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  • 1.  Enrichment for Dogs who Ingest

    Posted 05-18-2023 04:40 PM

    As we all know, enrichment plays a very important role for our shelter pups. There are all types of enrichment including food enrichment (puzzle feeders, snufflemats), scent (scentwork, essential oils), social enrichment (playgroups, walks with people) and others! 
    I'd love to hear some feedback on what has worked for other people/organizations in regard to dogs that have limitations on in-kennel enrichment (usually due to ingesting foreign bodies). In my experience, these dogs are typically more stressed and/or have higher physical and mental stimulation needs. For example, we have a large, young lab mix in our population that has a history of eating beds, squeakers, kongs, etc. and therefore can not enjoy the same types of toys and enrichment as other dogs in our population. 

    In order to "subsidize", we do the following:
    -Make his meals "pupsicles" (Adding water and other goodies like green beans, canned food, etc., and then freezing in a metal bowl, then using hot water to get the food out and give it to him)
    -Peanut Butter Frisbee on the outside of his kennel
    -Supervised frozen Kong time in an office foster (however, this is not always feasible)

    This is all also in addition to our staff/volunteer walks and playgroups. We also have light classical music that plays in our kennel areas.
    I have inquired with our medical team about utilizing cardboard, however, due to his severe ingestion history our vet has denied the use of cardboard for this specific dog (If anyone has any literature disputing this fact, I would love to pass it along!). 

    I know there are tons of resources out there for shelter enrichment, but would love to hear from other people with specifics to this situation (it's a common one in our shelter). 


    Leslie Krieger
    Behavior & Training Manager
    Mountain Humane
    Hailey ID

  • 2.  RE: Enrichment for Dogs who Ingest

    Posted 05-18-2023 11:30 PM

    Hi Leslie,

    There are a few different things you can do for monster chewers. One is a Kong Wobbler. He'll likely make a mess but the toy isn't about digging something out, it's about tipping it over to get the food out. Another thing you can do (though it may be hard in a kennel but should be feasible in a place like a training room or even a run outside) is to divide his food up into a few smaller bowls and hide them around an area. I normally use this game as a way to teach a solid Place and Down Stay, but you can do it by setting up the bowls before putting him in the room. Once he is in, just unhook the leash and let him find them! I have yet to find a dog who doesn't love Finders Keepers (what I call the game). If he's nose-oriented, put a smelly treat in the bowls so he can find it. If he's more visual, a few kibbles left as hints will work just as well. It doesn't take an insane amount of time, though it is something you'll need a bit more space to do. Normally I'd recommend a game called Scavenge where you toss kibble into a grassy area (the nature version of a snuffle mat), but given his penchant for eating things, I wouldn't introduce the idea to him that eating food off the ground is a great thing.

    Besides that, field trips. Even just car rides to get a puppuccino or to go on errands. Dogs need a break from the shelter, and it's basically endless enrichment. Does your director need to go to the bank? Perfect! Take him with and get pictures for marketing material. Does a volunteer want to walk the dogs but may not be physically able? Why not go for a little cruise? He doesn't need to get out of the car. As someone who is currently on crutches, that's how I've been able to still volunteer with the dogs without having to move much. The staff loads the pups into my car and we go get a puppuccino, or we go into Ace Hardware where they get treats and get to smell things. Pet stores are also a brilliant way to get exhausting enrichment in an air conditioned area, should you live in a warm place. Just walk up and down the aisles and let the dog smell everything. 

    Training is always a good enrichment option. Wears them out pretty quick, helps get them ready for their new homes, and provides solid social media fodder. This one requires someone who knows what they're doing, but for the more energetic dogs at my shelter (Malinois, especially), 30 to 60 minutes of training combined with play has them out like a light for the day.

    There are some toys that are virtually indestructible. I know pit bulls and Anatolians have stupid powerful jaws so I always make sure to get them very special toys that only they are allowed to have (cause one of the balls costs $27 a pop, but has survived an adolescent pittie with endless energy). They tend to get so focused on chewing these indestructible toys that it serves as surprisingly long enrichment, no food requires.

    Hope that helps! I love that you're asking questions for one specific case. The pups are lucky to have you!

    MK Roney
    Dog Trainer, Grant Writer, Volunteer
    Humane Society of the White Mountains

  • 3.  RE: Enrichment for Dogs who Ingest

    Posted 05-19-2023 07:18 AM

    Thanks MK for your suggestions!
    I love the "Finders Keepers" game. We have a 'Real Life Room' that would be perfect for such a game. 

    Leslie Krieger
    Behavior & Training Manager
    Mountain Humane
    Hailey ID

  • 4.  RE: Enrichment for Dogs who Ingest

    Posted 05-22-2023 07:32 AM

    We had a dog who LOVED to play tug. We got one of those extra-large rope toys (the ones that are as thick as a small adult's arm and like three feet long) and suspended it from the top of his kennel just high enough that he would have to stand up to get it and far enough from the wall that he couldn't pin it down. I'm not sure if that would work for your guy, but Snoopy would go out there and play tug with himself several times a day and was never able to pull it down or eat any of it. 

    Marilyn Wheaton
    Client Services
    Leesburg VA

  • 5.  RE: Enrichment for Dogs who Ingest

    Posted 05-22-2023 10:29 AM

    You've already got some great ideas here! I've used a version of 'pupsicle' where we fill a bucket or bowl with water, and there is a metal chain that you put halfway into the water and the other half is left out. The idea is a pupscle that you can hang up high on the kennel as opposed to slide around on the floor, it helps change things up a little bit. 

    I've also got a bubble blower that I place outside of certain kennels - the vast majority of the bubbles pop before getting into the kennel, but some dogs find it fun.

    Mary Furby
    Veterinary Medicine Supervisor
    Humane Society of Southeast Texas