and your pets – just be!