#69: How to Create an Efficient Enrichment Storage System

[00:00:00] Emily: I tell clients that for each dog, they want to have three Kongs. I have a rule of three, three, I say Kongs. Kong asterisk, three objects that can be filled and frozen for dogs to have long term licky projects. So, you have one Kong, in use one Kong in the freezer, and one Kong in the dishwasher at any given time and that way You can just maintain a steady rotation. And I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who were mind blown by that recommendation. So, I stand by it as a, as a good one.

[00:00:33] Allie: 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…

[00:00:50] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:00:52] 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 Jungle Jordan, and one of the topics we discussed was the importance of having an enrichment storage system. So, this week we are going to dive further into enrichment storage systems and talk about implementation with the animals in your life. In this implementation episode, Emily and I talk about my love of The Home Edit, Emily’s rule of three when it comes to Kongs, and how mole hills are sometimes mountains. I’m not gonna lie, when Jordan started talking about having an efficient enrichment storage system, I got super excited.

[00:01:49] Emily: You mean the woman who’s obsessed with the home edit geeked out about the storage system thing? No, you don’t say!

[00:01:56] Allie: I’m getting sassy McSasserton. I don’t need this sass.

[00:02:00] Emily: I accept that title. I embrace it as, as being fundamental to my identity. Yeah.

[00:02:07] Allie: Excellent. It’s the title that I have bequeathed upon you. Sassy McSasserton. Uh, anywho, I was gonna say that I was super excited because I knew that that had to be our implementation episode and I guess also, I do just love efficient storage systems.

Okay, but let me defend myself on that because everyone should love efficient storage systems. So, you know, I’m a work smarter, not harder person, and having an efficient storage system for pets is one of those ways that I work smarter, not harder in my personal life. So, without further ado, let’s discuss how other people can do the same.

And the first part of this is not necessarily about a storage system per se, but it is about a system. And that is buying duplicates within reason. Don’t go out and buy 20 Kongs. That is not a re, I mean, maybe if you have 6 dogs, then 20 Kongs is reasonable, but…

[00:03:07] Emily: I mean, don’t at me, Allie, because I think Chuck and I actually do have close to 20 Kongs. So, so how about you just say you don’t need to have 20 Kongs unless you just really like collecting them, which is totally fine and not hoarderish at all, Emily. Your, your Kong collection is perfectly acceptable.

[00:03:27] Allie: I am sorry that the number that sounded high enough to be hyperbole to me, it was not high enough.

[00:03:34] Emily: I forgive you. We can, we can move on. I will, I will acknowledge that we can move on to what you were actually trying to say. And I’ll, I’ll, I’ll let you finish your thought now. Allie

[00:03:44] Allie: Thank you. Um, but, I recommend to so many of my clients, and I do this for myself, of having duplicates of things so that you can batch create items that you need to create. So whether that’s, like, you have stuffed Kongs for your pets, or you do Lickymats, or we do DIY destructible toys for Oso, and so I have a bin literally labeled Oso’s destructible toys, and having that set up has been such a lifesaver because realistically, I’m not gonna go and fill a Lickymat, or stuff a Kong, or make a toy every single time I want to give him one. I’m going to have a weekend day where I can just spend 30 minutes creating all of those things, and then I’m set for the next week or two.

[00:04:32] Emily: Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I tell clients that for each dog, they want to have three Kongs. I have a rule of three, three, I say Kongs. Kong asterisk, three objects that can be filled and frozen for dogs to have long term licky projects. Okay? So, Kong is just the replacement word for that concept, which is way more words than I want to say every time.

So, three Kongs. So, you have one Kong, in use one Kong in the freezer, and one Kong in the dishwasher at any given time and that way You can just maintain a steady rotation. And I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had who were mind blown by that recommendation. So, I stand by it as a, as a good one.

[00:05:17] Allie: I agree that it’s a good one, and I like that you have this rule of three, but you have ten per dog that you have in your household.

[00:05:28] Emily: Okay. But to be fair, the reason we have that many Kongs in our household is because when we first got Brie, she was a, a profound counter surfer because she was a feral dog, and so foraging was her jam and she would like open our pantries, and open our fridge, and jump on top of the fridge to get bread, and everything. And so, the first year of our life we had to like really, really heavily managed the kitchen.

