Scentual Enrichment

Scentual Enrichment

Scentual Enrichment

Part IV of the Dog’s Nose Knows

As many of you may be aware, captive exotic animals can become very bored, frustrated and anxious without having some kind of daily environmental enrichment in their lives. I am not a big fan of zoos and animal parks however, a few of them have come a long way and have worked hard at enhancing the animal’s lives by incorporating varying enrichment exercises and objects to help mimic their “natural” environment in the wild.

Have you ever stopped to think that our domestic companion animals may become just as bored, frustrated and stressed in their lives with us?

With most people working outside of the home, leaving the dog (and/or cat or bird) alone, cooped up all day with no fresh air, unfiltered sunlight, exercise, etc. can be quite boring for them. Their brains simply are not being engaged, they are not being stimulated as they were designed to be.

I know some of you breeders out there are aware of the fact that puppies are not able to develop properly mentally or physically if they are not stimulated and exposed to as many new objects, sights, sounds and of course smells – on a daily basis as they mature.  Animals senses were designed to be stimulated daily; especially dogs and their sense of scent/smell!

Living with us humans can be pretty frustrating, especially if we don’t do what we can to make our dog’s life more interesting, and allowing them different experiences. Dogs need all their senses stimulated, but even when they use their other senses of touch, taste, vision and hearing, as you have been reading, they still will always use their nose to back up the information they are receiving!

The brains of dogs that get little stimulation don’t develop properly and their physical development is compromised as well. They can’t become habituated to (get used to) different things so they become frightened of new or different experience or encounter. Enrichment promotes their naturalistic behaviors that stimulate their mind and increases physical activity. Enrichment reduces stress and therefore promotes overall health by increasing their perception of control over their environment and by occupying their time.

I would like to encourage you to begin thinking of our dogs more of as house wolves – domesticated wolves if you will; rather than as furry children. What would they do during the day if they lived on their own in the wild?

Wolves and wild dogs (all wild animals for that matter)  forage, hunt and practice their hunting skills through play.

Surly you have noticed that wild animals are fed from bowls or dishes and they handle their food in ways that are natural to them. Interesting results from a study showed that when dogs solved a problem and earned a reward they wagged their tails more. These dogs were also more likely to try to solve the problem again, rather than if they were just given a reward.  While it may hurt our feelings a bit, the study found that food was a preferred reward, compared to spending time with another dog, or even by being petted by a familiar human.

Studies have also shown that when animals are given an enriched, stimulating environment (a variety of things to do, smell, and explore) they live longer, they are better adjusted, more relaxed, better able to develop problem-solving skills, and they remember what they learn. This directly relates to our dogs (or other companion animals) at home! Bored companion animals are easily frustrated, and frustration often leads to destruction. You can avoid boredom and the usual resulting destruction by enriching your dog’s (or cats’s or birds’s any companion animal’s) life!

Enrichment exercises at home have proven to increase an animal’s natural behaviors, and as result, increases their health, longevity and overall, life!

As most of you know,  I a raw feeding proponent.  I feed mainly prey model but whenever possible I love to feed whole prey and when the weather is nice, it can be fun to hide a couple of whole chicken or quail caucuses around outside – in shrubs, up in a small tree or bush – just high enough they have to work a little bit at getting down to eat it.  The dogs LOVE this game and it is so much fun to watch them!  Let’s face it, the traditional method of feeding animals out of a bowl does nothing to stimulate complex feeding behaviors.

Other fun and enriching ways to feed your dogs could be to stuff a cow hoof with green tripe, or a Kong toy with ground meat, or put a chicken or turkey neck or two, into empty paper towel rolls or an old shoe box with a lid on it.  Puzzle toys are great too – just be sure to used dehydrated or freeze-dried meats instead of kibble in them.

Playing Scent Games with our puppies or dogs can be great fun and even prepare them for tracking trials and events!

Enrichment keeps our canine (and other species) companions active and interested, while encouraging natural behaviors – it is a Win/Win for them!

Above all, as you have read, dogs love using their noses, it gives them pleasure and calms them down. For them, smelling and sniffing is the most natural thing in the world!

My next post will go into some more enrichment ideas that involve the dog’s nose.

NOTE: If you are a dog breeder or you work with puppies at an animal shelter, you may be interested in learning more about how to raise more intellegent, “bomb proof” puppies using Puppy Culure Protocols.


Copyright 2006-2017

This article is the sole property of Dr. Jeanette (Jeannie) Thomason and The Whole Dog – for educational purposes only. It cannot be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the expressed written consent of the author.



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