Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Viva agrees that enrichment is important!

Viva gets out into the environment everyday - rain or shine.  I do this because we work full time and during the work week she has long days.  So, I want her to get some environmental stimulation prior to the work day.  While having a backyard is convenient for potty breaks it can get really boring for a dog if that's the only outside time they have.  The bulk of our outings are walks where we do a lot of work in terms of practicing new behaviors.   There's also time on those walks for sniffing to take in who's been where - this is important for dogs. While all this work around new behaviors is helpful for Viva, I like to give her some days where she can just be a dog. Doing something she finds fun other than paying attention to what I'm asking of her. These days are usually on the weekend since we have more time for travel and time for her to run around.  Initially I was trying to avoid places where she would chase critters.  Thinking I didn't want to encourage her massive prey drive.  However, I've changed that thinking.  Viva is a high prey drive Terrier and that's just who she is, it's what has been breed into her.  In watching her behavior after crittering I've decided to embrace her Terrier instincts and use them to our advantage.

After Viva is done crittering she is more relaxed inside the house and not as reactive outside.  This happens as a result of her hunting for whatever and if she is able to locate a critter then all the better.  When she's hunting her brain is working a lot and she clearly loves to hunt.  All that hunting invites problem solving and builds confidence.  I'm sure there is also a dump of good hormones in the brain when this happens and I would go further to say that I also bet more pathways are created in the brain.  We've seen big positive behavior changes in D'light over the years once, we incorporated lure coursing and crittering into his activities.  Here's a blub about enrichment in the Enrich and Enjoy section on the CARE website

So, we are using hunting as enrichment for Viva.  It's different than with D'light who we actively look for squirrels for him to chase after.  With Viva, it's not pointing out squirrels for her - she has to actually hunt.  She may or may not even see a critter and that's just fine. Again, it's the hunting that is the enrichment for her.

Animal enrichment promotes naturalistic behaviors that stimulate the mind and increases physical activity.  It reduces stress and therefore promotes overall health by increasing an animal's perception of control over their environment and by occupying their time.
~ Amy Martin

Here are some great links talking about enrichment:
A good link to begin thinking about Enrichment
I love this one, chalked full of information Stimulate Them!


We head out to Seward Park and I  know this place very well!  I make sure we go early, basically as the sun is rising so we can avoid other dogs.  There are a number of places for her to critter and those places have lots of trees, a good amount of flat grass and where I can see all around.

I put the 50ft long line on Viva and off she goes with me behind her.

Here's a video of her hunting.  I think she's fun to watch!

This is clearly a lot of fun for Viva!

Taking in the environment and sniffing the air.

More hunting video! 

This is all instincts with Viva. 
With D'light we had to build his hunting ability - not true with Viva!

I enjoy these mornings. 
We have the park to ourselves and the environment is very relaxing for me.

There's this large grass area and Viva loves to run through here. I'm sure there are field mice who live in this area

When Viva does go after a critter, she moves!

A squirrel ran up this tree, as did Viva!

"Where are you?!"

"Foster mom can you make it come down?"

She doesn't bark, just watches and waits.

I tell her it's not coming down and lets keep hunting.

She's not ready to give up on this squirrel!

"Maybe there will be more critters over there!"

Off she goes and time for more hunting

I'm pretty sure Viva would love to hunt all day!

Here's a another great link:

In the coming weeks I will be talking about enrichment ideas in the house so stay tuned. 


  1. She looks like she's super engaged and having a blast. Those are some great photos of her in the tree! We get out every morning, too, but it's usually on my terms...we'll definitely start incorporating more "exploring time" into our mornings, even if it's just for a bit. We can use all the enrichment ideas you've got - looking forward to hearing about the indoor ones, with winter coming.

    1. Many dogs have taught me how important that exploring time is for them when out on walks. I'll have lots of indoor enrichment posts coming so that will be fun!