New Shelter Enrichment Program; Because Even Dogs Just Need a Big Spoonful of Peanut Butter

Photos by Kate Karp

Last Saturday, I joined up with a team of volunteers and shelter staff from Long Beach Animal Care Services (LBACS) to help put together some of the tastiest snacks known to dogdom—peanut-butter and pumpkin-stuffed apples topped with a bit of doggy sausage, yogurt pops with biscuits on top, and puppy treats artistically suspended in a delightful molded aspic of beef or chicken broth. Beats the heck out of the gelatin-and-shredded carrots version by a mile, I am certain.

Heather Williams and Wendy Steelhammer - Copy

Heather Williams and Wendy Steelhammer create yogurt pops.

Kathy and Ralph with the apples - Copy

 Ralph Ford cores apples, with Enrichment Coordinator Kathy Roddy showing approval.

Korla WEbster - Copy

Korla Webster fills cored delights.

LIsette Martinez and SErgio Garcia - Copy

Lisette Martinez and Sergio Garcia prep up the pommes.

Ricky Yim Mary and the Beef trays

Mary Augugliaro - Copy

Ricky Lim and Mary Augugliano create gourmet doggie delights.

Peanut butter and apples - Copy

Yogurt pops

A new take on Jello mode. - Copy

Beats the heck out of Jello and stuff floating in it.

Besides getting peanut butter smeared on the phone screen, prepping for the new Shelter Enrichment Program was an interesting experience not just for its unique aspect of humane shelter care but also to watch some of the pets in action, enjoying the goodies. The program was conceived by the shelter team as a way to keep the pets in the shelter occupied and engaged, thus making them even more adoptable. It is led by the newly appointed Enrichment Coordinator, Kathy Roddy, who formerly worked as the Volunteer Coordinator.

“These enrichment activities and items are wonderful ways to do just that,” said LBACS Adoption Coordinator Jill Prout. “LBACS is always looking for new ways to engage and stimulate our shelter guests. As we attempt to hold animals longer in hopes of finding placement and positive outcomes, we find ourselves in need of ways to keep them mentally stable.”

The snacks in their frozen and stuffed states make it challenging for the dogs to access the goodies. Using interactive toys like bubble mix and dangling playthings takes the dogs and cats mentally out of the kennel and into a whole new world. (Check out this video of volunteer Ricky Lin and Conchita, ID#A585183 and available for adoption, to see the pleasure of it all.) Much as with the whole-child theory of education, shelter enrichment is used to care for a pet’s entire being and as a sensory experience, thus reducing shelter stress.

“This program provides enrichment tools such as different treats for pit bulls who need to keep themselves busy,” Roddy said. “Keeping dogs healthy this way stimulates their minds so that they don’t go crazy in the kennel.”

Other tools used in the program are spray bottles and diffusers filled with lavender- or peppermint-infused water, wind chimes and music.

Cats are also beneficiaries. Volunteers created cork toys embellished with feathers and other items that kitties love to roll around with. The new Catio will also be utilized further, now that the weather is getting nicer. As you can see, there’s not only a lot to keep a cat occupied but there’s an opportunity for a real meet-and-greet between potential cat owners and cats.

JUne Bug and potential adopter 2 - Copy

CAtio with June Bug 1 - Copy

June Bug and friends sussing each other out. She enjoyed playing with her new acquaintances.

“Please keep a lookout for even more new and exciting enrichment ideas to be implemented this year,” Prout said. “Next on the radar are doggie play groups—coming soon!"

Read this Petfinder article courtesy of ASPCA for a detailed description of shelter enrichment. Meanwhile, if you want to contribute to the program, head for your local dollar-type store and pick up some of these items. As for the wine corks, it’s a great opportunity to guzzle lots of Cab and Chardonnay. Bring them to the front desk at Long Beach Animal Care Services on the shelter side of the P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village, 7700 Spring Street, Long Beach. Go through the entrance to El Dorado Park—no parking or entrance fee for shelter visitors.

  • Chicken or beef broth (canned or in the box)
  • Creamy peanut butter (any size jar—make certain that there’s no xylitol or other artificial sweetener in it; they’re toxic to dogs)
  • Small and large dog biscuits
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Ice cube trays
  • Spray bottles
  • Vanilla
  • Essential oils (peppermint or lavender)
  • Yogurt
  • Apples
  • Plastic gelatin molds
  • Nylabones
  • Natural Balance Rolls
  • Canned dog and cat food
  • Carabiner clips (heavy duty)
  • Bubble mix
  • Wind chimes
  • Wine-bottle corks (cat toys)
  • Fishing line

Ricky licking the peanut butter - Copy

These suggestions are to get you thinking! Spend a few hours in an empty kennel without a book, chair or toilet and you may come up with many more. Think about what a dog or cat would consider a priority and get creative!

From “Behavioral Enrichment in Shelters,” available on Petfinder

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