Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shelter Problems

Having been volunteering at the Brown County Humane Society since January one thing has become blatantly obvious. This one thing is that the longer a dog is in the shelter the greater the potential for unwanted behavior.

It is unhealthy for a dog to be penned and left alone, separate from people and other dogs. It is accepted fact that dogs are pack animals and live and work in a group. This means that when we kennel dogs separately and leave them alone for long periods of time they are experiencing something unfamiliar and unnatural. These strange situations bring with them added stress and excitement.

It is usually a pretty easy thing to deal with when you own your own dog that gets to run around, play, and go on walks whenever you are home from work, a dog that spends the vast majority of its day out and in contact with people and possibly other dogs. Shelter dogs that are kenneled for the vast majority of the day turn to unwanted behavior to deal with the stress and excitement of this situation. This will start to make them less desirable and in turn almost always guarantee that the dog will be in the shelter that much longer. It all revolves around in a circle. First the dog is in the shelter, then stress and excitement lead to unwanted behavior, then the dog stays in the shelter, and then more unwanted behavior results from the added stress and excitement.

How do we fix this problem? For some shelters it is a possibility to hire some full-time staff. This coupled with a lower number of dogs will decrease the amount of time that a dog is separated and forced to be alone. This will give the dog interaction with humans and hopefully supervised play time with other dogs as well.

But what about a shelter that is entirely volunteer operated? How can a shelter like this cope with these problems? I am seriously asking for some suggestions because I don't know what to do in this situation. Thank you.