All posts by AniEd Ireland

Day 41 Sniffing Saturday

Welcome to Day 41 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Sniffing as a reward

Saturdays during #100daysofenrichment are all about emphasising the dog in all our dogs; all about sniffing and doing dog things.

Last week, Day 34, we looked at how to embrace sniffing in training, rather than just view it as an annoying habit and distraction.
And we recently looked at how our dogs choose reinforcers (Day 36)…because sniffing is so often referred to as a distraction, it’s going to feature high up on a lot of dog’s lists of favourite things.

Today, we will put those things together!

We start with sniffing on cue, which means to sniff and search when given a particular signal, such as a word, and then we can begin to apply that skill to reinforcing behaviours. This works especially well for recall training so today, we will be (hopefully) reinforcing recalling with opportunities to sniff!

Sniffing on cue

We don’t need to teach our dogs to sniff; they got that down. But, we can teach them the meaning of a specific signal: ‘get your nose down the on the ground and search for food!’.

Cues (or antecedents) are the things that tell an animal to do a behaviour because it results in reinforcement (or tells them to avoid a behaviour that results in punishment). All behaviours are naturally cued by things that happen around the animal and teaching is about helping the animal learn the meaning of cues we introduce.

Cues can be sounds, words, hand signals, gestures or other environmental signals; anything that the dog can perceive.
Different types of cues work better in different environments, for different dogs, and for different behaviours. But, for the most part, dogs learn about body movements, gestures, positions and facial expressions better than they do words.

We often believe our dogs are performing behaviours on verbal cues, words, but often, the dog is reading our signals and movements (that we might not be aware we are doing) and performing behaviour any way.

To add a cue to a behaviour, you will need to make sure that the presentation of the cue is clean.
The cue must be presented just before the behaviour and just before any other signals that trigger behaviour, such as you moving your hand into a hand signal, or you moving your hand or body toward the food rewards.
These are just some of the basic mechanics of teaching animals.

Link

Because dogs don’t actually understand words, you can use any verbal cues you like. We just need to be consistent in the teaching the meaning of the word to the dog.
For this exercise for Decker, I use “Go Find It!” to mean search the ground for food, and “Go Play!” to mean ‘you’re off the clock, go be a dog’.

Why put sniffing on cue?

Sniffing is a wonderful behaviour, enjoyed immensely by our dogs, so really, they shouldn’t need too much encouragement but there are situations in which we can use sniffing to redirect our dog and help them cope.

Applications of a “go sniff!” cue: 

  • a fun searching game because dogs love scavenger hunts!
  • a diversion if you are busy or have stopped to chat to someone while out
  • a reward for focus and nice loose leash walking

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  • a cue to let the dog know that he can go be a dog now rather than having to focus on you
  • reduce arousal and giddiness by giving the dog something else to do

Link

  • redirect the dog from unwanted behaviour (instead of that, do this!)

Link

  • a diversion if you see something that bothers or distracts your dog approaching
  • a pleasant outcome to associate when helping your dog become more comfortable with a situation

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  • a great way to let your dog relax after training or after an exciting or stressful incident

Link

How might you apply “Go Sniff!” with your dog?

Option 1 Teaching “Go Sniff!”

Link

  • start in low distraction environments and practice the beginning stages in as many places as possible
  • for this to be established, start in places where your dog is comfortable and happy

Get the sequence right:

  • have food rewards in each hand and hold your hands behind your back or neutrally, at your sides
  • say “Go Sniff!”
  • toss one handful of food to one side
  • when the dog commits to going after those treats, toss the other handful to the other side (where the dog can’t see them land)

Link

Repeat in lots of different places, until your dog is actively searching for the treats he didn’t see landing.

Today work on establishing a sniffing cue and over the 100 days, we will be applying this in lots of ways for training & enrichment fun!

Option 2 Sniffing as a diffuser

Remember that behaviour is reinforced by behaviour, and sniffing is one of those behaviours dogs love to do, strongly reinforcing behaviour.

Sniffing helps engage the dog’s brain so reducing vigilance, it causes them to feel better about the world, it gets the seeking system going which is essentially a neurological reward system…there is nothing about sniffing dogs dislike!

Sniffing can be used to provide your dog with  relief before, during and after a tense, arousing, scary or exciting interaction or situation.

Not only might you divert your dog’s attention away from a trigger, but you are also giving them the opportunity to use a better coping skill for dealing with a triggering situation.
See a trigger? Cue “Go Sniff!” and toss some food on the ground…we call that a Carpet Bomb!

In Crazy2Calm class we teach Carpet Bombs in response to the dogs hearing their names said in a firm, panicked tone to start to countercondition their responses to their human’s sometimes less than cool reactions to triggering situations. (Link)

If your dog is in or about to be in a tense social interaction, with them staring at another dog or person, cue “Go Sniff!”.
Not only will this help to divert intense focus, but lowering of the head is a diffusion signal in dog.

Link

After excitement, a fearful response or any form of arousal, providing your dog with some sniffing opportunities will help them to reset, calm their arousal systems and take some time to get back in control.

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Option 3 Recall for Sniffing

If you make lots and lots of “Go Sniff!”s happen, your dog will be recalling without you even asking! Work on engagement, so that your dog chooses you, means you have a dog that wants to be with you ‘cos you make the magic happen.

