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Dr. Rosie DVM

Environmental Enrichment

What is Environmental Enrichment?

Environmental or behavioral enrichment is the process of manipulating an animal's environment to increase physical activity and normal species-typical behavior, satisfying their physical and psychological needs. It reduces stress by giving animals a sense of control over their environment and occupies their time. Enrichment techniques generally fall into five categories:

  • Food-based enrichment: Providing opportunities for natural foraging behaviors.
  • Sensory enrichment: Stimulating the senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste.
  • Novel objects: Introducing new and unfamiliar items to explore.
  • Social enrichment: Allowing interaction with conspecifics (same species) or other species.
  • Positive training: Using training techniques to engage and stimulate the animal.

To be effective, enrichment activities must be engaging and non-fearful for the animal.

Who Needs It?

All animals in captive environments, including those in zoos, shelters, laboratories, sanctuaries, and homes, benefit from environmental enrichment. Animals at risk for or with chronic behavioral or physical problems especially need it.

How Do I Get Started?

1. Understand the Species: Consider the natural behaviors of the animal species.

2. Choose Activities: Select activities that mimic or encourage these natural behaviors.

  • Food-Based Enrichment: Hide treats for your dog to find, encouraging hunting and foraging behaviors.
  • Sensory Enrichment: Provide a perch near a window for your cat to watch birds, stimulating sight, sound, and smell senses.
  • Novel Objects: Offer cardboard boxes or paper bags for your cat to explore and play with.
  • Social Enrichment: Allow interaction with other pets in the household and engage in interactive play with your pet.
  • Positive Training: Use reward-based training methods to teach new behaviors and provide mental stimulation. For more information see

3. Consider Doggie Daycare: If suitable, enroll your dog in a daycare program for social interaction and stimulation.

4. Be Creative: Use both store-bought and homemade enrichment items, as you know your pet best.

Environmental Enrichment for Dogs PDF