And in the meantime, I would hang, hide Kongs all over the house for her so that she learned that scent trails that led to the floor were for her, and sent trails that led into the kitchen were not for her, and, and then we just kept the Kongs, because why not? Like, why would you get rid of them? You’ve got them. So, I, there’s a method to my madness, 

[00:06:12] Allie: I accept that there’s a method to your madness. So, the next thing, and this is actually about storage efficiency, is creating a flow for how you use your storage, and how you work within it, and categories that work for you to batch. Just like we talked about with the, with the buying duplicates. So, for example, the thing that I batch most frequently for Oso is those DIY destructible toys.

So, I have a spot that the newspapers go into, I have a spot that like the toilet paper rolls, and paper towel rolls, and tissue boxes, and all of that goes into. And then I have a spot for the finished products that I can give to him. And that makes it so easy, so when I am ready to make those toys, all I have to do is just grab those bins that happen to be on top of, and next to each other, and go into the family room and then make toys. And I just use this kibble, so that’s, that’s easy enough. And that is super, super helpful.

Like before, I, I recently organized my closet that had all, all of this stuff in it, uh, that has all of this stuff in it. And before, it was like, this thing is over here, and that thing’s over here, and I have to, like, move this other thing in order to get to something, and it just, it didn’t work as well. I, I would put off trying to make those things because I wasn’t storing things in an efficient way to be able to use them.

[00:07:45] Emily: I love that. And I have a similar system. And another component of that that I have utilized is having to store less because I’m using the supplies I have more efficiently, which usually means being able to upcycle, and reuse them through multiple permutations.

So, for example, one of the best examples I can give for this is our peanut butter jars, because we use peanut butter, uh, for lots of different things. And then when the jar is empty, I put it on top of the fridge and then when the second, a second jar becomes empty, I give each dog their own peanut butter jar to lick out and chew on and all of that stuff.

And then when they’ve gotten full use out of it, I will um, utilize the chewed up ends as an easy way to get a box cutter into like, uh, a niche or a wedge where they’ve kind of chewed into the plastic, and I use that as my entry point to start spiral cutting the jars. Well, I, okay. I cleaned them out first and then I, um, will spiral cut the jars and then I can use that as a bird toy. So, the spiralized plastic, um, is a great hangable bird toy that I can put other toys on and hang and the birds love to chew up the plastic and, just demolish it. So, I’m getting three uses out of a peanut butter jar. I’m using it as a peanut butter jar when it has peanut butter in it, and then it’s a licky toy for the dogs, and then it’s a chew toy, bouncy toy for, for the birds. 

That said, this is just an example of how you can reuse or, or recycle or upcycle your stuff. That solution is not going to be appropriate for everybody because some dogs, the size of their tongue or the size of their jaw or the size of their whole face relative to the size of the peanut butter jar would pose a risk.

So, I know that like, for example, Allie, you can’t do what I do because Oso’s shmoo face is, big boxy lips that go everywhere would absolutely get suctioned into a peanut butter jar, and that would not be a safe strategy for him.

And not every bird could safely interact with a spiral cut plastic peanut butter jar because they would try to engage with it in ways that wouldn’t be safe, like maybe swallowing bits of plastic or something. So, I’m not saying that everybody has to do that exact idea, but if you think about the things that you’re utilizing and if you can find ways that are effective and safe for the pets in your household to reuse or upcycle those things, you have to store less stuff because you’re getting more use out of the stuff that you have.

[00:10:19] Allie: I love that. And it’s cheaper!

[00:10:21] Emily: I’m not going to lie, yeah, most of my toys for both my dogs and my birds are basically just upcycled trash because yes, I like to go cheap on things for sure.

[00:10:31] Allie: Oh, I love it. And then the next part, which we kind of alluded to already, is to make sure that you trial and eval your systems. And so, we talk about this all the time when it comes to enrichment for our pets, when it comes to our own enrichment, is that having a plan is great, but we need to make sure that the plan actually has the effects that we were hoping that it was going to have, and that we need to actually observe the effects of what we are doing. And that is no different than in your storage system, for all of your pet stuff. 

