The idea is to create places to explore, by arranging various objects over a few square metres. Exploring in complete safety allows our dog to gain self-confidence. He learns to manage difficulties by using all his senses. He can observe, hear and smell the objects or places visited. He learns with each exploration that the world is not dangerous and that he can face obstacles.
Instead of throwing away cardboard boxes and objects that we no longer need, we can reuse them for our dogs’ greatest pleasure. However, let’s be careful to create safe environments. Depending on our dog’s temperament and physical abilities, let’s think about offering him environments that suit him.
During this activity, as with any other, our dog may need a break. He might move away from all these objects for a few minutes or longer, depending on his needs at the moment. Let him do it! If we organize an enriched environment indoors (in a garage or a play room for example), make sure he still has an exit so that he can move away from the environment if necessary.
All we have to do is to place the objects, provide a bowl of water and a way out. Our dog will do the rest, we just have to observe him.
Video: Koumack in a carpark
Those who do not cope
For example, some dogs are more sensitive to noise. For these dogs, it is important not to have noisy objects such as chimes or gantries with elements that the wind could make them collide. Some objects that are too light, such as plastic bags and empty cardboard boxes, can move or fly away.
Other dogs are “obsessed” with certain objects, such as a ball, a stuffed toy, a branch, a plastic jug or a cone. For these dogs, it is important not to have objects that are “too interesting”. They may give them their full attention, chew them and carry them around without showing interest in other objects. While they play, they do not explore. Moreover, if the ground is cluttered with several other objects – the very principle of the enriched environment – our dog risks being injured while running and playing. Let’s also not lose sight of the stress hormone levels that exciting situations provoke.
Video: Koumack and plastic jug
Some dogs like to dig. We can organize a search area on tarmac for example or at home. They will then be able to focus on the different objects selected for them.
Video: Koumack is digging
If we are taking care of a litter of puppies, certain precautions must also be taken: it is essential to offer them new items, but integrating only one new parameter at a time, whether visual or auditory. Cuddly toys or blankets of different sizes and textures are excellent novelties for the little ones of a few days old. From three weeks onwards, other objects can be progressively integrated.
If we have adopted a new dog, whatever his age, it is essential to adapt to the abilities of our dog. We can offer him more and more difficulties, by renewing objects and places at will, while taking into account the progress of our companion.
We can offer our dog the opportunity to explore in the company of one of his friends. Two socialised dogs who have not yet met each other can get to know each other in an enriched environment, so that they can be brought into contact with each other in a gentle way.
We can also take advantage of our walks to explore a variety of places, such as a building site, a house under construction, a warehouse, a dump or a car park. These are places where the smells are infinitely renewed, given the movement of people, materials or vehicles: almost daily olfactory and visual changes.
- Spread various every day objects to create a secure area that can be explored;
- Choose naturally enriched places for walks;
- Exploring improves self-confidence, learning to manage difficulties and using all senses;
- Collect or make objects to create secure enriched environment;
- Take into account of the temperament of our dog (fear from sounds, hyper-sensibility, reactivity from sudden movements,…)
- Taking a break is sometimes necessary