Life as a pet dog can be pretty boring without a job to do. If you are struggling for ideas beyond Kong stuffing, behaviourist Anne Rogers’ new resource will have your dog sniffing, chewing, searching, dissecting, digging, playing and foraging to their heart’s content!
Enrichment is always one of the first recommendations given when people ask for advice on how to stop their dogs from engaging in behaviours that are often quite natural and fun for the dogs but not particularly convenient or helpful.
The first thing many caring dog guardians do is search for enrichment ideas online and discover all kinds of interesting, ingenious and often expensive gadgets. Then they are left trying to decide which one fits their budget and wondering if just one toy is really going to make that much difference.
Well, dog lovers can take a substantial collective breath of relief because Anne Rogers, dog trainer and certified behaviourist extraordinaire, has taken on the genuinely gargantuan task of creating an immense library of enrichment ideas for dogs. This may be one of the most valuable resources for dog carers ever created, and it is available to everyone – for free.
Anne launched 100 Days of Enrichment in 2019 after being inspired by popular tech community ‘#100daysof…’ hashtags. These started with events like #100daysofcode and then took off to include all kinds of initiatives, from #100daysofmacrame to #100daysofgratitude. Anne, known as a pioneer and innovator in animal welfare and behaviour through her education programmes at AniEd, decided to run with it. Even she could never have guessed that she would change the lives of thousands of dogs and their people worldwide.
A list of equipment you will need for the enrichment exercises is provided every week. These are usually just things you can find around your home, such as blankets, cushions, paper and toys that most dog people will have. Every day for the 100 days, an enrichment exercise is provided. On Freestyle Fridays, participants are encouraged to use their ingenuity to create an enrichment activity using several different items, which may include random things like a Pringles tube. Then they share their ideas and photos of their dogs enjoying them.
Anne could be easily described as a dog behaviour and training disrupter. Instead of turning this into a business idea, she gave it away, believing that these tools, so very useful to every dog guardian, should not be commercialised. Anne set up a Facebook page and blog and offered her very detailed and cleverly crafted enrichment ideas to anyone interested. She now has a vibrant community of 6,000 members on Facebook and over 3,000 blog subscribers from every continent, who have gifted her, in return, with their incredible stories and innovations of her original ideas.
Their enthusiastic participation has turned #100daysofenrichment into an evolving and growing resource of fantastic, fun and inexpensive ways to build the bond between dogs and their people and, quite simply, elevate the quality of their lives.
All dog professionals will have come up with or borrowed enrichment ideas to help their own dogs and the dogs of their clients. There are a lot of listicles online that will provide several suggestions, and often they are the same ideas, recycled over and over again. Anne had been producing original enrichment activities for her clients and students for years, which were always supported with professional guidance.
During the initial conception of 100 Days of Enrichment, she realised that if she was creating something ‘open source’, she would need to put safety first and provide an abundance of pointers to ensure that the enrichment exercises were as risk-free as possible.
One unique and quite incredible thing about Anne’s online 100 Days of Enrichment community is that there is no drama. This has a great deal to do with her approach to inclusivity. She does not ban people who use punishment-based methods, prong, or shock collars from her page, even though it goes against everything she believes in and teaches.
She insists that the programme stays true to its educational intention, and she remains consistent and committed to her professional principles of positive reinforcement and offering alternative behaviours, even for humans. Anne believes that when people have access to other dog enthusiasts using positive methods, and getting great results, they are more likely to open their minds to new ideas.
I asked Anne what her favourite enrichment exercise was of all the activities she has created, and her answer is probably the single best piece of advice that anyone with a dog should hear. “Ask your dog!”
Not only is Anne’s 100 Days of Enrichment an excellent programme for people and their companion animals (did I mention that this isn’t just for dogs – people living with cats, horses, parrots, chickens and even donkeys have taken part?), but it has become a vital tool for other animal professionals. There really is no longer a reason to reinvent the wheel. Especially when that wheel is made of toilet-paper rolls and full of treats.
You can learn more about #100daysofenrichment and become part of the community by joining Anne’s Facebook page or by subscribing to her blog. If you want to get started now, you can find all the exercises on the AniEd page.
This piece was written by Colette Kase and published on Dogs Today’s October 2023 issue.