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Monday, April 14, 2008

The Shelter Chronicles: More on Princess

Princess A914086

Okay, I know you've see this girl before. She's a Shepherd mix who is about 4 or 5 years old. I guess she has become my "project" at the shelter as she is having such a hard time over there. Princess is a great girl who, right now, is so stressed out that she is NOT herself anymore. My fear is that her stress will drive her over the line that some dogs cross at the shelter.

Signs of Stress:
  • Spinning in kennel- a lot of people see this behavior as indicative of being "energetic" or "hyper" but actually it is a repetitive behavior brought on by confinement.
  • Not able to focus- fear/stress
  • barking- brought on by being confined and having dogs directly across from them. The dog feels threatened so they begin to develop behaviors to scare off a potential threat. Similar to leash aggression.
  • Barrier Aggression- often a LEARNED behavior at the shelter. Probably won't exist outside of the shelter.
  • Dog Aggression- similar to Barrier aggression, this is often a result of confinement in a stressful atmosphere where there are other dogs, such as a shelter.
The point is, many of these dogs are GREAT dogs who are reacting to their environment. Princess is a good example of this. She has lost weight, she spins in her kennel, she "seems" dog aggressive, etc. In reality, she's a pretty calm dog who loves to play. She's nice on leash and loves a belly rub.

I have worked with this dog in a calmer atmosphere and have seen her feel more relaxed. In a calm senario, she does really well. I have every confidence that with some help, she can recover from her ordeal at the shelter. My feeling is that she could be successfully introduced to other dogs, and I also believe that she would be fine indoors. In a nutshell, Princess would thrive with an understanding guardian.

However, time is of the essence and I don't think she can make it long term if she is continually subjected to this amount of stress!

The moral of this story: it's just a fact that some dogs do well at the shelter and others crash and burn. It's unpredictable to say the least. But please don't JUDGE a dog by its behavior in the run, take the dog out and meet her!

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