Next week, we will be talking about lots of recall fun, but today, practice calling your dog and as soon as they move toward you, cue “Go Sniff!” and toss some treats on the floor, in the grass, in a Snufflemat.

Link

Sniffing for food

Ideally, we would like our dogs to be sniffing out their regular meals, as much as possible. But, some dogs will need a little help to get them going and we can have our dog sniffing for treats too!

Kibble is a pretty versatile food type for enrichment type feeding, and works well for this exercise.

You can add kibble in with other yummier treats and toss those. Or you can make a Training Mix so that kibble smells and tastes yummier, but without having to add extra calories or other foods, should the dog be sensitive or restricted.

Link

You can improve the smell/taste of kibble by grilling it a little, so that it becomes crunchier and oilier. You might also soak it in stock or other flavouring.

Wet and fresh foods can be a little more challenging:

  • Fresh meats and meat mixes (e.g. raw and home prepared diets) – cut up into small pieces, boiled or baked, frozen in small ice cube trays or pyramid baking mats for small individual treats.
    Alternatively, you could use dried or semi-moist meats and cut them into small pieces for tossing. (Note that you feed a smaller volume of dried or dehydrated foods as they are more concentrated.)

 

  • Wet feeds (e.g. canned foods) – frozen in small ice cube trays or pyramid baking mats for small, individual treats.

Don’t forget fruit and vegetables too, if you’re dog likes them. Frozen peas are one of Decker’s favourite for sniffing!

Your challenge

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 – have fun & brain games!

 

 

Day 40 Freestyle Friday

Welcome to Day 40 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

Freestyle Friday

Now it’s your turn to get creative! Every Friday is Freestyle Friday. We’ll give you the ingredients for a puzzle or enrichment device and you build it.

Rules:

  • you must use all the ingredients
  • you can add anything else you like, or nothing at all
  • whatever you come up with must be enriching

Day 40 Ingredients

You must use the following:

  • muffin pan
  • egg boxes
  • balls
  • toilet roll tubes
  • paper cups

You can add food or toys or anything else appropriate, if you like. Or you can use this as it is.

We can’t wait to see what fun and brain games you and your pet get up to with this one!

Your challenge

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 – have fun & brain games!

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Day 39 Bottles

Welcome to Day 39 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Bottles

At a glance:

  • plastic bottles can make versatile food puzzles and toys
  • food and cognitive based enrichment
  • add food, wrap it up, add it to a Busy Box, suspend it, make a toy
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and these challenges offer lots of opportunities for children to use their imagination to come up with the best puzzle bottles for their pets.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • Puzzle bottle prep will probably take you about 5-10 minutes – having a collection of puzzle stuff is a good idea…it will resemble a pile of rubbish or recycling!

 

What do you need?

  • plastic bottles from milk or soft drinks, for example
  • a range of food rewards – kibbles or cube shaped/sized treats work best for most of these puzzles
  • paper for wrapping
  • a box or Busy Box stuff
  • dog lead, cord, show lace, rope or similar (you cold even use a bamboo stick or similar)
  • socks, ideally thick, adult size

Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage a wide range of foraging and exploratory behaviours
  • to do more feeding related behaviour than eating
  • to encourage the development of strategies (behaviours) for getting the food out of  the bottles
  • by varying the design of puzzle bottles we will facilitate carrying out a range of different behaviours, broadening the dog’s repertoire

While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Working out how to get to the food and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the bottles are examples of cognitive challenge.

Sniffing out, tasting and chewing food all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding their way through each food puzzle, determining its value,  and engaging in the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

Puzzle bottles encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the bottle is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

By offering a variety of puzzle bottles, we want to help the dog expand their range of puzzle-busting behaviours and facilitate your pet applying strategies from other puzzles to new ones; that’s a true cognitive gift and is growing your dog’s brain!

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • give your pet plenty of space for working on puzzle bottles and bear in mind there will be mess, so think about spaces that are easier for clean up
  • the more difficult you have made the challenge, the higher the value the reward must be so use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration!)
  • if your dog just dives in, in full on destruction mode that might also be an indicator that they need an easier challenge so they get to experiment with a broader range of behaviours

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

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Applications of Puzzle Bottles:

Bottles are certainly a favourite for many dogs; they offer different possibilities for expanding the dog’s behavioural range, truly engaging them cognitively.

Lots of dogs simply like to chase, chew and play with an empty discarded bottle. Decker likes to remove the lids of bottles…job done!

Puzzle bottles are truly adaptable – there really is no limit to how they can be adapted to suit different puzzling levels.

What I tend to see, though, when puzzles are given to dogs, is that well-meaning owners go waaaaay over board, coming up with the most elaborate designs to really challenge their pet.

While it’s great to go for challenge, it’s important that enrichment remain enriching. That means that the challenge must be made appropriate and doable for the individual puzzler.

Our job is to adjust the puzzle difficulty so that our dog uses a range of behaviour and gets to the goal pretty quickly.

This is the true way to improve the dog’s confidence in puzzling (and in life) and help them expand their behavioural repertoire.

Link

Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in puzzle bottles, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to this puzzle.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, these may not work.

If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats in your pocket and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating the bottle.
Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.

Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fastners, small pieces and plastic pieces. With bottles, remove the lid and plastic ring before giving to your pet. Play safe!

