Unit # 1
Companion Animal Body Language and Behaviour
In this animal enrichment course module, you will learn about the basics of animal body language & psychology. Learn how to recognise when animals are experiencing stress.
Unit # 2
In this animal enrichment course module, you will learn how to provide mental and physical stimulation for animals living in confinement.
Environmental Enrichment Course
The Animal Enrichment Course is relevant for anyone who has responsibility for the care and welfare of companion animals.
When animals are confined for any length of time, it is important to minimise stress to ensure their mental and physical well being and prevent behavioural problems.
Minimising stress and ensuring environmental enrichment is a vital part of maintaining well being for animals, especially for those living in the confinement of places such as animal rescue homes/shelters.
The Importance of Environmental Enrichment
Environmental enrichment serves to reduce stress, by enabling the individual to partake in innate behaviour but to also help with boredom and displacement activities. Stress can manifest itself in numerous ways and illustrates that the animal is in a poor state of welfare. Some scientists suggest that there are three factors impact on animal health and welfare: Physical status (fitness). Biological indicators including reproduction, health and production for agricultural animals. Mental status, behavioural signs such as stereotypic behaviour. All of these factors have a close relationship with one another: any significant compromise in one aspect tends to affect the other two. Thus, if poor welfare is acting on an animals’ natural behaviour (e.g. poor enclosure design, lack of opportunity to express natural behaviour), it is likely to impact on their physical fitness and their mental health.
Signs of Stress due to Poor Environment
If an animal that is social in the wild is kept in solitary confinement, then important bonding and territorial behaviours are not being performed. As a result, there will be an increase in depression or fear-related behaviours due to lack of socialisation. Factors that we impose on animals in captivity, such as enclosure size, have a big impact on an animal’s freedom, choices and ability to perform natural behaviours. Any novel stimulus which promotes an animal’s interest in its environment and encourages the animal to explore its surroundings can be considered enrichment. Enrichment can therefore include both natural and artificial objects, scents, novel food items, and different methods of preparing foods. Enrichment can also describe how an animal’s environment is designed, often in a 3D manner. For example, adding additional perches to a parrot’s cage, or other levels to a hamster’s cage can significantly increase the size and usage of the enclosure, despite the actual cage size remaining the same. This Animal Enrichment course explores how to minimise stress and ensure environmental enrichment for companion animals.
If poor welfare is acting on an animals mental health (e.g. aggression from humans or other animals etc), then it is likely to cause behavioural problems and issues with physical fitness. Thus if poor welfare factors are affecting an animals’ physical fitness (poor diet, malnutrition, starvation, thirst, lack of exercise, injury and disease) it is likely to cause mental health issues and behavioural problems. In the 90’s Professor Donald M Broom of Cambridge University was at the forefront of the study of animal behaviour, psychology and welfare and characterised animal welfare as: “the physical and psychological state of an animal as regards its attempt to cope with its environment” This means that a change in an animals welfare, leads to a change in the animals physiological state and therefore physiological responses or ‘outputs’ can be seen. There are many factors in an animal’s environment that can cause it to feel stress. A lack of choices in the animal’s environment can mean that it does not have adequate opportunity to perform its natural instincts and lacking the opportunity to perform normal behaviours. For example, if an animal does not have the opportunity to collect their food, or select their nesting material to build a nest, then important instinctual behaviours such as foraging and nest building are being overlooked and can impact on the animal’s physical welfare.