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Home is where the couch is

Posted on Thursday, March 02, 2023

Pets from all walks of life can find a temporary home under the roof of the Richmond SPCA, where they are thoroughly cared for until their adoption into a loving home. In addition to receiving food, shelter and veterinary care, pets in our humane center are attended to by an entire Behavior and Training department and two enrichment specialists who ensure that each pet receives the specialized attention they need to thrive.

Behavior and Training Associate Heidi Moreau taking a break from a training session

Pets who come to us from difficult circumstances sometimes develop behaviors that can create barriers to adoption, like resource guarding or fear of strangers. Our Behavior and Training department is a team of professionals who work hard every day to ensure that our cats and dogs receive the training support they need to be happy and confident pets in a home. This team, along with a dedicated group of volunteers, use positive reinforcement training programs to build trust between pets and the people who care for them and guide pets away from behaviors that aren’t desirable in a home. Often, giving a pet a quiet space to decompress away from the kennels can dramatically reduce stress levels.

Thanks to a recent construction project in our facility, we have a new “Real Life Room” that we’d love to deck out with some homey furnishings. This room will give our pets a dedicated training space that looks and feels like the environment we’re preparing them for — a loving home. But the fun doesn’t stop there — we’re also making exciting updates to our pets’ enrichment routine.

Canine Enrichment Specialist Alex Dandridge and Pocket enjoying an outdoor adventure

We use the term enrichment to describe anything that stimulates a pet’s mind and body by activating their natural skills and instincts. Enrichment should offer variety, as the more a pet repeats an activity the easier and less enriching it will be. By offering a variety of activities, we can provide them with new challenges that keep their minds and bodies healthy.

Chloe enjoying the visual enrichment of watching bubbles

Providing regular enrichment and training for pets at home is the mark of an excellent guardian, and something most of us do without the fancy label. In a shelter environment, enrichment is even more vital to a pet’s wellbeing and must be more deliberately structured than the enrichment that occurs naturally as part of being in a home. It eases the stress of shelter life and keeps pets healthy.

The activities that our enrichment specialists and training team plan for the pets in our care are tailored to each animal’s individual needs. For those who are shy and nervous, enrichment will reinforce the socialization skills they’re learning. Active and high-energy pets get an outlet to combat the physical deterioration that can occur in shelter environments. Pets who have exercise restrictions while recovering from a medical procedure receive more in-kennel activities to let their minds work while their bodies heal. While our pets already enjoy regular enrichment, we aim to create an even more robust routine. Our new enrichment program and schedule will provide every pet in our care with unique, enriching activities daily.

Manager of Behavior and Training Jackie Laubacher with Fenton in the empty Real Life Room

Here’s how you can help make sure our pets are happy and healthy (and having fun!) during their stay in our humane center. We’ve compiled an Amazon shopping list full of all the products we need to kickstart our enrichment program and furnish the Real Life Room, and we need your support! Help us turn this blank slate into the perfect training studio.

You can make our programming dreams come true by picking out a few fun items for our pets! Click on the friendly feline to view our Amazon wish list.

Don’t have an Amazon account? You can also support us by making a donation to our enrichment fund, or by donating items from our website wish list.

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