Enrichment Options

Lots of different challenges you can present with just some plastic bottles!

Option 1 Add Food

Basically, the challenge can be increased or decreased depending on the type and size of bottle and the amount of food used.

The smaller the bottle, the wider the opening and the more food added, equals an easier challenge, perfect for starting out and for dogs who may become frustrated easily.

When you come to the end of a plastic bottle of milk or juice, you can give it to your dog to lick and lap at, if they like and can tolerate that.

Beginners:

  • start with a smaller bottle with a wider opening
  • small plastic milk jugs (500ml) and juice bottles often fit the bill
  • add lots of food for a quick solve
  • as your dog develops strategies to confidently get the food out, without having to do a whole lot of chewing of the opening, reduce the amount of food added

Link

Intermediate:

  • use a soft drinks bottle that’s about 500ml size
  • again, start with lots of food and reduce the amount as the dog gets the game

Link

Advanced:

  • use a large plastic milk bottle (1 or 2 litres in size)
  • adjust the amount of food according to your dog’s abilities

Link

To add extra challenge, run a cord or rope into the bottle to slow the release of the food.

Link

Option 2 Hidden Bottles

Hide a bottle in a puzzle to increase the challenge!

Beginners: Wrap it!

  • add some food to a plastic bottle
  • lay it on some paper and roll it up
  • wrap well and scrunch the ends to make a Bottle Christmas Cracker

Intermediate: Bottle in a Busy Box

  • add some food to a plastic bottle
  • add that to a box

Link

Link

Advanced: Bottle in a Sock!

  • add some food to a plastic bottle
  • stuff the bottle in a sock

Option 3 Suspended Bottles

Don’t let your dog get frustrated; if your dog shows behaviour that would help to move or flip the bottle, toss some food rewards on the floor. Continuing to do this will help them to refine this behaviour so that they develop behaviours that they can apply to solving the puzzle.

Beginners: Bottle Jumbler

  • secure the lid of the bottle so that the bottle is firm
  • make three holes, large enough for the food you are planning to use, around the bottle at different places
  • pierce the end of a bottle
  • remove the lid and ring
  • feed a dog lead, cord or shoe lace through the bottle from the opening through the hole you made in the bottom
  • add food and JUMBLE!

Link

Intermediate: Bottle Spinner

  • pierce a couple of bottles through the middle
  • pass a cord, lead or rope through them; you could also use bamboo or similar
  • suspend it carefully, freestanding

Link

Advanced: Hanging Bottle

  • use a dog collar to hang a bottle with a handle, such as a milk jug
  • adding more food and using a smaller bottle makes it easier to solve

Link

Link

Option 4 Bottle Toys

Your pet might be entertained by just the bottle on its own; remember to remove lids and rings.

Link

Hiding the bottle, allowing them to chase or catch it, and chew for a little. Be careful as chewing plastic may cause it to split and cut your dog, or they will ingest broken off bits. Play safe!

Adding a bottle to a sock can make a fun, crackly tug or throw toy too!

Your challenge

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 – have fun & brain games!

 

Week 7 Equipment List

We are thinking about Week 7 already!

Keep up with all the resources and challenges relating to #100daysofenrichment here
and join our Facebook group too!

All challenges are presented with multiple options so you won’t lose out if you don’t have one or two of the items.

For Week 7 you will need:

  • a variety of different treats & toys
  • rope, cord, dog lead, shoe lace or similar
  • toilet roll tubes
  • plastic drinks bottles
  • cloths like face cloths or cleaning cloths
  • paper for wrapping and packing
  • balls and toys with holes
  • egg boxes
  • muffin pan
  • cardboard cup holders
  • sweets/biscuits plastic inserts (you might have lots left over after Valentine’s Day!)
  • paper cups
  • balls
  • small bowls
  • duct tape or similar

And for Freestyle Friday you will design your own enrichment device with the following ingredients:

  • dog lead, cord, rope, old tights/stockings, shoe lace or similar
  • basket
  • fabric/cotton/canvas shopping bags

We have lots more fun and brain games for you for next week. Start getting ready…

Subscribe to this blog so that each day’s plan is delivered right into your inbox each morning.

 

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Day 38 Hanging Out: Massage & Mindfulness

Welcome to Day 38 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Massage & Mindfulness

Mindfulness is all the rage at the moment, and here we will apply it to just being with our dogs, really being with them.

On Day 4, we talking 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.

And on Day 3 and Day 24, we looked at the types of handling and touch our dogs might enjoy, or not.

Today’s challenge will combine these experiences but don’t worry if you are just joining us now, review previous days for background or start today, bearing consent in mind.

There are no big plans or training exercises today. We are going to dial is way back and be.

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.

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Can dogs be mindful?

Well, we don’t have evidence for that and even if they could, I’m not sure we would know about it! But that doesn’t mean we can’t facilitate them developing some of the benefits experienced by humans who practice mindfulness.

Breathing deeply, feeling secure and safe, choosing to consent or not, and just being bring lots of wonderful benefits in stress busting and relationship boosting, for both ends of the leash.

Being mindful, with your dog presents benefits for your too and together.

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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.
  • Settle close together. Although ‘massage’ is in the title, 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.

