What is enrichment?

Enrichment is a buzz word in the dog world right now, but what does it really mean? Per Wikipedia, enrichment is the action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something. So, when it comes to our dogs, enrichment is the action of improving and enhancing their lives and experiences. It is so awesome to see this shift in how we view our dogs! But let’s dig a little deeper and look at how zoos define enrichment:

Zoo visitors want to know that our animals have a stimulating life, with opportunities to engage in natural behaviors. An enriched zoo environment does just that and is defined as one that is interesting, allows animals to perform natural behaviors, permits them to be more active, and increases the animals’ control over their environment. Enrichment helps satisfy both the physical and psychological needs of animals and allows them to make choices. Thus, animal enrichment creates a win-win-win situation for the animals, visitors and keepers! https://www.stlzoo.org/animals/enrichmenttraining/animalenrichment

Our dogs are captive animals.  They live under the restrictions of our lifestyles and for many this means a very small, unnatural world.  Even for dogs with access to a yard, this is still a very limiting life. To enrich our dogs’ lives, they need the freedom and access to engage in species specific behavior and environments that are safe to engage in these behaviors.

Why Enrichment?

To bridge the gap between the restrictions our modern lives places on our dogs and their biological, psychological, and social needs.  Enrichment provides an environment where your dog can thrive and experience life in a safe, nurturing environment. Your dog will be able to develop trusting relationships with our staff and the other dogs. Engage all his senses, develop confidence, and achieve well-being. That is our goal.  That is our mission: To provide an environment that challenges your dog, enriches his life by allowing him to engage in natural behaviors, and the opportunity to develop rich relationships. Our modern lives with our long work hours and artificial environments are not meeting our dogs’ needs.  You won’t have to look far to find the evidence to support this. How many know a reactive dog? A dog that barks, lunges on leash or spends its day barking at the fence line. How many have had a dog destroy furniture, clothes, walls etc? Know a dog with separation anxiety? For many, dog daycare can provide a quick fix. The dog is no longer at home alone for unreasonable hours, but how many dogs pick up the habit of barking, rough play or over arousal? How many truly feel safe? It’s not natural for a dog to meet new dogs every day and then share a small, static space with them for 10-12 hours. How many dogs after adolescence can no longer endure that type of environment? It is too overstimulating and unnatural.  Dog daycare is a numbers game. How many dogs can we safely fit in our limited space? And safety is relative as you still see dog fights and bites and sicknesses as a result of this overstimulating and often times overwhelming environment. At Downtown Dog, we tried to address some of the issues inherently found in dog daycares by staying small, being member only, engaging dogs one-on-one, and rotating between activities.  But we want more for the dogs, we want an environment where we can provide richer, more meaningful experiences for the dogs in our care.  To do this we need to break away from the concrete walls and sanitized yards and get back to nature.  Let the dog be in a natural environment engaging all of his senses, playing with dogs he knows and trusts, and being guided by humans he has a relationship with. An environment where the dog has access to freedom and opportunity to be a dog, to engage in natural behaviors like digging, running, playing, sniffing, foraging and swimming…an enrichment center.


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