The pet industry is a billion dollar business and many Americans share homes with four-legged friends, or aquatic creatures. Each day people are taking care of their animals and enriching their lives just like the people featured in the Animal Helpers series.
In a recent interview, Author Jennifer Keats Curtis shared with Arbordale how zookeepers and rehabilitators have influenced her interactions with her own dog. Just like animals in zoos, pets need enrichment. Even the smallest fish can be trained.
So, here are a few training experiments that you can do at home to enrich the lives of your pets.
Your dog might have hi-five down or may love a game of fetch, but what about when you are away?
Play a game of find and seek with treats or even your dog’s food. When you dog is in another room place small treats or a little food in simple hiding spaces around a room. Have your dog use it’s nose to seek out the food. For the first few times you may have to help your dog out, but they will quickly get the hint.
Take learning one step further with puzzles. Many local pet stores carry treat puzzles where dogs must use their nose to get the reward. This enrichment will entertain and tire out your pooch!
Cats may be a little harder to please, but they are easily trainable too! A happy cat has many toys to bat around, or even a fishing pole with a furry ball at the end can entertain a cat for hours, but many people have trained their cat to do much more.
Start out small with treats or a piece of food and hold it just above the cat’s nose. Lift the treat until the cat sits down. Repeat this several times and give the cat a treat as soon as it sits. Soon the cat will be siting each time you lift the treat.
Many cats scare easily so be sure to reward your cat and not stress it out. Scaredy cats are very difficult to train.
You can train your pet fish to recognize when it’s dinnertime. Flash a light and then feed the fish. Do this over several days feeding the fish the same amount of food each time and see what happens. Some fish put their mouths out of the water; others may swim in a pattern. This is a fun experiment in animal behavior just like Pavlov’s Dogs.
Do you want to learn how zookeepers entertain and train big cats, sharks or even a gorilla, check out Jennifer Keats Curtis’ series Animal Helpers and coming soon Primate School!