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Enrichment for protection dogs

6 Dec 2022

Enrichment is a loose term for activities which allow animals to perform natural behaviours. This is particularly important for overall welfare, and sadly overlooked by many dog owners. Merely meeting a dog’s physical needs such as providing them with shelter, food and water, and veterinary care when needed is not enough. Enrichment is vital, yet often surprisingly easy to deliver. Protection dogs do have some special requirements beyond that of ordinary pets, but these should not be particularly hard to meet.

Although dogs share the same senses as humans, their hearing and ability to scent are both far stronger. Scent is a dog’s strongest sense, and much of how dogs process the world is through their noses rather than their eyes. Dogs must be allowed to exercise their sense of smell, and failure to do so often leads to anxiety and unwanted destructive behaviours. Perhaps the easiest enrichment to provide any dog with is simply to encourage it to engage its sense of smell, both in and outside the house. Many dogs prefer “white noise” to silence, and leaving a radio playing in the background while leaving your dog alone for short periods of time is also recommended so it receives aural stimulation.

Training is an even better and more active form of enrichment. Given their high levels of intelligence, protection dogs thrive when challenged with appropriate training. This can range from routine obedience through to more advanced work such as tracking or protection scenarios in their home environment. Some guidance from a trainer is always beneficial, but surprising amounts of even advanced training can be carried out independently with easily available online resources. Having said that, protection dog training – especially bitework – should never be carried out without full professional supervision and oversight.

Many protection dogs are naturally “mouthy”, and have tendencies to nip or bite. While undesirable outside of protection contexts, mouthiness can largely be mitigated by a combination of training and providing appropriate chew toys. In our experience, a Kong can offer hours of enrichment for even the mouthiest dogs, and provide this tendency a non-destructive outlet. When paired with adequate exercise, we find that this generally eliminates destructive chewing in unwanted settings.

For more advice on how to provide your dog with appropriate enrichment, please DM us on any of our social media feeds, or email [email protected].

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6 Dec 2022

Livestock Guardians

Livestock guardians are a broad group of dogs who evolved and were developed to protect flocks of domestic animals from large predators, especially sheep and goats. They originated in the Middle East, but are now found across the world. Well known livestock guardians include the Great Pyrenees, Tibetan Mastiff, and…

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