Dogs are Zoo Animals

Dogs AREN’T zoo animals but you have to admit, there are a lot of lifestyle similarities. They don’t get to decide when or what to eat. Their exercise options are limited to what a human provides and chooses. And the big one is that they are confined to the same area pretty much day in and day out.

Dogs are captive animals.

Now of course, everyone’s initial reaction to this statement is disbelief – “But my dog gets to sleep on the couch!” or “I feed him the most expensive food and he goes for walks everyday!”

I confess, comparing a pet dog to a zoo-caged tiger is a it of an apples vs oranges situation. Dogs are domestic animals, after all. They are meant to live WITH people, and to be cared for by them.

But, they are still animals! Individual animals with their own energy, preferences, and innate drives. Just because we think they should love sleeping on a couch- and even if they appreciate the comfort- doesn’t mean that is their first choice activity, for most of the day… every.

Dog owners: we can and do provide a lot of perks for our dogs, to help their lives seem less zoo-like. And dogs just plain like our companionship, so there is that (when we are home!) But we can do more. How about a meal that takes more than 5 seconds to eat? Zoo keepers have learned that their tigers are happier when they have a more natural feeling to meal times. Like: maybe it’s in a different location each day, or they have to figure out a puzzle to get to it. Maybe there are different types of foods to choose from- just like they would have in the wild. I mean, we can’t actually be releasing tigers to go hunt for gazelles for their dinner- and we can’t just turn our dogs loose to go scavenge, either- but there are things we can do to make one of their most anticipated times of the day be more than about just scarfing food.

It’s the same deal with exercise. A walk around your community is fine. Your dog might even get really excited about a neighborhood walk. But how many times do you walk the same route before it becomes just a slightly different version of the tiger pacing along the cage wire? We can mix it up for our dogs in very easy ways. Walk your route backwards. Turn in opposite directions every couple of days. Pick new areas to walk on a regular basis. And let your dog sniff! Half the fun of getting outside is seeing what is going on out there and for a dog, that ‘seeing’ is via their nose. If the walk is truly for the dog, try letting them lead the way (when it’s safe to do so) and try letting them decide when to go and when to stop to sniff! These are such simple ways to make your captive dog’s life just a tiny bit more interesting!

This month, I challenge you to find teeny, tiny ways to help make your dog’s day a little more interesting. I am calling this the No Two Days The Same challenge. I know that it can be tricky to come up with variations for your dog so I’m posting some easy ideas over on my instagram page, or you can come back to this post to get updated ideas too. To keep things really simple for myself, I’m going with a theme for each day of the week! Come up with your own ideas, or borrow some of these- tag your post with #notwodaysthesame and #eromitlabs so we can see what you are up to!

September 1- #Workout Wednesday – Mezzy demonstrates 3 easy exercises you can have your dog do, to change up their exercise routine and earn treats (perhaps they work out for their meals today?!) Click HERE

2- #ThinkingThursday – Marlin shows a shaping game HERE

3- #FridayGameDay- Shelby learns the game of FUNDER – Click HERE

4-#SniffySaturday – Marlin gets a treat scatter during his walk: Click HERE

5 -#SundayRunday- Avi goes for a canicross run and practices her turns: HERE

6- #MannersMonday – Marlin practices politely exiting the crate on cue: Click HERE

7- #TricksOnTuesday – CoolJam begins a new head turning trick! HERE

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