Okay, it was really only 100, and instead of celebrations they were actually daily enrichment challenges. I'm choosing to call them celebrations because a) celebration rhymes with Dalmatian and b) enrichment is a great way to celebrate the dogness of dogs. It encourages natural behaviors like sniffing and digging. It also encourages dogs to try new behaviors in order to solve the puzzles we give them.
I'm excited to announce that this is Practical Pup's first time participating in the #Train4Rewards blog party hosted by our friends at Companion Animal Psychology. I chose this as my Blog Party topic because enrichment can make a huge difference in dog welfare. It can also be expanded upon to apply to any species!
I'm pretty proud to say that we managed to complete a 100 day challenge of any sort. I'll admit that there were moments when I considered scrapping the whole thing because I thought I "didn't have time." That's the beauty of this challenge though, it shows you just how little time is needed to provide daily enrichment. 4 hour long hikes are not a requirement! Plus, I had purposefully made this a public commitment on Practical Pup's Facebook page. This kept me from flaking out on the challenge and helped me stay on track by posting daily.
Here are my biggest take aways from participating in AniEd Ireland's 100 Days of Enrichment Challenge.
1) Enrichment doesn't have to be expensive.
I love the thrill of buying a new dog toy or two as much as the next girl, but sometimes money is tight. This challenge helped me put a lot of items to use that would've otherwise just been tossed in the recycling bin. Here is a short list of normal household items that I used throughout the challenge:
Paper towel rolls
Plastic water bottles
2) Enrichment isn't time consuming.
Once you learn how to assemble a homemade puzzle, you can return to it again and again. Just because it took 5 seconds to put together (for free, I might add) does not mean that your dog won't enjoy it for much longer.
3) You'll start to prioritize your dog's mental health.
The idea of dogs having "mental health" may seem strange to some folks, but it's an important factor in caring for our companions. Part of the reason enrichment is so valuable is because the majority of our dogs are bored. For thousands of years they worked by our side, day in and day out. These days, unless they learn to type, our dogs probably won't be accompanying us to the office anytime soon.
I mean, what do they do all day? There are only so many naps one can take.
Think of it this way, what do you like to do for entertainment? Personally, I like to read books, knit and play sudoku. Dogs don't do any of those things! If we aren't providing them with "appropriate" pastimes, they often burn off all their extra energy in other ways (such as chewing up shoes).
4) It's fun to have goals with your dog.
I feel pretty awesome about completing this challenge. It's a a fun way to improve your dog's quality of life and accomplish something together. Our next challenge will be to work through all of the exercises in Kyra Sundance's new book Canine Conditioning. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates!
5) Enrichment doesn't have to be food based.
One of the easiest enrichment activities out there is going on Sniffari. There are a ton of other fun activities you can try like swimming or playing frisbee. No food necessary!
6) Enrichment will become part of your daily routine.
One of the best parts of doing any sort of 100 day challenge is that it becomes a habit. My dog was already receiving all of her meals in a Kong Wobbler and getting treats from various other work to eat toys, but the challenge really upped my game. We even added a snuffle mat to the rotation!
7) You'll be pestered less.
Now that I've given my dog something new to do each day, I see an obvious change in her behavior. She doesn't come and stare at me with her "I'm bored" look as often. I'm no longer begrudgingly providing with her enrichment, but am instead happily engaging in the process with her.
8) You can "wake up the wild" in your dog.
Enrichment helps us to not only allow dogs to be dogs, but to encourage it. We let them sniff to their heart's content, wade in the creek or seek out treats hidden around the house. They'll have loads of fun and so will you.
9) It's a great way to transition from work to home.
Sometimes it's hard for me to leave work at work and enjoy my home time. I used our daily enrichment as a way to transition and leave the work day behind. Most days, as soon as I got home I would change clothes, pull up our challenge for the day and get to it! Having this sort of ritual really helped me relax and let go of the stress of the day.
We would like to thank you for joining us on this journey. We hope you have been inspired to get out there and try new things with your dog!
To see the other great posts featured in Companion Animal Psychology's 2019 Train for Rewards Blog Party, click the button below.