Visitors to our campuses are quick to notice the big blue tubes and brightly colored play structures in our kennel complexes. These big, durable toys offer a glimpse into the "fun" that we infuse into our kennel environment as part of our Kennel Enrichment Program, which serves to positively stimulate and engage the dogs during their stay with us. So, our kennels are far from sterile or boring! And although the theories behind the Kennel Enrichment Program are firmly rooted in fun, they are also based on solid research.
What purposes does the Kennel Enrichment Program serve?
- The program provides varied opportunities for human/dog interaction with staff while the dogs are in the communal runs. We use agility equipment (such as tunnels and walk-over ramps) to allow the dogs successful experiences through non-training-related activities, improve their physical coordination and confidence, and heighten their body awareness.
- Our dogs have supervised access to a variety of toys (including interactive wall-mounted toys), and are introduced to different odors, sounds, and visual stimulation in the kennels. Stuffed Kongs and frozen treats serve as interactive goodies; spray-on scents give the dogs' noses new smells to explore; piped-in music serves to soothe and sound like home.
- Play structures (tunnels, barrels, plastic play houses, plastic baby pools) and crates or plastic "igloos" in runs create micro-environments for the dogs, giving them choices that can be either more stimulating or feel more secure for them than their basic kennel stalls. All are designed to be environmentally interesting and, in some cases, functional (i.e., grooming tables mounted over barrels in which the dogs can play).
- The enrichment program is designed to give dogs a chance to expend excess energy in a positive way and reduce barking, repetitive behaviors, and other negative activities that might result from being in a kennel environment.
Dog Calming Techniques: On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
Dog Pilates: Pilates for Pooches video
Animal Reiki: Using Energy to Heal the Animals in Your Life book by Elizabeth Fulton and Kathleen Prasad
Clicker Training: Visit Karen Pryor's website for comprehensive information about this effective training technique
Laughing Dog CD: Read about dog laughter and order a 45-minute CD
How do you train a dog to ride a skateboard?
Sounds like one of those questions that should be followed with the admonition "Don't try this at home!" Of course, you'll want to be careful not to hurt or scare your pet, so it's important to work in a controlled environment and be sure to make the introduction to the skateboard fun. These techniques are not appropriate for Guide Dog puppies.
A good way to start is to first teach your dog to touch a target with his nose. A good target is your hand. This process can be made easy through the use of a clicker. When the clicker sounds, the dog learns he will receive a food reward. So, when your dog successfully touches his nose to your hand, you sound the clicker and give him a piece of kibble. Mark only the behaviors you want to teach and keep your pet engaged in the game.
Start on a grassy surface, so the skateboard doesn't roll easily. Once your dog has learned to target your hand, you can reinforce him for approaching the skateboard (by putting your hand on or close to the skateboard, or even by pointing to it). Then:
Click only when one paw is on the board
Click when the paw on the board is pressing harder
Click when the paw on board causes it to roll
Click only when both front paws are on the board
Click when both paws are used to push
Place skateboard on smoother surface. Your dog will choose to push the skateboard OR you can continue training on a grassy surface until all four paws are on the board before moving to a smooth surface, and the dog will choose to ride the skateboard.
Once you've mastered this technique, there's no telling what you'll be teaching your dog next! Visit clickertraining.com/ for more fun and useful techniques.