Dog Days at the Zoo Aren’t Just Fun for Humans

July 27, 2023

Dog visiting river otter exhibit with their owner during dog days a the Zoo.
The dog days of summer will soon be over, but Dog Days at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo are back! Thanks to two successful test days in May and June, CMZoo is welcoming guests and their well-behaved dogs to explore the Zoo again, during two special afternoon and evening Dog Day events in August.

These two additional Dog Days, on Mon., Aug. 14 and Tues., Aug. 29, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., will help the Zoo continue to perfect the best way to give furry family members an opportunity to visit the Zoo that also works best for our animals and families who are visiting without dogs. At Dog Days in May and June, CMZoo staff closely monitored Zoo animal behaviors, guest accountability and visiting dogs’ responses. Overall, it was enjoyed by guests, their dogs and Zoo animals. During Dog Day planning, the team accepted that there would be challenges, as there typically are during the development of any new program or event, but Dog Days went even better than we could have hoped.

“We can support healthy animal behaviors by providing a changing environment with diverse enrichment opportunities,” said Rick Hester, curator of animal behavior at CMZoo. “When we do this well, we observe animals behaving in varied ways to achieve different goals, including some of the behaviors and outcomes that appear to be most important to their species in the wild environment.”
Dog visiting Mexican wolf exhibit with their owner during dog days a the Zoo.
Service dogs are always welcome at the Zoo, so seeing a dog was not an entirely new experience for animals that live at the Zoo. But, service dogs behave differently than a family pet, and they visit in much smaller numbers.

Most Zoo animals did not behave any differently than they do on a normal day. Others were excited for a short time, and then returned to their normal behaviors. Some animals, like ring-tailed lemurs and meerkats, noticeably strengthened their bonds as a group.

“Meerkats are well known for their sentinel antipredator behaviors, observed in the wild and in human care,” said Hester. “During both Dog Days, we observed the meerkats working together, presumably with the goal to remove dogs from their view. The meerkats would huddle together and approach a dog, which is called ‘mobbing.’ All the dogs would eventually move away as their group would walk on and the meerkats, having accomplished their goal, would resume other activities like foraging for food. From the perspective of the meerkats, they were successful!”
Dog visiting African lion exhibit with their owner during dog days a the Zoo.
African lions and mountain lions were active, seeking opportunities to stalk and even pounce at the guest dogs. Giraffe were more interested in their daily guest lettuce feeding. Rocky Mountain goats perched high in their rocky cliffs to observe. Kwisha, a Western lowland gorilla, watched the dogs intently and calmly, as did African penguins from their indoor underwater viewing pool. By the afternoon, most of the Zoo animals were back to their normal activities.

“We’re continuing to monitor the behavior of our animals closely to better understand how Dog Days impact their behavior,” said Hester. “Our observations so far suggest that Dog Days, at some frequency, could play a role in meeting our enrichment goals for many species and individuals at the Zoo.”

The team is hoping to provide fun visits for our guests and maintain a level of novelty with the experience for Zoo animals. With that balance in mind, the Zoo added only two more Dog Day dates to the calendar, for now. On Mon., Aug. 14 and Tues., Aug. 29, the Zoo will stay open late for Dog Days until 6:30 p.m. A limited number of Dog Day tickets will be available for purchase at 3:30, 4, 4:30 and 5 p.m. on both days.

Zoo buildings, attractions and amenities will be open until 6:30 p.m., and Zoo animals will be out and about, just as they are during normal daytime visits, with a few exceptions for safety. Every person and every dog coming to the Zoo must have an advance timed e-ticket, available now at Dogs must have a designated dog ticket to enter the Zoo. Human tickets will not be honored for dog admission. Guests who would prefer to visit the Zoo without the company of canines are welcome to visit during the day, before dogs’ first allowed timed entry at 3:30 p.m.

Giving guests amazing experiences and providing excellent animal welfare are CMZoo’s top priorities, so it has been especially rewarding to see this new offering hit both of those marks at the same time.

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