When you first start with this, a massage might just last a few seconds. That’s ok. This isn’t a race.

We practice this in Crazy2Calm class, as part of learning about relaxation, breathing and self-calming.

Link

 

Hang out

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.

Link – read the explanation accompanying this video too

Your challenge

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!

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Day 37 Lappables & Lickables

Welcome to Day 37 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Lappables & Lickables

At a glance:

  • devices to encourage your dog to use their tongue
  • food based enrichment
  • line it, spread it, freeze it, suspend them
  • get the family involved in this one – kids love making puzzles for pets and these challenges offer lots of opportunities for children to use their imagination to come up different challenges for their pets.
    Remember, supervise children in all enrichment activities and interactions with pets.
  • prep will probably take you 5-10 minutes – you can store lots of these in the freezer too, so there will always be a puzzle ready to go

What do you need?

  • stuffable toys, such as Kongs, K9Connectables, Zogoflex
  • paper plate, frisbee, biscuit/sweets insert
  • pyramid mat, Lickey mat
  • muffin pan, non-slip dog bowl, ice cube tray
  • a range of food types
  • a dog lead (a shoe lace or a length of rope or cord will do too)

 

That rhythmic lapping is relaxing and calming. (Link

Because of the home made nature and variable materials used in today’s puzzles, it’s best to supervise your pet carefully when they have access to these.
Know your dog! If you have an ingester, some of these puzzles may not work.

If you are concerned about your dog ingesting non-food items during puzzling, have a pocketful of HIGH value treats in your pocket and be ready to toss a couple toward your dog, across their eyeline, if you think they are thinking about eating the paper.
Making sure the challenge is very doable and they can get to the hidden food rewards quickly is key to modifying their behaviour and expectations during puzzling.

Check all your equipment for this challenge carefully and make sure to remove tape, staples, other fastners, small pieces and plastic pieces. Play safe!

Enrichment Goals:

  • to encourage lapping and licking – these behaviours are relaxing for dogs and can help them recover from stress (including excitement)
  • to slow eating
  • to help dogs settle themselves and soothe themselves
    We teach pet owners how to Park their Pups! This can be a great way of helping puppies, new or active dogs learn to chill when everyone else is relaxed and for bringing your pet places such as outdoor cafes (set up clip here).
  • to slow down and choose calming, quiet lapping and licking behaviours, rather than all-out destruction

 

While this challenge is certainly food based, they are also experiencing cognitive, sensory and environmental enrichment, with lots of crossover between categories.

Working out how to clean out the puzzle and developing dexterous skills in manipulating the it are examples of cognitive challenge.

Sniffing out, tasting and lapping different foods, from different substrates, all offer sensory pay off, but so does finding each puzzle, determining its value, and engaging in  the puzzle of getting to the good stuff.

Puzzles encourage pets to interact with their environment – just the very interaction with the puzzle is encouraging the pet to manipulate their surroundings, to get the things they like.

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

Something lappable after an outing is the perfect way to come back down from the excitement and exertion, and relax. (Link)

How can we achieve these goals?

  • provide a comfy safe space for working on the puzzle – this means that your pet won’t be approached or fussed with when there so that they can work away on their puzzle without too much pressure
  • use foods that encourage lapping and licking
  • if the pet is new to these puzzles, use HIGH value foods to motivate exploration and experimentation and make it VERY easy to get the food (no frustration and no destruction!)
  • if your pet is a novice, give these when they are calm and chilled and when the house and humans/other pets are calm and quiet – this will help them to associate calm with this context, which in turns helps to calm them further

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

Applications of lappables & lickables:

Once the pet’s use of lappables & lickables is established and they get the game, we can begin to use them in their day to day lives to achieve our enrichment goals.

  • make lappables and lickables available after stress or excitement
    It’s great to have them ready for after walks, games, training sessions, after people come home or after a more stressful event such as getting a fright, after barking and so on.
  • use them to manage and redirect behaviour
    Have them ready when guests come in, to keep your pet busy in another room while guests settle and to give to your pet so that they are busy when guests are present.
  • help to keep them entertained, busy and to settle
    Lappables & licakables can be great to give when you need them to entertain themselves and to settle themselves.
  • sometimes stuffables can be comforting to a confined or alone pet
    These are an excellent addition for pets that are on restricted exercise, crate rest or living in kennel confinement. Check out some of the suspended behind-bars options to help keep confined pets happy, safe and busy.

Link

On Day 17, we talked about lots of ways we could use lappables and lickables to help distract and manage a pet’s behaviour during grooming and other husbandry procedures.

  • use a spatula, dipped in something irresistible like pate, cable tied to the leg of a chair or table so it’s easy to fit and remove for regular use

Stick a dipped wooden spoon into the plug hole of the bath or shower for your dog to work on while you bathe them:

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  • line or stuff a Kong toy or other stuffable and wedge in between the sofa cushions; this will be at head height for a lot of medium and large sized dogs

Use a stuffed or lined stuffable between your knees to carry out husbandry procedures, such as eye cleaning:

Link

  • smear the sides of the bath or the walls around a grooming table so that your dog can lap, while you groom and bathe

I found this vegetable cleaner, with a little suction cup, in a home wares store for €1.50 and it’s been really effective for keeping dogs occupied and happy for grooming and bathing. I jam in some pate and freeze it; there are two sides to keep them interested:

You can also buy stuffable toys with suction cups for dogs like the Chase n’ Chomp Sticky Bone or Licky Mats, and there are lots of other types and designs. The suction cup is handy for in the bath and most will connect readily to slick walls or doors.

