Enriched Environments For Puppies
Did you know that puppies will have larger brains and be more emotionally stable if they have been raised in enriched environments?
I have been providing an enriched environment for our Australian Labradoodle puppies from the start and our puppy families are always telling us how special and smart their puppies are!
We use the Avidog Program for raising our puppies which is based on creating enriched environments for puppies.
Animals raised in enriched environments have been shown to have the following physiological changes over animals raised under standard laboratory conditions:
•More new brain cells and neural connections •Better brain cell survival
The result of these physical changes in brain structure result in the following intellectual and emotional benefits:
•Improved ability to learn and remember •More emotional stability •Better resiliency to stress
While many breeders are hip to the idea of enrichment, very few breeders understand that just providing toys and social interaction is not enough to take full advantage of what we call “The Enrichment Effect.”
The optimal enriched environment will offer the following three things:
1. Stimulating living area – for example, toys, visual objects, different types of footing,different sounds, and social interaction. Breeders have done a great job with this in recent years, and there are even a number of commercial “play pen” type products available for puppies.
2. Exercise – Including adequate space to move as much as the puppies wish to, “jungle gym” type challenges such as climbing and outdoor exercise, when possible.
3. Problem solving and learning – “Active” training challenges, where the puppy is presented with a problem or training task, and then asked to solve that problem for a reward. This is as opposed to “passive” challenges usually provided by breeders in the form of toys and interactive objects.
Interestingly, it appears that the task has to be motivated by positive reinforcement for neural benefits to take place. Apparently, the hormonal effect (cortisol release) caused by corrections or aversives inhibits the growth and survival of brain cells.