Environmental Enrichment: The New Movement in Pet Care

Environmental Enrichment is the new “buzz word” in the companion animal field.   Zoos and aquariums have been using environmental enrichment methods for over 30 years to enhance the quality of life of the animals in their care.   It is only recently making the commute to the pet animal industry.   Environmental Enrichment is any artificial or natural item that stimulates, enhances and improves the welfare and quality of life for any animal – companion, farm, laboratory or zoo.  Researchers such as David Shepherdson (conservation curator at our own Oregon Zoo), Hal Markowitz and Jill Mellen have spent decades studying environmental enrichment and have proven it is essential to the health and wellbeing of all animals domestic and exotic.

Cinthia Alia Mitchell, owner of Doggone Fun! Doggy Daycare Center in Tualatin and Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey, Senior Keeper of Marine Life at the Oregon Zoo, have co-authored a new book called, Beyond Squeaky Toys: Innovative ideas for eliminating problem behaviors and enriching the lives of dogs and cats.  It is the first book of its kind that looks at the importance of environmental enrichment in caring for and training pet dogs and cats. Cinthia and Nicole are pioneers in the field of environmental enrichment and have over 50 years of combined practical, hands on experience training, enriching and caring for both exotic and domestic animals.

Their book Beyond Squeaky Toys is for the pet owner who wants to live in harmony with their pet and is in search for options that do not take a lot of skill, time, money or in-depth understanding of advanced science and techniques. Best of all, the ideas in their book can instantly be implemented and produce immediate, positive behavior changes in pets.  Boredom is one of the most common contributors to problem behaviors in dogs and cats.  A dog that is bored, may become destructive, bark incessantly or dig up the back yard.  A cat that is bored my scratch and bite, claw on furniture and urinate in the house.  As humans we find these behaviors to be inappropriate and annoying, but for dogs and cats they may be traits of their natural breed-specific behaviors.  Our pets are members of our families but we also must respect the fact that they have unique qualities and behaviors that are different from their human companions.  Providing pets with the appropriate outlets to display their natural bread-specific behaviors is the best way to eliminate what many pet owners consider to be “problem behaviors”.

In Beyond Squeaky Toys Cinthia and Nicole explain how enrichment offers exercise, mental and physical stimulation, learning opportunities, entertainment, fun, and bonding time for pets and their owners. They assure pet owners that many of their pet’s behaviors are natural, and help is out there that is easy, takes no skill, no weekly class commitment, is inexpensive and most importantly WORKS!  Beyond Squeaky Toys is filled with real life scenarios, basic concepts, over 100 unique and innovative enrichment options and the tools to develop and implement an environmental enrichment program immediately.   Many of the enrichment items in the book can be made right in your own home with things you use on a daily basis: such as empty water bottles or juice jugs filled with kibble; a hollow bone packed with wet food and put in the freezer; or a sock with a tennis ball tied inside.  These items can provide hours of entertainment, are inexpensive and can reduce or eliminate the onset of problem behaviors.

If you would like to learn more about environmental enrichment or would like to set up an enrichment program for your pet, Cinthia and Nicole’s new book, Beyond Squeaky Toys: Innovative ideas for eliminating problem behaviors and enriching the lives of dogs and cats is available at Doggone Fun! Doggy Daycare Center in Tualatin, Createspace.com, Dogwise.com, clickertraining.com and Amazon.com. You can also visit their website at www.beyondsqueakytoys.com

Check out the new book “Beyond Squeaky Toys: Innovative ideas for eliminating problem behaviors and enriching the lives of dogs and cats”

Cinthia Alia Mitchell (owner of Doggone Fun! Doggy Daycare Center) and Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey (Senior Keeper at the Oregon Zoo) have co-authored a great book about environmental enrichment for dogs and cats.  It is available as an e-book on Amazon.com.  Check it out.  It has great information and inexpensive ideas for enrichment.

Thundershirts – A great solution for dog anxiety without the use of drugs.

Using the Thundershirt is a positive way to help owners deal with and reduce their dog’s anxiety and fear issues. The Thundershirt is like a well fitted jacket that provides gentle pressure to the dog’s muscles.  This gentle pressure has a calming effect on the dog’s nervous system.  It is like getting a big hug!  Mothers use the same method to calm their children.  It is based on the Temple Grandin idea that gentle pressure helps relieve anxiety. Vets have been using this same method for years to keep dogs calm during certain procedures.  It is also the method used in TTouch and with autistic children.

If your dog suffers from fear or anxiety the Thundershirt is a great way to provide comfort. Some situations in which Thundershirts can be beneficial are when your dog is home alone, around loud noises and fireworks, during nail trims, car rides, visits to the vet, and during thunder storms.   The Thundershirt can also be useful in training.  It helps to calm over stimulated or hyper active dogs enough to allow them to focus on training.   Thundershirts are available at Doggone Fun! DoggyDaycare Center for $38.00. We also have many other positive training tools and enrichment supplies including:  the Gentle Leader, Easy Walk halter, Wobbler Kong, Buster Cube and of course our Clicker Training classes.

Sammy strikes a pose in his Thundershirt


Sammy the Pomeranian wears his Thunder Shirt in the car on the way to doggy daycare and he loves it!