A Snuffle Mat or similar feeder can be placed on a stool or chair for the dog to work on while you groom them too.

Enrichment Options

Lappables & lickables are pretty versatile. Choose ingredients to encourage lapping and licking.

When using people-suitable ingredients, please check labels for substances that can be harmful to dogs such as xylitol, oninon or garlic powder, raisins or grapes and so on.

Ingredient ideas

Spreadables:

  • pates, meat or fish pastes
  • cream cheese, soft/spreadable cheese, cottage cheese, yoghurt, butter or spreads
  • peanut butter or other nut butters
  • coconut oil
  • kibble mash (soak kibble in warm water (or flavouring like a gravy) and mash with a fork)
  • cooked and mashed potato, carrot, sweet potato, squashes, apple
  • mashed banana
  • baby food
  • commercial wet food, such as good quality tinned foods
  • Marmite
  • scrambled egg

Gravies and flavourings

To entice your pet and to make some of today’s options better for freezing, mixing the contents with something yummy is usually a winner!

  • yoghurt, soft and spreadable cheeses
  • water/ice
  • low-sodium stock
  • gelatin (small amounts as it causes flatulence)
  • mash wet foods into pastes, add water to thin if required. to make a ‘gravy’
  • meat or vegetable juices/water (allow it to sit so that the fat can be skimmed and removed)
  • baby foods

Your dog’s regular diet

Some of the options allow for the use of any and all food types, including kibble, wet foods and fresh and raw foods too so all the bases are covered today.

Option 1 Spread it!

Spread your spreadable on something for your dog to lick and lap:

  • paper plate
  • plastic frisbee
  • biscuit/chocolate/sweets inserts, right side up

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  • biscuit/chocolate/sweets inserts, upside down

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  • pyramid mat

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  • Muffin pan or ice cube tray, upside down
  • Non-slip dog bowl, upside down

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  • Stuffable toys like Kongs or K9Connectables or chews like Nylabones – line it on the inside or spread it on the outside

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  • Commercially available toys like Chase n’ Chomp Sticky Bone or Licky Mats

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Freeze spreadables for extra lapping!

Option 2: Freeze it!

Pupsicles

This option might be particularly useful for dogs who are likely to ingest toys and enrichment devices, and when they can’t be supervised.
Because we are using ice, essentially, this may only be suitable in warm, comfortable temperatures. Don’t give dogs ice cold things to eat if they are very hot or after exerting exercise – allow them to cool a little first.

  • Line a lunchbox or tub with a freezer bag (or just use the bag) and add water or low-sodium stock. Add some kibble, regular food, treats, meats, vegetables.
  • Close the bag and freeze for a couple of hours.
  • Remove the frozen mix from the tub and peel away the bag (reuse it for the next one!)
  • Give to your pet to work on.

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Use any freezable containers, such as :

  • lunchboxes or bowls

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  • upturned non-slip dog bowls

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Line the underside of the bowl and add food, treats and water. Freeze and then pull the ring out. This can make a great suspended puzzle by hanging the ice-ring up with a dog lead.

  • muffin pans or similar baking trays

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  • ice cube trays, which are available in lots of different sizes
  • pyramid baking mats

Smear spreadable yummies and add add treats or food to each space. Freeze and then turn out.

Pupsicles ideas:

  • Fill each gap with a variety of possibilities; scroll down to our list of ingredients for Stuffables that can be used. We talk about Pupsicles there too.
  • Load each gap in a muffin tray or ice cube tray with a mix of your dog’s favourites and add a stick-like chew, such as a pizzle to each mix. Freeze and your will have pupsicles with sticks, just like a human ice-cream!
  • Make a gravy out of wet dog food or spreadables by mixing with a little water. Pour the mixture into the container, freeze and have different sized treats ready for training, for stuffing in toys and for enjoying.
    Using a pyramid tray makes small sized, handy treats and there are lots of recipes on line for baked treats too.
  • Add treats to each space and freeze or add smaller amounts of food, topped up with water, to make lighter snacks.
  • Freeze meat, wet dog food, or even a kibble mash and give the block to the dog to chew.
  • For dogs on more restricted diets, just adding their regular kibble or food to some water and freezing in a container can present a novelty that might be attractive to them.
  • Freeze fruits or vegetables in a tray or whole. If your dog needs enticement, dip the fruit or veg in some meat juices and freeze that. This is a great way to add low calorie, but very tasty treats, to a fat restricted diet.
    Always allow meat juices to cool and skim the fat first, before use.

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You can also use gravies, yogurt or cream cheese instead of or mixed with the water.

Lay a cord or dog lead in the mix before freezing and you will have a ready made puzzle-on-a-rope for suspended puzzling fun!

Option 3 Suspend it!

Suspending any puzzle provides entirely new challenges and sensory experiences for animals. Not only does it look and act differently, they now need to develop new strategies for figuring it out!

In this clip, the stuffable toys used are stuffed with baby food and frozen, to encourage lots of lapping & licking.

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Suspended puzzles come in three levels of difficulty generally and here we are going to add an extra level of challenge.

