Adjusting to the shelter environment can be hard for dogs. While MARL’s staff and volunteers make every possible effort to make a dog’s temporary home welcoming, the shelter is still often a place where dogs find themselves confined in an unfamiliar environment, separated from their previous families, and exposed to much more noise and barking than what they’re used to. These stressors can cause dogs to suffer from anxiety and exhibit behavioral issues. The stressors not only impact behavior but have also been associated with reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to disease. This dangerous cycle can affect even the most socialized and well-adjusted dog, increasing his or her wait time for adoption.
THIS IS WHERE MARL’S ENRICHMENT PROGRAM COMES IN.
Enrichment is a term that describes how shelter environments can be adjusted and enhanced to better benefit each animal.The goal of enrichment is to minimize stress levels by adding different kinds of stimulation and activities to each dog’s daily routine. In a typical day, dogs should have mental, physical, environmental, and social stimulation, just as they would if they were in their forever home.
MENTAL: KEEPING A DOG’S MIND ACTIVE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS EXERCISING ITS BODY
- Auditory stimulation: playing classical music or books on tape, reading to a dog
- Olfactory stimulation: spraying different scents in kennels, sprinkling spices on bedding, hiding treats in boxes
- Oral stimulation: filled Kongs, frozen treats, giving dogs meals in a paper bag or a puzzle feeder
- Mental stimulation: rotating different toys into dogs’ kennels, filling a ball pit with treats, engaging in daily training to work on commands and any behavioral issues
PHYSICAL: ENERGY LEVELS PLAY A LARGE PART IN THE PERSONALITY AND BEHAVIOR OF A DOG
- Exercise with a staff member or volunteer
- Playing fetch or tug of war
- Swimming in a kiddie pool
- Working on commands
- Learning how to go through our agility course
- Taking a dog on a walk or a run – this helps keep their minds stimulated, too!
ENVIRONMENTAL: MAKING THE ANIMAL’S LIVING SPACE MORE INTERESTING CAN DECREASE BOREDOM
- Placing puzzle toys in dogs’ kennels to create an interactive environment
- Giving dogs different types of spaces, such as a raised bed or a place to retreat when scared
- Rotating dogs into different rooms to provide new environments for exploring
- Adding intrigue to their kennels by incorporating different scents
- Playing soothing music to alleviate stress and reduce barking
SOCIAL: DOGS TEND TO BE SOCIAL ANIMALS, SO IT’S IMPORTANT TO FACILITATE SOCIAL CONTACT WITH OTHER DOGS AND HUMANS
- Walking two dogs together
- Reading to dogs in MARL’s reading room
- Taking dogs home for an overnight sleepover, or out to an event, park, store, or just a car ride
- Giving dogs time in the MARL office for the chance to be around new people
- Putting compatible dogs together in playgroups several times a week
Enrichment Wish List:
Here’s how you can help! Below are items that we use for every day enrichment.
All donations can be brought to our shelter located at 1624 N. Perry St, Pontiac, MI 48340.
- New or gently used Kongs or other fillable toys | All sizes/types
- Peanut Butter, Cheese Wiz, Applesauce, Chicken Broth, Pumpkin Puree
- New or gently used dog puzzles | All sizes/types
- Clean Egg cartons, clean plastic containers (empty sour cream containers/cottage cheese containers)
- New or gently used books
- New or gently used slow feeders | All sizes/types
- Dog treats| All types