Part of living successfully with a canine is building the relationship--and what better way to build a relationship than by *having FUN*? :-)
Most pet dogs get a lot of their fun and mental stimulation by participating in the day-to-day activities of their owners. You wake up and walk him (or send him outside to potty). You have breakfast, he has the leftovers. You leave, he's given a bone or toy to keep him busy. You come home from work, and he goes through the greeting ritual, then maybe wants to play fetch. In the evening, you settle down to watch your show, and he cuddles with you on the couch, or just basks in the safety and communion of his "pack" being together. At bedtime, he goes to his bed (or whatever your bedroom ritual involves) and in the morning, he looks forward to it happening all over again.
At zoos, sanctuaries, and animal educational facilities, the canine residents usually don't have this sort of routine. How many people have a real wolf inside their house? How many wolves would WANT to be stuck in the house all day long? ;-) However, wolves are the ancestor of your dog, and they (along with dingoes) still have many of the same needs as a beagle or labrador pal. Enrichment can make any dog's life even *more* worth living...and if your dog needs to be an outside dog for whatever reason, environmental enrichment becomes very important indeed.
Companionship: Wolves are dedicated pack animals. (The "lone wolf" is a myth.)
Dogs have varying degrees of distance from being pack animals, depending on their breed mix and how they were raised. They may revel in having buddies of their own kind
or they may be perfectly fine with being an only dog, preferring humans as a replacement for their "packmates".
Some dogs have very little pack drive and may, in fact, be terribly dysfunctional with other dogs, or even standoffish towards humans. We have modified the original genome in many different ways, when we created dogs.
In facilities, canines are rarely kept all by themselves. (In the wild, a canid is almost never alone...he has 24/7 camaraderie.) Many zoo, rescue, or facility canines are also carefully socialised to humans as puppies, so that visitors don't stress them out, and so they can be interacted with in an interesting way...after all, zoo animals can get bored! Socialised animals can be leash-walked, medicated, inspected for illness or injury, and taken to the vet if necessary.
If you are gone long hours and your dog cries or howls from loneliness, you might give some thought to a second dog, communal doggie daycare, or playdates with another friendly dog in the neighborhood.
We've found that with both wolf dogs and dingoes, oftentimes their favourite "toy" is another canine!
Exercise: When hungry, wolves can run for many miles in search of food. (If food is not at stake, they also are pro's at [[conserving energy]] being lazy!) Many dogs today don't have the stamina of a wolf, but they still enjoy a good romp.
A large fenced yard is one of the best gifts you can provide for your dog
but if that's not possible, there are many other options. You can borrow a friend's yard, set up play dates with other owners, try the dog park (these are risky, so only go if your dog is bulletproof or the park is almost empty), let him loose in a tennis court or fenced baseball field, or take up jogging or hiking beside him. There are lots of dog sports these days, if you're the social type. He also might enjoy an agility course
or a playhouse to climb and jump on. (With cats, this is called "vertical territory". ;) Primitive and wild dogs tend to be very catlike, and appreciate high places.
Digging is a fun pastime for many dogs, so yours might appreciate a sandbox or sand pile...
You can bury toys and treats in it to encourage him.
Raw meaty bones provide not only physical exercise for his jaws, but also mental exercise...chewing a bone is calming for them.
In fact, mental exercise can be even more effective than physical! And on that note...
Mental stimulation: A free and wild canid enjoys a world full of new sights, smells, and textures. This capacity can be fulfilled in captive or companion canines in many ways. Shampoos, perfumes, and items that smell like somebody else's house (or the thrift store) all provide new and exciting smells.
A swimming pool or sandbox offers new "feels", as well as exercise. Pine and cedar shavings, corncob litter, pea gravel, straw bedding
(it's always a hit!)
and mulch offer new textures and smells. Use your imagination! :-) Indoors, a sheepskin doggie bed, mini-trampoline, or sleeping bag could be an appropriate textured resting place.
Pet and farm stores sell great puzzle toys for smart dogs. A Kong style of toy
(or bone) stuffed with treats, peanut butter, or canned dog food usually makes them happy, and lasts even longer when frozen. Canned dog food is also very popular when feed from a spoon--and it has the awesome side effect of teaching them to take their treats *gently*.
Fridge-cleaning day is always great fun, and if it smells weird, they might scent-roll on it.
Off-site adventures to new places provide tons of mental stimulation!
Can he run errands with you, in cool weather? How about checking out a local hiking trail? The Great Outdoors can provide many interesting sights.
If your animal is afraid of new people or doesn't like other dogs, you can always walk in rural areas (most shy dogs love quiet nature trails) or at night. *Just remember; 2 collars, 2 leashes for those shy/reactive ones! If he spooks and your leash hardware fails, you may never get him back.
We try to give our guys something new each day. Novelty seems to be a really big thing with them!
They really aren't fussy, though. It's the thought that counts, and almost any offering will do...
Anything we touch, even a leftover toy from a previous day, suddenly becomes the most interesting thing in the yard. They love to have something everyone else wants, because a favourite sport here is to have the rest of the pack chase them.
We don't pay much for stuffies, because once Mr. Bear gets hold of them, the squeaker is surgically removed in seconds. Even non-squeaky stuffies are good though; sometimes we spray them with a new scent, and they scent-roll on them.
