We are constantly searching for ways to enrich the lives of the canines who pass through our doors each year. Though their stay at HSMC will be temporary, we want to make it as comfortable as possible. We may not able to offer the comforts of home, but we can offer them routines, stimulation and socialization while they’re here. Our efforts are aimed at tending to the mind, body and soul of our canines, all while learning about and falling even more in love with them!
Each day at HSMC begins the same way; 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Each dog in our care is taken out by a staff member for a potty break. Not only does this help us maintain a schedule for the housebroken dogs in our care, but it helps us to establish a routine with those that aren’t so we can help them to be more successful in their new home.
We are working on implementing enrichment time with staff and volunteers where each dog will have play time with a feeder toy or puzzle game. The toys we have require the dogs to put their minds to work to figure out where the treats are hiding and how to get to them. It’s a great way to keep their mind off the stress of the environment and focus positive energy on getting a reward! Most of the toys we currently have are plastic so the dogs need to be supervised when playing, but it’s an enjoyable experience for the dog and the human!
Another enrichment item that we like to use are frozen Kong treats and ice balls. Staff or volunteers will fill a Kong treat with peanut butter and kibble or treats and then stick it in the freezer until frozen. Once the Kongs are frozen, they are ready for the dogs! This treat can keep the dogs busy for hours! It’s especially nice on hot summer days when the dogs will be getting shorter walks and spending more time inside. Ice balls are an even better option for these hot, hot days! We’ll take some sturdy rubber toys and a dental stick or raw hide treat and freeze it into a hard plastic dog dish. Once the dish is frozen we can offer it to a dog to work on. Another option, which we haven’t tried yet, is freezing beef or chicken broth with treats or toys in it. The main goal is to keep the dogs occupied and their energy focused on something positive!
Our volunteer program is a HUGE part of our enrichment plan, too. The role our Dog Advocates play in this process is crucial to the success and happiness of the dogs at our facility. Dog Advocates receive special training during their orientation and work on not only exercising our canines through walks but also on training them! We want to provide structure and routines to help our dogs be successful once they leave HSMC. Our Dog Advocates are encouraged to really get to know our dogs and to tell people what they love about them!
We also like to take our dogs out of the shelter environment; whether it’s a ride-along with a staff member to pick up lunch, a trip to Briq’s Soft Serve with a volunteer for a pup cone or an offsite visit with a volunteer at an event. This helps us learn even more about the dogs! We can find out how they do in the car, how they are around strangers or in a crowd and how they handle adjusting to new environments.
Whenever possible, we also like to form play groups so our dogs can socialize. During our behavior evaluation process we can identify which dogs are dog friendly and we can allow them supervised playtime in our fenced in play area! Sometimes we will receive bonded pairs of dogs, which makes this process easy. But it’s even more rewarding when we find two shelter dogs that can form a bond and keep each other fulfilled during their stay with us. It’s a really great tool for use on social media to demonstrate how great our dogs are by posting a video of them playing with another dog!
We are here to help the dogs be the best they can be and you can help us! Sign up to be a Dog Advocate and start enriching the lives of shelter dogs today!
We are also currently looking for more puzzle and feeder games, as well as metal or silicon muffin tins!
Visit www.outwardhound.com or www.chewy.com and consider donating a toy, treats, puzzle or game to our canines today!