|This penguin has a number of objects to stimulate interest.|
Social interactions should be considered. The Shedd will sometimes have all of their animals of a particular species living together, and sometimes they will separate them into smaller groups. They will also switch who is in each group on a regular basis.
Enrichment devices or toys can also provide a great deal of interest. Simply providing a variety of different, rotating toys for the animals to explore can do a lot to prevent boredom. Food-dispensing objects can be used at meal times. Items with different colors, sizes, textures, and smells are encouraged.
A Word of Caution
At this point, Ken cautioned that animals need to be okay with variety. If they have lived a very sterile, regimented life, too much variety can be actually be stressful. Ken encouraged us to introduce variety slowly in order to help the animal get used to it.
That said, variety and consistency are not contradictory concepts. Consistency is often hailed as important, especially for anxious or reactive animals. Ken pointed out that consistency is meant to give the animal security and confidence, while variety gives it a reason to be engaged in its environment. He compared it to a game. The rules remain the same, but there are different leagues, teams, and players.
What About Our Pets?
Preventing boredom is important for our pets, too. Pets that are bored often find ways to entertain themselves, and often in ways that we humans don’t particularly care for. Barking, chewing, and digging are great examples of problem behaviors in dogs. The solution, of course, is to provide them with some kind of enrichment.
Ken’s principles can be applied to our dogs. Whether you participate in dog sports or just teach them silly tricks, regular training can be a great way to help provide interesting activities for our dogs. We can also switch up how, when, and what we feed them. Rotating their toys is helpful, as is bringing home interesting objects and encouraging them to explore. Take them new places, even if it’s just a different route on the daily walk. Be creative!
What do you do to provide new experiences for your dogs?