Beginners:

  • suspend the lappable loosely, with lots of give in the line, against a wall or flat surface

Intermediate:

  • suspend the lappable on a slightly more taut line, freestanding (so not against a wall or flat surface)

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Advanced:

  • behind bars

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Spread your spreadable on:

  • paper plates
  • plastic frisbee or plates
  • plastic insert
  • muffin pan
  • pyramid pan
  • underside of an ice cube tray

Suspend your lappable using:

  • cord, rope, dog lead
  • pegs
  • cable ties
  • pipe cleaners
  • plant ties

I love using these lappables for crate confinement for dogs on rest, for example. It’s an extra challenge for them without giving them access to something they might ingest. I tend to use paper plates and cable ties, with the excess to the outside away from the dog.

Option 4 Lickables

We can slow dogs down, encouraging them to use their tongue to eat, rather than just inhale food. These are essentially slow-feeder bowls.

And even if your dog doesn’t wolf their food down, these challenges can offer new sensory and cognitive experiences.

Distribute your dog’s meals in:

  • each gap in a muffin pan, right side up

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  • each gap in a muffin pan, upside down

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  • each gap in an ice cube tray, right side up

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  • each gap in an ice cube tray, upside down

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  • in an upside down non-slip dog bowl

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Your challenge

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 – have fun & brain games!

 

Day 36 Choice & Choosing: reinforcement

Welcome to Day 36 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.

Don’t forget to review all the information leading up to #100daysofenrichment and more here on playing safe. Know your dog!

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Reinforcement

At a glance:

  • providing dogs with a choice of rewards based on their preferences
  • social, cognitive and sensory based enrichment
  • understanding reinforcers, rewards, and things your pet likes is crucial in providing for them, teaching them, loving them
  • get the family involved in this one – while a lot of this enrichment challenge is observation based, there are some simple training exercises that children might enjoy participating in
  • sit back, do some observation; move some beds about or engage in some simple training exercises…most of which require you to just sit about!

What do you need?

  • different rewards…rewards are more than just food and toys

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Enrichment Goals:

  • to provide a choice reinfrocers
  • to encourage dogs to choose and introduce choice into their day to day life
  • to teach the dog that their human will ask for behaviour and will make sure reinforcement is available – this reduces stress by improving predictability and controlability
  • to build that bond between dog and human
  • to learn about learning – this is just another puzzle to your dog…”how do I train the human to make rewards available?!“…it’s all human training, for dogs!

Rewards, reinforcers and things your dog likes are not necessarily the same things. Reinforcers are very specific; access to reinforcers strengthens behaviour. This means that animals will carry out behaviour to access reinforcers; they will work for reinforcers.

Reinforcement is the stuff that ensures you get behaviour you want. But, reinforcers are available to your dog ALL the time so your reinforcers must compete in order for your dog to choose behaviours you want them to do.

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Decker is a compulsive greeter to all who visit. But, although that is clearly very reinforcing behaviour it doesn’t seem to compete with getting a gift of a new treat, a trachea chew. While he clearly likes the idea of saying hello, a novel chew is higher value at the moment. The people will still be there to charm, even when his chew is gone!

Sometimes we can’t do much about our dogs’ exposure to reinforcers. More traditional training approaches have been invested in control and controlling, deprivation, and even in attempting to find stronger reinforcers.
Instead, I prefer to establish choice, and choice in engagement; that’s what Day 34 was all about. Teach the dog that they can choose; they can choose sniffing and they can choose you. By offering choice, you become a better, more likely choice.

Getting behaviour and keeping behaviour is all about reinforcement history. How much value have you built into a behaviour? How healthy is the reinforcement account for that behaviour?

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But, reinforcers are only reinforcing if the dog is willing to work (demonstrate behaviour) to gain access to them. Are the rewards you are using really reinforcing? How would you know?

Choice & Choosing

Throughout their day, dogs must make choices about which behaviours to demonstrate. For the most part, dogs would choose behaviours that we would probably not like so we ‘train’ in the hope that the dog will choose behaviours we prefer. This is why #100daysofenrichment is so important for dogs.

No matter what approach or attitude to teaching your dog you take, we are training the dog to choose our preference rather than theirs. We teach dogs to be less dog, so we can live with them. Getting to be more dog is the central tenet of #100daysofenrichment!

Reinforcing behaviours makes them happen more often so the dog is more likely to choose behaviours with a good reinforcement history. Punishing behaviours makes them happen less often so dogs learn to avoid choosing those behaviours.

Our dogs are learning to train their environment, including us humans. How easily trained are you?
Does your dog know how to get you to provide things he likes? Do you make it really easy for him to do that? He chooses behaviours that get you producing reinforcers.

Why we want to maximise reinforcement based approaches is so that our dog isn’t learning to avoid situations that produce punishers because them might include avoiding us.
I want dogs to enjoy choosing behaviours I like…it’s the least I can do, given they might actually prefer to do something else.

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Life can’t offer free or even abundant choice; too much choice isn’t beneficial at all! But, where we can, I believe we owe it to dogs, who get so little choice about everything in their lives, to allow them to make some choices, learn that their behaviour makes a difference, and get to be more dog.

We have many Choice & Choosing challenges over the 100 days so this will be a theme you will visit throughout.

