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The Behavior Department: Enriching a Shelter Dog's Experience

Providing stimulation is easier than it might seem

  • Kong-style toys are great for bored pooches, and the Kong company has a program that provides factory seconds for animal welfare groups. ERIC ISSELÉE/ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

It’s bedtime at my house, and my dogs know it. Their clue isn’t the waning hour, or any of the little before-bedtime rituals I go about as the hour gets late. Their tip-off is the clink of a certain white ceramic jar on the kitchen counter, where the Kongs are kept.

Lily the cattle dog immediately dashes upstairs to dive into her crate. Dakota the Lab does a world-class sit/stay without me even glancing in her direction. Forrest, my other cattle dog, who’s much more casual about this whole routine, simply chills in his favorite resting place on the hallway rug.

As I take the three minutes required to smear globs of peanut butter into the openings of the hollow rubber toys, the dogs anticipate the apex of their night. They each take their bedtime treats with all the finesse they can muster, then settle down to the task of licking their Kongs so clean of peanut butter that I won’t see any of them stir for about a half hour. Then, their palates satiated, they will all go to sleep for the night.

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