Image of the book cover with authors mentiond and a dog enjoying a cuddle

Canine enrichment for the real world A. Bender and E. Strong (2019,Ebook)

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by Erik Prins

11/11/2023

This is one of those books I would say sits between professional reading and the general public reading. It is one that explains in more detail the concepts of conservation and animal welfare discussions. But equally considers the psychological importance of animal welfare and for the animals in our care to have a fulfilling life.

As mentioned it goes into the history how enrichment started and who is the godfather of the enrichment movement Dr H. Markowitz . This is a great starting point to learn why it is so important to apply enrichment for captive animals. At the time, during the 1940s-1950’s, these zoos were concrete wastelands with no opportunity for natural behaviours to occur. Many of the animals showed repetitive behaviours, such as circling, dance-like motions, or tail-chasing also known as compulsive disorder (CD) which is very similar to human obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Thanks to Dr H. Markowitz efforts and others who followed in his footsteps we now have Zoos where animals live in environments where they are able to express their natural behaviours.

A bear given the opertunity to use his instictive behaviour in captivity
Bear enrichment

What do the other animals have to do with our pet dogs? Well a great deal, our pet dogs, remain animals. They are animals living in a human world with human rules and human (body) language.  The worst thing is, and I have been guilty of this, we expect our dogs to simply understand what we mean.

Dit is natuurlijk niet waar een hond begrijpt U net zo goed als U deze zin begrijpt. #

Unless you are dutch/Belgium/South African or used a translator you will not know what I have just written. Because it is a form of communication you are not familiar with. This is the way I explain at the dog Training Club the likelihood of how their dog understands human language.

This book goes into great detail about how you can do enrichment at home and why you may choose to do so. It does not just talk about the exercise needs, but it goes into the detail of topics and provides great examples of how you can build up and achieve enrichment.

It successfully debunks dominance theory (the original version from the 1940s) and explains what dominance in fact truly is. It discusses the need for properly qualified trainers and behaviourists, a discussion which certainly in the UK is very divisive. It does a good job of explaining why and the reasons for it without being offensive. One area is the human side and how we need to make sure we care for ourselves too and not just think of our animals.

A digital drawing of a girl working away and how this stimuk+lates different areas in the brain.
Neuroscience

What I loved is the chapter about special needs dogs, in particular about a dog’s mental health, something I feel can be difficult to understand for those who have not studied subjects such as biology, psychology or neuroscience to name but a few. Our bodies are chemical factories and when an imbalance occurs this can generate diabetes or epilepsy, this is the same for mental health such as depression or schizophrenia. If this is possible for our species why not for other species after all, for all mammals the mechanism is the same.

I should not spoil the potential for discovery by giving lots away. However, the book explores the need for safety and security, and mental stimulation, gives some great suggestions and the list goes on. I found myself sometimes unable to stop listening to the book and wanted to keep going. There is a popular phrase about a dog being a human’s best friend, this book will allow you to become your dog’s best friend.

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About the Author

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Erik Prins

Hello, My name is Erik, I am a 3D (Dutch, Dyslexic, Diabetic), 55-year-old young man who lives with his wife, daughter and 3 Greyhounds in North Warwickshire. I volunteer as a dog trainer and run my own dog training and dog psychology business. I am proudly Dyslexic, please forgive my grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and you may be so lucky to experience my chaotic mind. I hope you will enjoy the content as it builds up over time.