3 Social Enrichment Ideas for Dogs and Cats

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By Nichole Myers-Youngquist, CPDT-KA, WHS Public Training Instructor

Last week, I told you all about the concept of enrichment and how it enhances the life of the animals we live with. I promised to share ideas for activities for all five types of enrichment. Let’s kick things off!

Today, we’re focused on social enrichment ideas. 

In the time of social distancing you must be creative. 

  • Set up playdates:
    • Dogs: You and your friends meet in a backyard where you can maintain physical distance. Choose dogs that you know are friendly, vaccinated, and healthy. Choose friends that are the same! 
    • Cats: I wouldn’t rule this option out for cats. If your cat is not frightened by getting in a carrier or riding in the car and your cat is social, discuss it with your friends. Indoor meetings would be best unless they have a catio (enclosed outdoor cat area). Again, choose friends and cats that are social, vaccinated, and healthy.
  • Video chat: Video conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams have made it possible for us to see each other. Why not set up a virtual pooch or kitty social night? Chat with your friends, and drink coffee (or wine, beer, or whiskey) while your pets see their furry friends. 
    • Dogs: If you read my April blog, you know that dogs do watch images on screen, and they can be exciting. 
    • Cats: According to a Cat Health article, cats can also become engrossed in watching screens. Their attention can be caught by movement and changing colors.
  • Porch sitting for both dogs and cats: One of my favorite social activities to do with my dog, Bayou, is to sit on my porch and watch anything that goes by. We play an association game with his triggers, like cats and free-range chickens. He looks at the trigger, looks back at me, and I reward him with a small bite of string cheese. I get to chat with my neighbors at a distance while I drink my morning coffee. If you have a leash-trained cat or a catio, you can do this, too. It’s also a great way to socialize your new puppy to loud noises, new people (keep your distance), different species of animals, and garbage trucks beeping.

Have I blown your mind yet?  I’ll let you recover before I go into the next enrichment category. You’ve got a good start for now.

To be continued!

We’re excited to resume in-person group classes and private lessons, with remote options still available if you prefer. Questions? Email us at behavior@whs4pets.org, or visit this page to find out about classes and enroll.