Category — Megan-Kate’s Animal Behaviors
Many households in America cannot imagine their home without the four-legged member of their family. In a lot of cases, that member happens to be a dog. And while most dog owners take wonderful care of their dogs, many would be surprised to hear that their dogs would still benefit from and appreciate additional mental stimulation. If fun challenges are not provided for a dog, most will decide to create their own. And unfortunately, owners and dogs tend to disagree on what is classified “fun.” Many dogs want to naturally use their senses to hunt and forage for food and this simple instinct is commonly taken away from them because most pets tend to be fed out of bowls.
Contrary to popular belief, I personally think that no dog should be fed out of bowl (unless medically necessary).
How on earth do you feed your dog if you can’t use a bowl???
Here at the Cincinnati Zoo the amazing keepers spend much of their time trying to find creative ways of keeping our animals mentally and physically satisfied, through enrichment. This can be a very difficult task with some of our extremely intelligent animals, however, it’s also one of the most entertaining and satisfying parts of a keeper’s job.
Daily feeding time is one of the easiest ways to enrich our animals. Some animals will get their breakfast scattered or hidden throughout their enclosure, while others are given toys that they have to play with to get their breakfast to fall out. That being said, enrichment is not just for zoo animals – many people forget that they can enrich their pet’s life too!
“Chester”, our Andean spectacled bear, is a wonderful example of an animal that loves his puzzle feeder. Several days a week Chester’s favorite treats and breakfast items are given to him from inside a simple feeder toy. Solving the puzzle feeder can sometimes take him 45 minutes of constantly moving and thinking to get his breakfast. Chester uses his natural instincts to hunt and forage and this satisfies many of his desires - simply through taking one additional step to feed him.
When it comes to your pets at home you can do the same thing we do with Chester. You can feed your dog or cat from a puzzle toy. There are many that are wonderful, such as all of the Premier Pet Products, Starmark, and Kong to name a few. Place your pet’s dry kibble into the feeding toy and place the toy in whichever room you prefer them to eat in. I prefer it to be on a hard surface, so they don’t get kibble and saliva on the carpet. But, it is up to you.
Some toys can be difficult so it’s important that you start with a fairly easy toy, so your dog is rewarded (with food!) more often. Gradually, you can work up to a more difficult toy. This activity should take your dog 20-40 minutes of constantly moving and thinking before it is complete. If it’s easier than that, you should probably look at other toys or more unique ways to feed your dog (some ideas will be covered later on this blog).
If you need more ideas please feel free to comment and tell me about your issues/concerns. I hope you enjoy spending time with your pet and choosing to more thoroughly enrich their lives.
September 13, 2013 1 Comment
Two weeks ago I traveled to Dallas, TX, to pick up the Zoo’s newest addition to Africa! Walter is a spirited, 11-week-old warthog.
Walter is sweet and a little ornery… which is pretty adorable. He’ll be in the Zoo’s nursery for the next three weeks getting to know all of his keepers and handlers. Two to five people are scheduled to socialize, play with and even cuddle Walter every day. He loves to sleep in your lap, get belly rubs, and play ball.
Once Walter is out of the nursery he will be moved to the Africa interpretive animal area. There he will have a large stall, outdoor exercise yard and lots of daily interaction. Beyond that he will be walked throughout the zoo a minimum of three times a day, for a few different reasons. Primarily because it is imperative for swine species’ to be exercised a ton!
In the wild most swine will travel more than five miles a day in search of food and/or water. Without appropriate exercise, these highly intelligent animals will become destructive and unhappy. Not only that, swine travel in family groups called “sounders.” They are highly social. Because of this it is also imperative that Walter’s emotional needs are met. He will want to be out in the Zoo meeting new “family members” every day.
When you come to the Cincinnati Zoo next month, you might get to meet one of our new favorite animals, Walter the warthog.
August 23, 2013 1 Comment
Klyde’s crate training was a success! He walked right in this morning and is now safely on his way to Sedgwick County Zoo.
Klyde’s two main keepers, Marjorie and Randy, will be accompanying him on the drive to his new home, where he will get to meet his new girlfriend and keepers. They are not willing to let him go it alone. They will also have the opportunity to teach the keepers that will be working with him all of his behaviors and favorite foods, toys, and treats. Even though this is going to be a HUGE transition, Marge and Randy are making it as smooth going as possible.
Last week had ups and downs for Klyde and the staff in the Veldt. Klyde went from many good days in a row to having a few days that set him back. When an animal get set back, you have to return to the stage that they are willing to work with you and then move forward again. Usually the progress is a faster progress than the first time, at least that’s what most trainers bank on!
Little things could have set Klyde back, from someone starting a blower on the path way below him, as he first enters the crate in the morning, to a cart driving by. New noises, smells, and sometimes the unknown will make an animal decide that something it has been doing reliably for days is no longer alright. When you are training animals, patience is a virtue and a requirement.
When Marge let me know that Klyde was starting to regress, we talked about the pros and cons of how to move forward. We decided to go back to plan A and back to when he was successfully coming in and comfortably staying in. Instead of adding people to the outside making noise around the crate, something he will have to deal with, once he is in the crate for his move, we decided it would be more beneficial to get him used to someone standing on top of the crate, as this will be imperative to shutting the back door of his crate.
Many days were spent getting Klyde comfortable again with coming in, including allowing him access at night. Once he was back on track we added a piece of plywood to the top of his enclosure so someone could stand on it, and not totally scare him. Then we had one keeper go up top, before Klyde had access to the crate area, and a second keeper called him in. This way Klyde was able to get used to hearing a voice from above him as well.
All of this work resulted in a smooth transition into the crate. Bye Klyde! We will miss you.
May 20, 2013 2 Comments