So you’re in the market for a new dog and go visiting local shelters but you come home a little discouraged because the dogs don’t seem to “connect” with you, your just not seeing that “bond” you’re looking for. This is something we hear quite often from potential adopters; those of us that work with dogs are often thinking “why would you”, these dogs don’t know you, you don’t come in and spend time with them, you’re just another face walking by them. These are some things to consider when you are looking for your new furry friend are:
• The shelter is a high stress environment, it can be difficult for a dog to become comfortable enough to relax and solicit attention, especially from strangers
• In many shelters there are volunteers who come and walk them, the dog cannot differentiate between someone who is coming to walk them and someone who might be interested in taking them, so they’re just happy to get out for a walk
• Dogs that are new to the shelter may still be owner searching and not give anyone the time of day due to confusion
• Dogs that have been there for a long time may have bonded with the staff and pay little attention to others.
• What you see in the kennel is not necessarily the “real” dog; some dogs portray themselves as calm and quiet but are maniacs once they’re out and others look like lunatics in their kennel but prove to be great dogs once they are out
When visiting the shelter, read the profiles on the cages; this may be info gathered from the staff, previous owner or both. Talk with the staff about the dog’s personality and take the dog out for a walk. Listen to what the staff is saying about the dog and watch how the dog interacts with the staff. If the staff spends time with the dog you will probably see a fair amount of social interaction. Don’t be discouraged if the dog isn’t overly enthusiastic about meeting you; he doesn’t know you but after you develop a relationship with him you will see social interactions as well.
Go and visit with the dog several times if needed, take him for a walk away from the building and the barking dogs (which will be a distraction); be certain to practice safe interactions such as NOT hugging or kissing him or putting your face in front of his; this is a strange dog after all and you don’t want an accident to happened because you weren’t doing the right thing. Above all give the dogs a break, they have been uprooted from their homes and their people and are now in a cement cell with a bunch of other displaced strange dogs and strange people.
Don’t expect a lightning bolt to hit them just because you walk in front of their kennel or take them for a walk; they are worried and rightly so. They deserve a little slack.