I have battled with and rambled on about choice in dog training before and continue to investigate the best ways to empower pets and other animals with whom we are in contact.
Susan Friedman has been talking about choice in animal teaching forever; choice is a primary reinforcer, she teaches, and that means that animals will naturally seek out situations where choice is available. If it’s evolved as a primary reinforcer (nature selects for this tendency) it’s pretty vitally important to animals, just as food, water, shelter and sex are.

What goals can you add to this list for your pets?

How can we achieve these goals?

  • think about the sorts of decisions your dog has to make in living in the human world; what are they basing those decisions on (what’s reinforcing the chosen option, what’s punishing the rejected options?)
  • to make observations about reinforcers, you first need to be able to identify them.
    Start by watching your dog’s behaviour. Ask what they are getting out of that behaviour? What’s the thing likely causing them to repeat that behaviour? They’re  the reinforcers.
  • observe the decisions your pet makes about reinforcers – what behaviours do they choose?
  • based on those observations, how can we provide them with better choices for rewards?
  • we presume we are using rewards that reinforce behaviour but if you have been along this journey with us for any length of time, you are beginning to understand that what we primates think our dogs should enjoy, is often not what dogs really want at all

What adjustments will you make for your pets?

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Applications of choice in reinforcement:

Whether you never intentionally reinforce (i.e. train) your dog’s behaviour, they will still learn and will still carry out behaviour that works to gain access to reinforcers. The environment is always reinforcing (and punishing) behaviour.

Animals have evolved to behave. And behaviour has evolved to allow animals gain control over what happens to them (i.e. to gain access to things we want, and avoid exposure to things we don’t).

Your pets will need behaviours to survive, and to survive in the human world. Generally, these are behaviours that are within the animal’s natural range, but they might just need them in specific conditions, such as when something in the environment tells them they will need this behaviour.
The environment tells the animal they need a behaviour, and doing that behaviour will result in access to reinforcers or help them avoid punishers.

When those behaviours are not within their natural range, they might need a little more guidance and teaching.

Rather than thinking how we make our dogs do a certain behaviour, instead, think how you can set up the environment so your dog chooses to do behaviour.
Rather than thinking how we stop a behaviour we don’t like, instead, think how you can set up the environment so your dog chooses to do behaviour you prefer.

To teach, you must understand reinforcement. Reinforcers are in the eye of the beholder; that means your individual dog, in a specific circumstance, decides what is reinforcing or not. And we can only conclude that something is reinforcing, if behaviour is strengthened.

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Teaching animals how to use behaviour to gain access to reinforcement gives them control over what happens to them. Training through choice is about giving them control, rather than us taking control.

Dogs who know their choices count, can use behaviour to ask for relief, they can ask for things they need.
They don’t need to badger and they don’t need to aggress. Choices allow dogs to navigate the human world with confidence because they can control what happens to them.
That’s what appropriate choice does – it busts stress and boosts confidence.

Enrichment Options

We often presume that our pets experience a good standard of welfare because they live a life similar to ours, in the human world. This is especially the case for pet dogs.

But, what would our dogs choose, if they had the choice?

What gets them going? What drives their behaviour?

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I have no doubt, if you are joining in on our project, you are doing a wonderful job at providing the best dog-life for your dog.
We can’t possibly offer our dogs all the choices, or indeed many options they would prefer, despite our best intentions. But we can certainly offer them better choices – two crappy options are no better than no choice at all.

So, today, our mission is to find our dogs better choices by asking them. Giving them the option to choose, and making sure their choices are meaningful. Their behaviour matters. Today, we ask the dog.

Enrichment Options

Step 1: What reinforcers are reinforcing?

1.1 List the things that your dog will work for. 

I want you to think carefully about this. Reinforcers are behaviours. Instead of a reinforcer being the treat, it’s actually eating the treat. Instead of a reinforcer being a tennis ball, it’s actually the game that’s played with the tennis ball.

Behaviour reinforces behaviour.

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Decker tugs to get to shake the Jolly ball. Behaviour reinforces behaviour. 

You don’t have to list things that are for training, you can list anything that your dog will demonstrate behaviour in order to gain access. These behaviours might even be unwanted by you…

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I haven’t found anything that is more reinforcing for Decker’s behaviour than access to swimming. Nothing. A bitch in heat…nah…SWIMMING! (True story)
Swimming is reinforcing and therefore might, in some contexts, be considered a distraction. Distractions are reinforcers that are higher ranking than what you have to offer.
That’s why understanding this is important as is our work on teaching our dogs to choose engagement (Day 34).

1.2 Rank the reinforcers.

Put them in order of higher value to lower value.

What are the things that make your dog will go bonkers for?
What’s more distracting?
What are the things that your dog is willing to carry out only simple behaviours in low-distraction situations?

In the clip above, shaking the Jolly ball is higher in value to tugging.

1.3 Reinforcement is contextual

When I asked you to do 1.2, you might have found yourself saying that a particular reinforcer is higher or lower in value, dependent on the situation in which it’s available or presented.

Run through your ranking list. In which situations are the higher and lower value more or less reinforcing?

Your dog might go ga-ga for chicken…but not when there are squirrels within 50 metres, for example.

