Shelter Enrichment Program

Pet enrichment program

A shelter enrichment program can make a major difference in the daily life of dogs, by relieving their boredom and stress, helping them to maintain their health, and reducing the development of inappropriate behaviors.

Goals of enrichment programs include:

  • Improving the quality of life for the dogs and cats
  • Helping the dogs present themselves better when potential adopters visit the kennels
  • Making efficient use of the shelter’s small staff, volunteer pool, and tight budget


Dogs just wanna have fun

Dogs can’t say that they’re bored, but they can express their boredom, stress level, and anxiety by:

  • Barking
  • Jumping
  • Spinning
  • Chewing
  • Snapping
  • Resource guarding
  • Withdrawing

Volunteers and BRHA staff give dogs time outside the kennels, with and without human intereaction. This play time offers some of the best opportunities for canine enrichment:

  • The dogs get much needed exercise, which helps tire them out so that they are more relaxed in their kennels.
  • Social dogs enjoy the company of other dogs.
  • Dogs have the opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors, such as running, digging, following scents,
  • and playing. They invent their own ‘dog games’ and interact in important social time.
  • Being outdoors stimulates all of the dogs’ keen senses, which is naturally satisfying to them.

All dogs benefit from play time, but it is especially valuable for high-energy dogs, such as working and bully breeds, who are particularly challenged by confinement in a kennel.


This program helps decrease the arousal and stress levels of your dogs in the adoption area as adopters pass through, and increases the dogs’ success in their new home.

Human contact is the most enriching part of a shelter dog’s day—that’s why in-kennel human contact is so important.

The R&R program will teach shelter dogs to:

  • Remain calm as adopters pass through the adoption area.
  • Enjoy the presence of a human without having to be the center of attention.
  • Develop exercise needs that are more manageable for adopters.
  • Be accustomed to “down” time, a key element for success in the home.
  • Appreciate great literature. (Just kidding.)

Pet Pals is a program that pairs up dogs with trainers both BRHA staff trainers and trained volunteers. Each dog is assigned to their trainer to further their pre-adoption skills by readying them for their new home. This one-on-one assignment allows for individual response to training, learning at their own pace, and an assessment by the trainer for additional needs of the dog. A key element of success in their new home are some basic skills preparing them for the variety of experiences and expectations awaiting them.


Training is key to reducing stress. Keeping a dog challenged and his mind busy can make all the difference in his ability to deal with a noisy, overstimulated environment. Keeping his mind challenged is an important part of his behavioral development and stress reduction.

BRHA has had great success with Clicker Training emphasizing positive reinforcement and rejecting use of fear and force in training. Clicker Training has fast results for shelter animals which helps with a population of dogs that is constantly changing.

BRHA Staff and Volunteers continue to train basic skills helping dogs get adopted by preparing them for a new home and challenging their minds while they are at the BRHA Adoption & Care Center.


Choices for heavy chewers

Shelters occasionally encounter dogs who are heavy chewers, or who chew and swallow inedible items in their kennels. Mighty Mouths provides these heavy chewers with appropriate alternatives that satisfy their need to chew and help reduce the stress of kennel life.

Mighty Mouths is also appropriate for “bully-breed” dogs, such as American pit bull terriers and Rottweilers, who tend to deteriorate quickly in kennels. Kennel enrichment helps to occupy and maintain the behavior of these dogs.

A variety of toys are supplied, some stuffed with flavorful goodies, reduce stress in a kennel environment.


Enrichment programs for cats include:

  • Hiding places
  • Scratching Posts
  • Social Contact
  • Visual Stimulation
  • Height perches
  • Exercise

Volunteers and BRHA staff tantalize shy kitties to the front of their kennels with treats and everyday movements that invoke their curiosity. Often a shy cat comes out of its shell because it just can’t stand to be left out of the fun. They may not like to be held or cuddled but they do love to play.

Our Open Colony Housing gives BRHA kitties available for adoption a chance to play, climb, go outside on their open air porch. Volunteers and staff brush the cats, inspect them for illness or stress that precludes their good health and interact with them on many different levels. Toys, scratching posts, hiding places and climbing trees adorn the cat rooms.