[00:00:00] Allie: And I think one of the best ways to figure out those compromises of navigating the humans versus the pet’s needs is by paying attention to the outcomes of your efforts. My partner and I do not love the look of shredded paper and cardboard on the ground. We don’t have an Oso room, so it’s just hanging out in our family room right next to our front door pretty much. However, we both know that it’s way more beneficial for all of us if Oso has an appropriate shredding outlet. It just means that we need to pick up the floor more frequently. And because we have to pick up the floor more frequently, we contain his shredding area by only giving him the really messy shreddables in one spot. It’s a compromise that the three of us have agreed to.
Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…
[00:01:00] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…
[00:01:01] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.
Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts.
Last week we heard from Darian Fambro and one of the topics we discussed was environmental diversity. This week we’re going to dive further into providing environmental diversity and talk about implementation with the animals in your life. In this implementation episode, Emily and I talk about how we provide environmental diversity for our own pets, why Oso has a shredding space, and as we’ve said before, more is not more. Let’s get to it.
I giggled a little bit when I saw that we chose this topic a while ago to go along with Darian’s episode because we just had this huge conversation about this in PETPro.
[00:02:01] Emily: It’s weird how when our whole thing is enrichment, conversations about enrichment happen like all the time.
[00:02:07] Allie: I suppose you’re right.
[00:02:09] Emily: I really did love the synchronicity of that for sure. And the thing that we discussed in PETPro is that it’s actually often more challenging to provide environmental complexity for companion animals than zoo, aviary, and aquarium animals. So, that’s one way in which we might have to work extra hard to help people figure that out for their pet.
[00:02:30] Allie: Absolutely. My example in PETPro was of Oso, because all of my examples in my life are of Oso. When he hangs out in the house all day, he’s more likely to need a lot of stuff from us at night. Playtime, training time, snuggle time, etc. But if he’s hanging out in the backyard much of the day, even if most of that time is just spent lying in the sun, he is pooped at night. Sure, he probably had a little bit more physical exercise, but the biggest difference is that he spent a lot of time in an environment that was much more diverse. We see a big difference in behavior from that one thing.
[00:03:07] Emily: For sure. And that’s actually a good segue into our three takeaways, because the first thing we need to think about is what parts of the environment matter to the animals in our care, on a species level and also on an individual level? So, for example, if you look around our house, the walls have great environmental complexity for us humans, because we have artwork that appeals to us and fits our personalities and our aesthetic.
But for the dogs, our walls are a horribly barren landscape for them. But also, that’s fine, because the dogs aren’t really going to be utilizing our walls that much, at least, you know, not above. three feet or however far they can reach. That’s just not part of the environment that matters to them.
In the bird room. On the other hand, the walls are decked out, not at all aesthetically pleasing to me, and probably very chaotic looking to people who might visit and come into the room. But it’s paradise for our birds because it gives them all sorts of things to fly to, climb to, land on, play with, explore, perch on, sleep in, tumble down, you get the picture. So, there’s just a whole lot going on on those walls because the birds actually do utilize all the vertical space because they’re birds, not dogs. So, pay attention to that. What part of the environments do your pets use, and how can you provide complexity for them in those spaces?
That said, our second takeaway is that humans do also live in their own houses, oddly enough. They don’t just set up their pet space, make them comfy, and then go live in a tent in the woods. So, what is perfectly environmentally complex for the pets may feel like pure torture for the humans. So, how can we create a space that is complex enough for our pets while still staying clean and orderly enough for the humans?
No, seriously, Allie, how? I honestly don’t know because I’m basically a trash panda. So, help me out here.
[00:05:06] Allie: Well, an example that I love from one of our PETPro members is how they navigated this in their household for their cat. They have a partner who does not appreciate the clutter, which is fair. But they also have a cat who likes and needs that environmental complexity. So, the humans came to a compromise. The cat can have clutter if the humans don’t. So, this member is more fastidious about picking their own clutter up than they perhaps would be normally so that the cat’s clutter doesn’t seem so bad.
[00:05:34] Emily: I love that they were able to come up with that compromise. That’s just like, hashtag goals when it comes to relationships, right? For me, since my partner doesn’t typically go in the bird room, I’m making those compromises with myself. And I guess the birds too, right? So, for example, anyone who comes to visit the bird room might think it was pretty messy because I let Kaya keep her nesting materials on the floor outside of her nest box when she’s not on eggs and doesn’t need it.
I also let them keep torn up paper from the old dictionaries that are some of their favorite foraging toys, because they seem to really enjoy tossing the paper around, and sometimes they’ll even come back to it later and keep foraging and find some cage mix that they missed the first time around.
So, those messes are fine and they can stay, but I will pick up bits of paper and nesting materials that got some food or poop on them because that’s not just messy, that’s like a health risk. And also, for some reason, it stresses me out so bad when there are little bits of wood or palm leaves lying around. I don’t know what it is. There’s something about, I don’t know, like the color, or the texture, or maybe like the fear of getting splinters in my feet. I pick them up and throw them in the compost. So, those are the compromises that I make with my burbs.
[00:06:54] Allie: And I think one of the best ways to figure out those compromises of navigating the humans versus the pet’s needs is by paying attention to the outcomes of your efforts, which is our third takeaway for today.
So, for example, I tried to have a bed in my office for Oso. It was in the way, and I didn’t love the aesthetics of where it was, but I thought he might appreciate it. And so, I kept it there. He did not! He used it as a pillow once, but never actually lied on it, which meant that I got to move it! Yeah. Versus my partner and I do not love the look of shredded paper and cardboard on the ground.
We don’t have an Oso room, so it’s just hanging out in our family room right next to our front door pretty much. However, we both know that it’s way more beneficial for all of us if Oso has an appropriate shredding outlet. It just means that we need to pick up the floor more frequently. And because we have to pick up the floor more frequently, we contain his shredding area by only giving him the really messy shreddables in one spot.
It’s a compromise that the three of us have agreed to. But I want to be clear that more is not always better when it comes to environmental diversity. And I think our backyard is a great example of that. I mentioned that Oso displays lovely, relaxed, some would say happy dog behaviors after spending a lot of time in the yard. But that was not necessarily true in our previous yard that had a lot of neighbor activity that he could see. He was sometimes more wound up when he came in from there. In this yard, we have a six-foot privacy fence, so he can truly just enjoy his time in the yard and not have to worry about everything else around him. So, while he has more environmental complexity there, he doesn’t have all the complexity that could exist in that space.
All right, we, we provided a lot of stories throughout this, so let’s go ahead and just wrap this up. This week we talked about providing environmental diversity, including knowing what parts of the environment this species cares about, navigating the human’s needs for environmental orderliness versus the pet’s needs for environmental diversity, and tailoring your pet’s environmental diversity based on outcomes. Remembering that more may not be more.
Next week we’ll be talking with Christina Horne about systems for navigating service dog training and society.
Thank you for listening. You can find us at petharmonytraining.com and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.
Thank you for listening and happy training.