Enrichment is Key to Happy, Healthy Adoptables


By Jill Vacchina Dobbs, J.D.

Executive Director of the SPCA of Northern Nevada


Enrichment is a win for everyone involved…it’s essentially playtime with the adoption center animals! The animals and humans involved all have fun. Enrichment is a process based on improving the environment and behavioral care of shelter animals. It gives us a chance to interact with the animals based on their individual behavioral needs, which reduces stress, provides physical and mental stimulation, and allows animals more control over their environment. In short, it helps prevent the kennel crazies and improve adoptability while they are waiting for loving homes.

XL and Precious had a blast with volunteers who took them into a playgroup, letting them run and splash around.

Some general parameters to consider are: variety, individual animal preferences, avoiding overstimulation (pay attention to their body language), keep it positive, and safety.

There is no shortage of inexpensive, fun enrichment ideas. The SPCA of Northern Nevada is creating new enrichment programs for our animals and we’d love the help of our volunteers, supporters and community! We have many enrichment tools on our Amazon wish list. We also encourage people to bring in: empty cardboard boxes, used pizza boxes, chicken broth for pupsicles, Kongs, bubbles, laser pointers, string toys for cats, and mobiles. We’ve had so much fun this week blowing scented bubbles for the dogs and cats, kiddie pool playgroups, and empty box play…we encourage new volunteers to come up and join the fun!

Stella loved taking a dip in our enrichment pools! We are happy to announce she’s now been adopted!

We are also hoping to add some small sound boxes to play soothing music and audio books for short periods rotated during different times of the day (also on our wish list).

Today we had a group of middle schoolers come read to our dogs and the calming effect of the animal/human bond was immediate and powerful. Once the students were settled in their chairs with books and treat bowls in their laps, the dogs became incredibly quiet and relaxed. The only dogs still jumping were the ones without a reader. One student was brought to tears when her reading companion “Honey” stopped shaking after she started reading to her. Another student told a team member that “Buttercup” had adopted him. Afterwards, as students were getting ready to leave, “Ellie” was visibly upset to have her reader leave. That student could not leave without saying “I love you.” National studies have shown increased reading levels after students regularly practice reading to shelter pets. We’d love to get more students involved reading to our dogs and cats!


A successful enrichment program relies heavily on volunteers, so please consider volunteering at the SPCA and make a positive impact in the lives of homeless pets. Thank you!

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