Let’s face it: we all get bored doing the same thing every day–and that includes our dogs! Whether it’s the same dog walking route or the same old toys, your dog can get in a rut. It’s easy and inexpensive to add variety and challenge to their daily lives. World Animal Enrichment Day shines a light on the many opportunities dog lovers–as well as everyone from shelter managers to zookeepers–have to improve the lives of animals with mental and physical stimulation that allows them to express their natural behaviors.
When is World Animal Enrichment Day?
World Animal Enrichment Day is celebrated every year on November 12. The pet holiday was founded in 2020 by UK-based Animal Behaviorist Sarah-Jane White.
Be sure to share photos of your dog enjoying enrichment in his daily life, whether it’s enjoying a puzzle feeder and experiencing a fun dog walk. The hashtag for this pet awareness day is #worldanimalenrichmentday.
What is animal enrichment?
According to Sarah-Jane White, owner of Ruffle Snuffle® and the founder of World Animal Enrichment Day, “Animal enrichment is the process of providing animals with mental and physical stimulation to enhance their well-being and quality of life by allowing them to express their natural behaviors.
“Enrichment is defined by the American Psychological Association as activities that ‘enhance well-being by providing pleasant and meaningful experiences that have intrinsic value to them.'”
The first recorded use of the term “animal enrichment” was in 1981 at the Laboratory Animal Breeders’ Association Annual Conference.
What is the purpose of animal enrichment?
Enrichment helps animals feel more at home by acting out their natural behaviors, whether that’s hunting, climbing or stretching.
White notes, “Enrichment helps all animals stay happy and healthy whether they are pets or in captivity in zoos and rescue centers. Enrichment helps reduce the risks of health problems that often occur in captive animals. It also makes the animal more comfortable and less stressed, which makes it easy for them to be cared for and handled.”
What types of animal enrichment are there?
Animal enrichment can take many forms, depending on the type of animal.
While enrichment for a chimp might mean ropes and swings to enjoy or mirrors for a tiger to watch himself, enrichment for your dog is completely different.
For your dog, enrichment might take the form of:
- New toys or objects to explore
- A trip to a new dog walking trail or park, allowing your dog to explore all the new scents
- Enrichment to challenge your dog to “work” for his food, fishing treats or food out of a puzzle feeder or interactive toy
- A trip to a dog-friendly store or lunch at a dog-friendly restaurant so your dog can see new people and new places
- Teach your dog a new trick
White explains that animal enrichment appeals to all of a pet or animal’s senses and needs:
- Physical: Exercise, games, sports
- Social: New faces and new places
- Cognitive: Puzzles, Brain Games
- Environment: Homes, cages, aviaries, enclosures (for your dog, this might include a new bed or a basket for his toys to challenge him to search for a special toy)
- Sensory: Taste, smell, hearing, touch, seeing
How to Add Enrichment to Your Dog Walks
I like to add some variety to our dog walks, an easy way to add enrichment to your dog’s life (and some extra fun!)
Even if we’re walking our usual dog route, here are some fun extras to add to your walk for variety and challenge:
- Walk your route in the opposite direction. Do you usually head right? Turn left! It’s surprising how different the same old walk will be by going the opposite direction.
- Look for some agility elements you can add to the route. Along our route, there’s a (very) slanted tree that Barli likes to walk up, a challenge and exercise at the same time. Another spot along the route has a tall boulder; we use it for “perch” practice. Is there something similar on your dog walking route? Or perhaps a low obstacle you could teach your dog to jump over?
- Stop for a quick trick. Challenge your dog to perform a trick at some point on your walk–even a simple sit. Your dog will be thrilled that you’re thrilled (and he’ll really be thrilled if you reward him with a little treat!)
How to take part in World Animal Enrichment Day
White offers several ideas for how you can take part in World Animal Enrichment Day:
- Share your ideas: We’d like people to be creative and share their favorite enrichment ideas for their animals such as toys, games, DIY, environment.
- Post a photo or video on social media: Share a photo or a ‘how-to’ on social media and use the hashtag #worldanimalenrichmentday.
- Provide enrichment for others: Why not take some enrichment games to your local animal rescue center, or volunteer at your local zoo?