Step 2 Evaluate reinforcement

2.1 Preference tests

Now, we don’t have to get too scientific here, but let’s test your conclusions about your dog’s reinforcement ranking.

  • set up with two potential reinforcers
  • ask your dog for a simple behaviour
  • release them to get the reinforcer they choose
  • remove the other option quickly, before they can get to it
  • switch the position of each reinforcer each time so that there isn’t a side or position bias misleading our results
  • record multiple trials

One of Decker’s preference tests: kibble, meaty treats, pepperoni, hollee roller tug, Jolly Ball:

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Test the different reinforcers in different situations. Remember to consider the power of ‘distractions’ too.

2.2 What’s really reinforcing about reinforcement?

The behaviours that are reinforcing are what’s reinforcing, but which behaviours really act as the reinforcement for your dog.

  • Eating isn’t just eating. Tossing food to be caught, rolling it along the floor to be chased, or handing it straight into the dog’s mouth are all very different in terms of behaviours that may act as reinforcement.
    Playing Fun with Food games may reveal which food-related behaviours are more reinforcing for your dog in different situations.
  • Sniffing, we talk a lot about, and it’s clearly a reinforcing behaviour. But sniffing isn’t just sniffing. Sniffing is affected by temperature, humidity, time of day, the available smells, the weather; each making the activity more or less reinforcing.
    Check out Sniffing Saturdays for more on the sensory enrichment available on sniffathons and adventures.
  • Play with a toy might involve many different reinforcing behaviours. Maybe your dog likes to chase a ball, maybe he likes to bite a rubber toy, maybe he likes to lie down and dissect the toy, maybe he likes to squeeze it in his mouth.

(Follows videos with squeaky toys squeaking….adjust volume accordingly)

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Decker wants to squeeze/bite/squeak the tennis ball but also wants to chase it and catch it and bite it.

Sometimes he just wants to bite it and squeak it, before dissecting it:

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Sometimes he wants to do this with an over-inflated football:

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And if it’s a toy on a rope, he likes to carry it, wiggling the toy at the end, and catching it.

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Each item and activity allows the dog choose from a range of reinforcing behaviours. This an important part of enrichment – providing the animal with access to a range of potential activities and then letting them find fun and reinforcing ways of interacting with their world.
I won’t bore you with all of the videos of Decker interacting with his world, seeking enrichment, trying out new behaviours, rehearsing established reinforcing activities.

Now it’s your turn with your pet – carefully look at his or her interactions with their world and evaluate the value of reinforcing activities.

What behaviours is your pet carrying out? What part of reinforcement is reinforcing?

Step 3 What dogs want

Letting animals choose sounds straight forward. But assessing whether the animal is actually making a choice or being affected by some other variable is tricky to narrow down.

Present choices

Make sure that you provide choices where it’s possible; we’ve talked about providing a choice of bedding, for example.

While deconstructed-dog-food games provide different sensory pay-offs, it might also help us assessing and providing choice.

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Have a range of toys available and, for play-time, allow your dog to choose the toy. It’s their play-time, after all!
We just need to present the options and allow the dog to choose. If you have done diligent observation, you might be able to predict your dog’s choices in different situations.

Provide your dog with access to lots of different games, so he has a range from which to choose and play-time is healthier and happier.

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Allowing your dog to choose the toy, allows them to choose the game.

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Reinforcer value may be affected by reinforcement history, novelty and deprivation, so it’s difficult to tell, just from these little tests, that the dog is actually making a considered choice about whether he would like to play a particular game.

I have tried to be consistent in these contexts, that a particular toy means a particular game will happen, but sometimes he has other ideas. Choice.

I have tried to formalise it by him carrying out specific behaviours or go to specific stations/targets for particular games but again this may be affected by various other effects, that can be difficult to narrow down.

I know which toy he will pick in each context…well, in the first test, he technically chooses both so…

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This is the latest one we are working on. He picks the toy and I offer two options for games; in this case, to roll along the floor for chasing or to toss in the air for catching.

He gets the game in this context and tests the available games at the start.

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You will also see him ask me to play the gimme-dat-monster and chase him. To facilitate choice, we have lots of cues (from him to me, and from me to him) to ask.

I ask what game he wants and he lets me know. Well, he really offers a behaviour which happens to get him the result he wants (the behaviour is reinforced) and this has been clear, because we have a good foundation of communication to build upon.

Sometimes he wants me to throw, sometimes he wants me to tug. I ask and listen to his response. That’s the deal. That’s how you get clear cut communication, improving welfare and confidence. Choice is powerful.

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Choose your enrichment

The animal gets to decide if they participate, what they do, how they participate and how much they engage. Enrichment provides choice.

Your job is to make sure they are safe to choose and that their choices are safe.

In this clip, Decker has a ball stuffed with Husky hair that we use in Sniffaris for olfactory enrichment. Or certainly, we intend that the dog will find it enriching from an olfactory point of view but as you can see, Decker comes up with all sorts of other forms of entertainment!

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While Billie was originally working her way through this brain-teaser puzzle, there are food rewards hidden in there and she does engage in sniffing and hunting for them, she also finds chasing the loose balls as just as if not more entertaining, as shown in the following clip.

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We can stand back and allow the dog to choose their own enrichment, their own route to solving the puzzles, the behaviours that reinforce.

Your challenge

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 – have fun & brain games!

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