What are you doing for Easter?? We are going to have an Easter Egg hunt with our dogs! No joke.
I am writing this the day before Easter, before we do it, because I am hoping to inspire you to do the same with your family!
Here’s the idea behind it: If you have been following my blog, you know that I used to be an Enrichment Coordinator at the Audubon Zoo so I am crazy passionate about enrichment at home with pets (and dog and child safety). What most people don’t realize is, all animals in captivity need environmental enrichment whether they live in a zoo, shelter, laboratory, sanctuary, or your home.
So I am going to show you why your dog needs enrichment and why an Easter egg hunt is just the ticket.
What Enrichment Does
Studies have shown that when animals are given an enriched, stimulating environment (a variety of things to do, smell, and explore) they live longer, are better adjusted, more relaxed, better able to develop problem-solving skills, and they remember what they learn. This directly relates to your dogs at home! Bored animals are easily frustrated, and frustration can lead to destruction. You can avoid boredom, obesity, and wanton destruction by enriching your dog’s life!
Enrichment at Home with Your Dog Will Help To:
- Curb boredom and restlessness of your pup
- Reduce frustration
- Reduce destructive behaviors
- Increase natural behaviors (foraging, hunting, using their canine senses in a healthy way)
- Increase your dog’s health and longevity
- Teach you new ways to engage and play with your canine companion
Science Insights: A study showed that when dogs solved a problem and earned a reward they wagged their tails more. These dogs were also more likely to try to solve the problem again, rather than if they were just given a reward. The study also found that food was a preferred reward, compared to spending time with another dog, or being petting by a familiar human.
So what does this research mean for you and your dog? It means that when you give your dog a healthy challenge (like searching for a hard boiled egg in the backyard – hint hint) your dog is going to be so excited to use all of his/her dog senses to solve the problem of finding the hidden egg! Your dog is going to go bonkers with excitement that he/she was able to hunt down those eggs!
Hunting and foraging are in your dog’s DNA. This is something they need to do. And it’s healthy for them! Dogs have evolved over thousands of years. They once relied on their hunting and foraging skills to feed their families and themselves. This helped to exercise not only their bodies but their minds. Much of a dog’s time was spent foraging for food, or preparing for the hunt.
What Does Your Dog Need?
Fast forward to today. Most family dogs are lounging around the house, bored out of their minds! And dog obesity is on the rise. The family dog is not receiving enough daily mental and physical “foraging and hunting” like their early ancestors did. All dogs need enrichment. – Dogs of all ages and stages:
– Do you have a dog with a lot of excess energy? This is a great way to provide mental and physical stimulation!
– Is your dog sedentary or overweight? This is a great game to encourage your plump pup to get moving!
– Do you have a senior dog that has slowed down? This is an easy game to help your senior dog feel alive again and stretch those old bones and muscles!
It is very easy to watch our senior dogs or cats lie around snoozing. They look so content and they have done so much for us. But you would be surprised what good a little exercise will do your senior – how it can improve quality of life and perhaps even slow the progression of aging, including the advancement of dog arthritis.
Exercise stimulates all tissues as it increases blood flow. Tissues become oxygenated and toxins are removed from them more readily. In addition, exercise helps bowel function enormously. This is especially important in older pets.
Animal enrichment promotes naturalistic behaviors that stimulate the mind and increases physical activity.
Easter Egg Hunts at the Zoo
Back in the day during my Zoo Days I used to go into an animal’s exhibit before we let them out in the morning. I would would hide various food items or novel toys. Around Easter I would do this with any species that loved to eat eggs. This could be anything from a ferret to a Komodo Dragon. The idea was to hide the eggs, and let the animal’s senses help him or her to “hunt down” the egg. It was always a riot to watch them search for the raw or hard boiled goodie, and the visitors loved being able to see animals behaving in a way that particular species would behave naturally in the wild.
This is what enrichment does; it promotes natural behaviors!
How You Can Have an Easter Egg Hunt with Your Dog
You are probably wondering, what does a Komodo dragon have to do with my dog? A lot actually. Everything I just described can be duplicated at home with your dog! I will walk you through it.
Imagine an animal’s outdoor exhibit at a zoo. Now imagine your backyard.
Imagine me hiding eggs for various species while the animal was still inside their indoor enclosure. Now think about where you can hide eggs in your yard while your dog is inside the house.
Imagine what an Orangutan, Komodo, or ferret did when we let them outside into their exhibit and they began looking for the eggs. Now think about what it will be like when you finally let your dog outside into the backyard to search for the eggs!
Imagine the excitement on the visitor’s faces when they watch the zoo animals searching for the eggs and gobbling them up. Now think about how fun this will be for your kids and family to watch your dog do the same with eggs in your backyard!
Boil the eggs, then make sure they are cooled to room temperature before you hide them in the yard. (Don’t dye the eggs.)
Peel some of the eggs, but leave the shell on some. Or just peel a portion of the egg.
If you have kids, let them hide the eggs! This is a great way for kids to be involved in the game! This game allows everyone to play safely together.
Don’t feed too many eggs at once. One or two is a good start if your dog has never had a hard boiled egg.
(We have 2 dogs doing the egg hunt. They have eaten hard boiled eggs before, so each dog will get 3 eggs.)
We will have our hunt tomorrow. I will record it on video and share it with you later on this post! So be sure to come back to see the video. I hope to see all of the creative ways that your family and your dog had an Easter Egg hunt together!
Monday April 6 Update: The egg hunt was a success! Here is a sneak peak! (full video to come later in the week)
Note: Our dog is the one without a collar. The other dog (black Shepard) is our neighbor’s dog, Annie, a very sweet and gentle Shepard.