Take a Chance on Me

July 13, 2014 | By More

dog in cageThey might bark or whine; they might lunge at the door, or cower in the corner.  They might growl or snap at you, but this behavior can often be attributed to the shelter environment. They don’t know how or why they ended up here, what this place is, or where they might be taken next. Will there still be strangers staring at them through the bars.  Will they ever be free again?   So, not knowing who, what, where, when, how or why might make any of us a bit anxious.  Are we at our best in these situations?  Certainly not.  And neither are our shelter dogs.

Think back to a time when you were frightened.  Maybe even having confided in someone “I was out of my mind with fear” or “I was so scared, I couldn’t see straight” or “I was too scared to think.”  Not at your best, right?

Dogs, when having to cope with constant stress, may lose the ability to assess threats appropriately and to assume the correct coping mechanisms.  We may see nervous behaviors like repeated jumping, pacing, licking, barking, or even depression.

What causes this stress?  A scary dog in the next kennel, constant or random barking, loneliness, abandonment….each dog will be affected differently, but it’s safe to assume that some amount of healing must take place after such a transition.

The good news is that positive experiences, in a stable environment (forever home) can rebuild their trust and ability to cope with stress.  We must be sensitive to the confusing and sometimes scary experience of rehoming. It may take your pet a few weeks, or even longer, to find his confidence and his place.  After all he’s been through, this might just seem too good to be true.

So, don’t judge too quickly.  Most people now realize that dogs found in shelters are not bad or problem dogs that can’t be trained.  But don’t be taken aback by the antics occurring on the other side of the kennel door either.  Once you’ve eliminated the barrier and you can be next to the dog, you may find you both have something in common. That crazy dog is much calmer now, and you truly enjoy his company.  And the dog may find that you are not a scary stranger that keeps staring at him after he’s been trying to tell you “I’m scared. Please go away.”

Kennel presentation is not usually the best representation of the dog you are  observing.  Take a few moments to meet the dog in a more social setting out of the confinement of the kennel.   Take a closer look.  You may find the dog you’ve been looking for is right at your side.

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Category: Behavior, Canine Health, Dog Training Tips, Obedience

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