Moab Happenings Archive
Return to home

PET HAPPENINGS - December 2023

Canine Enrichment
Provided by Jessica Turquette, owner of Moab BARKery

When veterinarians and other pet care experts talk about "environmental enrichment," they're often referring to improving a cat's environment. However, all companion and captive animals can benefit from environmental enrichment. Today we will talk specifically about ways to enhance your dog's quality of life.

What Is Environmental Enrichment?
Environmental enrichment for pets, also called behavioral enrichment, means enhancing an animal's surroundings and lifestyle so that he is presented with novelty in his environment, opportunities to learn, and encouragement to engage in instinctive, species-specific behaviors.

Environmental enrichment is used to address many behavioral disorders in dogs, including rowdiness, cognitive dysfunction syndrome, storm and noise phobias, separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and behaviors resulting from boredom and/or frustration.

In addition to treating behavioral disorders, environmental enrichment should be viewed as an essential part of providing an excellent quality of life for all pets, and especially handicapped animals and pets that don't leave home much, due to its proven positive effect on the health and well-being of animal companions. Here are the major components of canine environmental enrichment:

When you offer a new toy to your dog, you've probably noticed that while she's very excited by it initially, she loses interest within a day or so (or within hours or even minutes, depending on the dog and the toy). That's because dogs habituate to toys, meaning they get used to them. The new toy quickly becomes just another inanimate object in your dog's environment.

You can work around the problem by rotating your pet's toys. Provide your dog with a supply of different types of toys in varying shapes, sizes, textures, colors and even scents. A general guideline is to offer 2-3 toys per day. At the end of the day remove them (put them out of sight) and reintroduce them about every 5 days so they remain "new" to your dog.

Interactive toys like tug toys are always a good idea, because dogs love to play games with their humans!

Dogs need daily exercise to be optimally healthy and emotionally balanced, and this goes double for young pets and high-energy breeds. It's important to understand that your dog — no matter how small—can't get adequate exercise running around your home or backyard by himself. Even if your yard is as large as an acre, they still need structured aerobic exercise.

In a perfect world, every dog would have opportunities to do some high-intensity endurance running on a regular basis to release endocannabinoids, which are the "happy hormones" responsible for the "runner's high" in both humans and canines. Once or twice a week can do wonders for those dogs and humans who able to participate in this activity.

Most dogs don't engage in intense exercise with their owners for a variety of reasons, but your dog really does need your help to get the most out of exercise and playtime. There are lots of activities you can enjoy with your pet, no matter your own level of physical fitness or limitations.

―Take a walk or hike with your dog
― Play a game of tug-of-war
― Roller blade or jog with your dog
― Take your dog for a swim and play fetch in the water
― Take a bike ride alongside your dog using a special dog bike leash
― Play hide-and-seek with treats or your dog's favorite toys
― Use a ball launcher to extend the distance your dog runs to retrieve and return the ball

Walking Your Dog a different way
Another way to enhance your dog's experience of her environment is to take her on a variety of different types of walks.

There are short purposeful walks in which your pet will only be outside long enough to relieve herself.

There are mentally stimulating walks during which your dog is given time to stop, sniff, investigate, mark a spot, and discover the great outdoors with her nose and other senses. Most leashed dogs don't get to spend much time sniffing and investigating. Allowing your pet time to explore canine-style is good for him mentally. Dogs gather knowledge about the world through their noses.

There are training walks that can expand your dog's skills and confidence. You can use them to improve his leash manners, teach basic or advanced obedience commands, or for ongoing socialization opportunities.

You might also want to consider power walks to improve your dog's fitness level (and yours!).

Social Enrichment
If your canine companion does well at the dog park, visits there can provide opportunities for dog-to-dog interaction, exercise, and vigorous play.

If you have friends with dogs, arrange play dates. These can be excellent low-pressure social situations for dogs that need to hone their interaction skills without being overwhelmed by too many dogs, or an overly dominant dog.

Involve your dog in agility, obedience, nose work, tracking, flyball, canine freestyle or another dog-centered event.

Additional Enrichment Strategies
Provide your dog with visual enrichment by giving her a view outside through a window (unless she's reactive to external stimuli).

Provide auditory enrichment by leaving a television or radio on, playing music or outdoor sounds, and offering your dog toys that make noise.

Provide tactile enrichment by petting, massaging, and brushing your dog. Make sure to follow her cues for what type of touch she does and doesn't like.

Appeal to your dog's olfactory senses by placing her toys in the clothes hamper so they pick up the scent of her humans. Use essential oils that are safe for dogs. Hide treats around the house or in cardboard boxes.

Puzzle and treat release toys can help focus the attention of high-energy dogs and keep dogs with storm phobia or separation anxiety occupied before and during anticipated stressful events. Lick mats and food-release "brain game" toys never get old, once your pup catches on.

Dog-Friendly Walks/Hikes
in the Moab Area

Corona Arch - Easy/Moderate. 1.3 Miles one way. Trailhead is 25 minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to Potash Road (Utah 279).

Mill Creek Pathway - Easy. 1.1 Miles. Little to no driving. Starts at the intersection of 100 South and 100 West,
a block off of Main Street.

Portal Overlook - Hard. 2.0 Miles one way. Trailhead is 20 minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to Potash Road (Utah 279).

Grandstaff Canyon - Moderate. 2.0 Miles one way. Trailhead is 10-minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to the River Road (Utah 128)

Visit MoabBARKery website

Dog Friendly Walks/Hikes in the Moab Area
Trail or Walk Difficulty Length
(one way)
Proximity to Downtown
MillCreek Pathway
easy 1.1 miles Little to no driving
Starts at 100 S & 100 W
Portal Overlook
(trailhead @ Jaycee Park)
Hard 2.0 miles 25 min drive N on US-191 to W on Utah 279 (4.2 miles)
Moab Rim Hard 3.0 miles
(to Hidden Valley trail)
8 minute drive 2.6 miles down Kane Creek Blvd from US-191
Negro Bill Canyon
(aka William Grandstaff Canyon)
Moderate 2.0 miles 10 minute drive N on US-191 to
W on Utah 128, 3 miles
Hunter Canyon Easy 2.0 miles 25 minute drive (mild off-road)
7.5 miles down Kane Creek Blvd from US-191
Corona Arch Trail Easy/Moderate 1.5 miles 25 minute drive N on US-191 to
W Utah 279 (10 miles)
Hidden Valley
(trailhead at end of Angel Rock Rd)
Hard 2.0 miles 10 minute drive S on US-191
3 miles to Angel Rock Rd
Fisher Towers
(trailhead 2.2 miles off Utah 128)
Moderate 2.2 miles 35 minute drive N on US-191 to Utah 128, then 21 miles

Tips for enjoying your time with your dog here in the Moab area:

  • Bring lots of extra water for you and your dog.1 gallon per day for every 60lbs of dog!!
  • Don’t let dogs chase wildlife (especially coyotes, they can lead dogs into an ambush).
  • In the city, dogs are required to be leashed, but on public lands off leash with voice control is allowed.
  • Slickrock and sand is very abrasive!  Check paw pads often, or buy and use booties.
  • If it’s over 85 degrees only consider early AM or late PM hikes, daycare or leave your dog at home.
  • Pack out my poop!  Seriously or the other hikers without dogs will eventually demand no dogs allowed!

To see past articles about animals, pets and their care check our archives.

Return to home