Book Reviews

What the experts say about “Beyond Squeaky Toys”

KenRamirezI have long maintained that training and enrichment are so integrated and connected that you really can’t have one without the other.  The authors share a similar philosophy and their integration of the two make this a highly useful and truly unique book.  It is well put together, has good training advice, and covers a topic not regularly addressed in most books or seminars.  I am not sure I have seen another book like this one on the market.  It speaks effectively to the casual pet owner and is still a great resource for the professional. I highly recommend this book and think it should be in every trainer’s library. – Ken Ramirez – Executive VP Animal Care & Training, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago Author, Animal Training: Successful Animal Management through Positive Reinforcement

DavidShepherdsonThis is certainly the first publication that I have seen that explains enrichment in a way that pet owners can identify with and gives them really practical and fun ways for them to put their new knowledge into practice. Pet problems (which are usually just as much owner problems) have become such a great source of angst for both pets and owners that the kind of information and advice in this book is both timely and critically needed! — David Shepherdson Ph.D. Conservation Manager Oregon Zoo

Lisa HarrenstienEnrichment is of critical importance for captive animal health and welfare, not just for those animals housed in zoos but for those in our homes, as well. Just think, if a zookeeper can train a tiger to calmly and voluntarily offer its paw for a toenail trim, or open its mouth for a dental exam, or offer its tail for collection of a blood sample, the sky should be the limit for what can be done with our own cats and dogs. Authors Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey and Cinthia Alia Mitchell have done a great job of explaining not just the “why” of animal enrichment, but the “how”, with beautiful photos and detailed descriptions of each suggested enrichment option. We owe it to our pets to adopt the principles in this book, so that our pets can live better and healthier lives.
— Lisa Harrenstien, DVM, DACZM

IMATA_LogoAs animal caretakers and trainers we all know the challenges of creating new, fun, and engaging enrichment for the animals under our care. We also know the benefits of that enrichment, and how it can not only provide mental stimulation and physical activity, but also help extinguish behavioral problems. Enrichment opportunities are everywhere; not only for the animals we care for professionally but also for the animals we care for at home.

Beyond Squeaky Toys takes the varying types of enrichment we use at work home to our cats and dogs. The authors, Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey and Cinthia Alia Mitchell both have zoological experience; working as keepers and marine mammal trainers, notably for the famous killer whale Keiko. Their experience of using enrichment to help train and care for their animals lead them to taking enrichment methods home to help eliminate poor pet behavior as well as provide a more stimulating environment for their furry family members. Don’t be misled by the out-of-work setting, though, their methods are quite comprehensive.

They call them the 4 C’s: challenge, choice, change, and control, and the book details them as the primary ingredients of good enrichment. An environmental enrichment device can have any of the four in order to be effective. The book provides examples of each. “Challenge” and “change” may seem the most familiar. Challenges for a dog might be using a Kong toy to get treats hidden inside or training toy discrimination. Change equates to the ever-present task of incorporating variability, and keeping things interesting. As with any form of training or enrichment the animal has the choice to participate in their play time, but the element of control is perhaps one that some of us haven’t thought of. The fact that an animal has the ability to create their own activities, not necessarily ones that we’ve come up with for them, results in “a pet who is confident and creative.” While we may provide the initial push to start a new activity, the animal must be the one to choose how to fulfill it.

The book also breaks enrichment down into categories: social, cognitive, physical, sensory, feeding, and manipulative toy.  They make the “change” of enrichment easy for the reader, offering over a hundred different ways to enrich our pets with examples from each category.  From taking pets on walks at the beach to switching dog toys with the neighbor for a week to freezing new toys in cubes of ice, pets are bound to enjoy the new opportunities provided by Beyond Squeaky Toys.  This book is a great way to introduce anyone unfamiliar with enrichment or to even a pet owner with their pet’s problematic behavior.  The book even goes over using enrichment to remove unwanted behavior such as barking, separation anxiety, chewing, and clawing.

Whether you’re an experienced enrichment maker or new to the idea of giving pets more than traditional dog and cat toys, Beyond Squeaky Toys provides new fun ideas from two trainers that know the benefits of enrichment on animal behavior and is a great reference for any pet owner.

Shannon Miller,  IMATA Soundings