Of course, if there isn't a brand-new toy, they will make a game with whatever they can find. ;)
Most of my guys, and foster guys, have LOVED to get up high, so I've built several clubhouses with multi-levels or high platforms.
Dingoes in particular want to be ON things, or IN things. They'll sit on the lawn chairs, & try to beat you to them! (Then again, they're just as happy to sit on YOU.)
They're very much into water.
We have a pool plus a drinking bucket in each separate enclosure...the dingoes are sorted into smaller groups when unsupervised, then released together twice a day into the great big area to play. We call this Dingo Party!! Time. It's great for pack-building (when everyone is together, that means super fun time!) and it keeps the ones with stronger/edgier personalities--mainly the New Guinea Dogs--from getting on the others' nerves all day. They all look forward to Party Time and the big area is special to them, mostly just because it's not always available.I guess you could say we've created value. ;-)
We also have a kiddie pool in that area that we fill with cold water on most hot days. To liven things up, you can add toys, treats, water balloons, or chunks of ice.
A couple of them really like to fish, so sometimes we put small pieces of meat in the water for them to fish for. If you run the hose while they're fishing, it makes the "fish" swim. ;-)
The dingoes all enjoy leash walks, just like the wolf dogs did before them, so we find rivers to take them to, or just walk them around the neighborhood.
Walks are a great place to practice training with distractions, too. Training is for treats, usually extra special treats, so they're always eager to participate. Whether wolf, coyote, dingo, or even fox...any canine can be trained to some extent. :-) It offers so many benefits...mental enrichment, a more mannerly canine, a higher safety factor (because the animal is responsive to your words and actions), greater freedom due to their better behaviour, and a closer bond.
Dingoes and wolfdogs both learn so fast! It's also nice to have them eager to Sit, so you can get a picture of them sometimes without them zipping all around. :-D We've taught them to jump over a bar
or through a hoop,
hold a food bowl,
lay down, hop up...nothing major, just fun stuff to give them confidence and keep them responsive to us.
In the winter, you can toss snowballs
and the wolfers used to really like liverwurst smeared on the trees.
Since wild canids hunt for their food, sometimes their whole dinner becomes a game. I've tried putting their raw chickens into a bag to make a "pinata"
and hiding food in plastic cups scattered around the yard (on things, in things, under things) for them to find.
Sometimes we fill bags, boxes, or cartons with treats, then hang them from a clothesline to be jumped for. We do the same with toys...dingoes are very athletic and love to jump. :-)
Recently we wrapped special treats in cellophane and stuffed them in toilet paper rolls, then put the rolls in a box hung from a clothesline. That was a hit. Pretty much anything creative is fun for them.
Sometimes when we feed, we let them eat their raw meat as a pack, all sharing off the same pile, so they feel connected to each other. In the summer heat, a popsicle or small ice cream cup they can lick out is a popular treat.
They enjoy different textures in their environment...so we have a sandbox, a stick pile
a "jungle", dirt, grass, cool cement, mulch, gravel. They have kiddie tunnels and kiddie playhouses from the thrift store to hide in
and to use as obstacles during a chase. Sometimes, they like to come inside, and lay on the bed...
The cat-aggressive ones can at least visit on a leash, and take a break in their crates (air-conditioned in summer, and warm in winter).
These guys really enjoy any special attention...from each other, and from their humans.
While they love the outdoors, 'house time' gives them extra people time...and of course they love a chance to chew up the cats' toys.
We've found they have a terrific sense of humor, so they get dressed up in Hawaiian leis and silly headbands, or have a balloon tied to their collar.
I've blown bubbles at them
and squirted them with a water-squirting toy. I'm not sure if they find it funny too, or are just picking up on OUR silliness, but they seem to enjoy it.
None of this stuff needs to be expensive; we are on a budget too. I build the clubhouses mostly out of free pallets. Stuffed toys are just pennies at a secondhand store. An empty plastic bottle with kibbles or a bit of juice in it will keep them amused for a while, not to mention the "chase me" game initiated by whoever got the bottle first!
Raw meaty bones can often be gotten cheaply from a butcher, and if handed out frozen, will last even longer. These are great for days when they come in & hang out in their crates for a while. A big empty cardboard box
or some wet cat food in a plastic sour cream tub will make a quick & easy dingo toy. These guys are good sports and they're easy to please.
As a general rule, primitive canines all love toys, high places to climb on, branch cuttings, caves, pools, and any other goodies you can add to their environment. They'll also accept food bribes, even from children. ;-)
Each animal is an individual, though, and finding what's special about yours is part of the experience. :-) River the Dingo is especially fond of "fishing".
MP4 video of it
David instinctively knows how to drown his "prey" in the pool or water bucket. Apparently they do this in the wild. (!) No, Really.
Dingo Karoo loves to play Keep-Away. Wolfdog Maheono used to love his leash walks, and getting the others to chase him and wrestle. Wolfdog Indie especially enjoyed teaching pups, pulling tails, and *special food treats*.
Lutro and Avatar loved to swim in lakes and rivers (on a long, floating line, of course).
They all have their favourite fun things. I like to make sure something happens for them each day that makes it worthwhile...I think that's the essence of enrichment. Yayyy, Happy Puppies! :-)
Back to the Wolfdog Project?