Now I must admit I'm pretty new to the term 'enrichment' as a breeder of over three decades. I'm not sure what sand dune my head's been in, but as I open up my eyes more to the dog training fraternity the more jargon words I learn!
It has been something as a breeder I've unknowingly been doing and had never consciously labelled 'it'. Maybe cause I breeder a 'companion' breed that craves humans affection and interaction that it's importance was less apparent?
Puppy socialisation is super important to enable a puppy to live a happy adult life in two worlds, the canine world and the human world. There is a window of opportunity as the puppy grows which enables vital learning experiences with exposure to new environments. This socialisation starts with the breeder but continues with the new owner.
Socialisation: The activity of mixing socially with others and the process of learning to behave in a way that is acceptable to society.
So what's puppy enrichment?
This goes some way toward improving their lives and replacing activities they might do in the wild, such as foraging for food. Its purpose is to maintain physical and mental health. It helps prevent boredom and behavioural problems which often stem from a lack of mental stimulation.
Enrichment: The action of improving or enhancing the quality or value of something. This form of stimulation should help prevent developmental issues, resulting in a happy dog and owners. This investment of effort should support keeping dogs out of rescue or being returned to breeders.
So it's vital that breeders not only understand and participate in socialisation and enrichment practices but also educate their puppy owners as they need to continue this development as the puppy grows and as an adult in their care. A quick Google will give you tons of ideas for enrichment activities and toys including but not limited to:
- Puzzle games and interactive feeders
- Snuffle mats
- Cardboard boxes, tubes and plastic bottles
- Scatter Feeding
- Trick training
What can you recommend to the new puppy owner?
Ensure you educate them on this need and how they can fulfil it when the puppy is in their care. The new owner's documentation or 'Puppy Pack' you provide, should include written documentation to support your conversation. This will help remind the owners of the importance at a later date.
I personally recommend 'The Perfect Puppy Project' written by Dominic Hodgson. The book advises new puppy owners of their initial responsibilities, so I now gift the booked to any of my puppies that are purchased. The book it's extremely entertaining and not too long, boring or too technical. It covers more than just enrichment, but also the considerations a new puppy needs including diet, crate & toilet training. This sets the expectations you have as a breeder and clarifying the commitment a new owner will need to make.