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Enrichment and training for your pet’s happiness—and yours, too!

Posted on Saturday, May 16, 2020
Coordinator of Behavior and Training Jackie Laubacher works with Gritty, a dog in our care.

Are you spending more time than ever before with your cat or dog? Whether you are working from home or an essential employee, all of us are spending at least our “down time” in or near our home or neighborhoods. If you have pets, they are likely sources of great companionship right now.

Deon walks Coleman, a dog in our care.

New pet guardians and old pros alike may wonder: What’s the best way to engage with cats and dogs? How do you capture Bandit’s attention AND get him all tuckered out so you can get some work done? How about your feline friend? What about training your dog? Can you train a cat?

These are all enrichment activities our team provides daily for the pets in our care, which improve their health and happiness while they await adoption.

We have a staff of four that help our pets through positive reinforcement and reward-based training. This team includes Jackie Laubacher, our coordinator of behavior and training, Hannah Fuqua, our behavior and training associate, Deon Farmer, a member of our animal care team who specializes in canine behavior and Beth Martorell, a member of our animal care team who specializes in feline behavior.

A typical day in the life of Jackie, Hannah, Deon or Beth can include:

Beth holds Rabbit, a cat in our care.
  • Doing “rounds”: To help dogs and cats adjust to their temporary stay in our kennels and cat condos, our team will give treats to each pet, helping them to learn how to interact when new friends stop by the front of their enclosures.
  • Going on a hike: Taking our pups off campus allows us to learn more about their reaction to being in cars, on leash and in public, and teach them new behaviors.
  • Litter box training: If a cat in our care is struggling to understand the concept of using the litter box, we can help her by offering different litter box setups (covered or uncovered), brands or scents of litter or even mixing in mulch or soil. Behavioral modification for litter box issues is undertaken only after the veterinary team has ruled out any medical cause.
  • Taking dogs on a “sniffari”: Like a safari but with more sniffing! “Sniffaris” stimulate their minds and their snouts when we walk them near interesting smelling items, plants and places inside and outside of our humane center.
Hannah and Pumbaa, a dog in our care, pause for a photo during a hike at Bryan Park.

You might try some of these activities, too. Taking your pet (on a leash—even a cat can walk on a harness!) to an environment where he can smell new things and safely explore a different world is an excellent way to provide enrichment and stimulation that will tucker out your buddy and get him ready for a solid nap.

Our pets’ enrichment while they live with us in our humane center is also supported by our wonderful volunteers. These folks have completed special training to become members of our Green Team (training and enrichment for dogs) and our Blue Team (training and enrichment for cats). Green and Blue Team members teach our pets skills and provide them physical and mental exercise that help prepare them for adoption.

Your support helps our dogs and cats build their social and behavioral skills before they’re adopted into loving homes. Their future successes with loving families are thanks to your kindness.

Gray Miller and Olive (dog)
Gray and her dog Olive

Gray Miller is our manager of community development. After adopting her first dog, Olive, in 2009, Gray made it a priority to give back to the Richmond SPCA because of how much we had given to her by saving the life of her best friend. In her role, she works with wonderful people and generous local organizations who wish to partner with the Richmond SPCA to support its lifesaving work.

Gray and her family share their home with three dogs, Olive, Fang and Sam, and a cat, Eric.

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