I mentioned that I have recently organized my closet, and because I’m a weirdo who loves, I was organizing, I guess it was like my treat to myself project when I, uh, when I had a staycation at the end of October. Was I organized my closet, and wallpapered the inside and it has lemons on it, and it’s super cute, and it brings me joy.

So, prior to that, I mentioned like, newspapers were over here, and some boxes were over here, and some boxes were over there, and it was just hard to get to, and it was clunky. Whereas now, I find that I am much more likely to actually make those toys when it comes up on my to do list to make those toys.

So, that’s an example of, I noticed from my own behavior that once I had a more organized system, I was more willing to make those toys. I was doing it more frequently. The other thing that I noticed too was I had before just like a box, a bin of food puzzles that I pretty much never used. I, I didn’t buy them for Oso, but now I don’t have a reason other than him to use them and there are some that he has never seen before, and so I that clearly was not a thing that was working for us. That bin had been in my closet for I don’t know, years completely unused. 

And so, I was able to go through, they now live in a drawer, and I am much more likely to go into this drawer, because I have gone into the drawer already, and it’s only been two months or something. One month. I don’t know, time is irrelevant, since I, I changed that system. The moral of that story is that even if you’re like, Well, yeah, it’s not that big of a deal, or I could, or I only have to, No. Sometimes molehills are actually mountains. And if there is something that is even just the tiniest little thing aversive to you that is keeping you from doing the thing, then change your system!

[00:13:11] Emily: Yeah, I experienced that really dramatically when I lived in Salt Lake because I hated making my birds enrichment supplies in Salt Lake. And at first, I didn’t think anything of it, I thought, well, I’m stressed, you know, whatever, but as time went on and I found myself avoiding it more and more and then because I avoided it more, I would have to do it in bigger batches and then it became more painful.

I finally was like, wait a minute, this doesn’t make sense. Why have I like, started hating this task so much? Because I used to love making my birds toys. I was like, for me, it was an excuse to sit down, and watch TV, or movies. And I would watch movies, and eat snacks, and make toys. And, and, or not just toys, but you know, enrichment items to stock the bird room with, and it used to be so much fun.

I was trying to like, articulate for myself why this task had become so aversive for me. I was paying attention to every, every step along the way to try to identify where my pain point was. And it was at the very beginning trying to get all my big toy bins out of the bird room closet. And it was so like, awkward and laborious to just get the supplies out that that ended up being the reason that I was avoiding the task altogether.

I switched to a shelving system instead of a bin system and overnight, it went back to being fun again, and it was like an easy thing. And I was just laughing at myself because I was like, I was making such a big deal out of it in my head and avoiding it. And literally all I had to do was change from like a storage bin system to a storage shelf system.

And all of that, like, unpleasantness went away. And I went back to enjoying making my birds enrichment stuff. For me, that was a profound lesson of like, just because it seems like a little mole hill doesn’t mean it’s not actually a mountain in terms of how much of a barrier it is to you accomplishing what you want to accomplish.

[00:15:10] Allie: Yeah, and along with that I think you bring up the easy access point. You know, for Zorro, all of his stuff is stored underneath his tank. We built in storage when we built in, uh, built in his new tank. And there were some things that I just wasn’t reaching for, and it was cuz, ugh, I have to go into a bin for this? And I just pulled them out, I put it where his food is, and it’s fine. So, all of the stuff that I need on a regular basis is just in one spot, not in a bin.

[00:15:46] Emily: I love it. I love that neither of us are bin people, even though, like, there’s some people who absolutely love bin storage, and for some things I’m sure it’s even great for me, but I love that you and I have both discovered that for pet supplies, it’s, we’re not into that bin life.

[00:16:00] Allie: We’re not. We’re not. All right. So, today we talked a little bit about how to create an efficient enrichment storage system. And really, it’s, it’s how to just create an efficient storage system in general and, and just layer in stuff for your pets on top of that. That includes getting duplicates within reason, and apparently 10 Kongs per dog is within reason, so that you can batch things and so that you can have one in use, one in the freezer, and one in the dishwasher. To make sure that you create a flow that works for you in the way that you actually use those items and categories that work for you when you batch things, and then trial and eval that system that you created, because sometimes mole hills can be mountains.

Next week, we’ll be talking with Dr. Tim Lewis about the biology of dogs.

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.


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