Intermountain Pet Hospital's mission is happy, healthy pets. We have now started to expand on that platform by creating a new day camp program call LEAP, or Life Enrichment Activity Program. This new philosophy incorporates the idea that dogs need enrichment to ensure they're both mentally and physically healthy and happy.
What is Pet Enrichment?
Pet Enrichment is mental and physical stimulation that provides positive and fun outlets for normal animal behavior. The concept resulted from research started in zoos and other rescue organizations. Researchers were looking for a way to provide physical and mental stimulation to captive animals in order to deter abnormal behaviors and increase the range of healthy behaviors. They found that there are five main types of enrichment that will enhance an animal's quality of life.
Type of Enrichment
- Social– First, it needs to be noted that social enrichment is different than socialization. Social enrichment is the act of getting your dog to interact with other dogs, pets, and humans in a positive way. This type of enrichment includes dog parks, walks, and obedience classes. This type of enrichment is intended to fulfill a dog's need to be around and interact with others.
- Occupational– This type of enrichment is exactly what it sounds like, giving your dog a "job" that requires some level of physical and/or mental exercise to complete. Service dogs are a great example of this type of enrichment. However, there are other informal jobs, such as sports activities and getting a food puzzle solved.
- Physical– Toys are the single best example of this type of enrichment. Providing an array of toys that can be rotated will keep a dog engaged and help decrease their response to outside barking or other distractions. Toys can also reduce a dog's interest in the need to dig or try to escape their enclosures. The trick with physical enrichment is to test out different types of toys that are safe. Balls are often a dog's favorite but not always. Each dog is different and will be excited to play with different toys.
- Sensory– Sensory enrichment included the use of a dog's sense of sight, smell, and sound. Visual enrichment includes the need to see beyond their enclosures, especially if they are kept in a kennel or run for an extended amount of time. Smell, also known as olfactory, is used to help alleviate stress in dogs. Placing a lavender-scented cloth in a kennel has been reported to help calm a dog. Also, the use of calming pheromones at home or in a veterinary office helps a dog feel more at ease.
- Nutrition– Encouraging dogs to perform natural foraging for food is a great activity to alleviate boredom. These types of exercises include food puzzles, snuffle mats, and hide-and-seek games to find treats.
Why We Focus on Pet Enrichment
LEAP provides a unique day camp experience. We don't just physically tire your fur-babies with all-day play; we also focus on all areas of enrichment to help reduce boredom, stress, and negative behaviors. We not only offer group playtime to meet the physical exercise needs of dogs, we also provide mental enrichment through games, puzzles, sounds, smells, and training. Dogs spend their day in small playgroups rotating through periods of play and periods of cognitive enrichment where they get to learn new things and have exciting new experiences.
We also carry many of the enrichment toys in our day camp in the retail area located by the lodge reception desk. We encourage everyone to check out the puzzles and toys and feel free to ask any of our lodge staff about our LEAP program.