On weekends, I love to play with my three, big Labrador retrievers. Homer, Fletcher and Violet are great dogs, and they live for the days when we’re all outside together. They get really excited when I hide a spoonful of peanut butter in our neighboring field. All three dogs sprint to see who can track it first. Other times, I’ll play “red rover” of sorts with signal sounds. And on hot summer days, I’ll offer them big ice blocks with frozen meat inside to encourage them to use their instincts to solve an icy puzzle. I call these games, “enrichment activities,” after the kinds of work I see Irvine’s animal care staff doing every day.
Enrichment activities improve the lives of animals in captivity. It’s a way for animal caretakers to encourage and stimulate natural behaviors in captive animals through sight, smell, taste, touch and interaction.