Oct 28 2009

Difficult Times for Small Dogs in the Shelter



Most of my life, I have been a big dog person.  I never understood the fascination with small dogs and I swore I would never adopt one.  I thought they were annoying, yappy and precocious beasts who were un-trainable and obnoxious.  That was before I met Ginsberg, my 14 year old Pekingese mix, who I transferred from KCMO animal control, fell in love with and adopted.

Because of Ginsberg, I have started to pay a lot more attention to the small dogs who come to Wayside Waifs.  We see dogs from a variety of backgrounds.  Our small dogs come in as transfers, strays and owner surrenders.  We do our best to help find these guys and gals new homes, but there are some who have a really hard time adjusting to life in shelter.  This occurs with big dogs, too, but I feel this happens with a larger percentage of small dogs.

Fear turns to fear aggression in some small dogs.  We see a lot more of this than I would like.  A small dog is scared when he comes in and is placed in an upper-quad (a kennel that is about face height for most people).  When we try to get the dog out again and he is terrified.  He growls, he snaps, and he bites at the leash.  For some staff and volunteers they decide this dog is aggressive and start to favor others. 

Getting a terrified small dog out of the kennel is usually the hardest part, but it can make a world of difference.  Sometimes, you will just need to lasso them to get them out.  Once out, they need someplace to relax and let some fear go.  Recently, we worked with a Toy Fox Terrier named Benito who tried to bite anyone who came near him.  Getting him out of his kennel was next to impossible. 

Once we got him out, we started working with him and letting him see that people here were not going to hurt him.  We started to work on building trust.  We would put him in play groups with other small dogs.  Small dog play groups really help scared dogs as they can witness other small dogs interacting with each other and with people.  We have found that this can help the small dogs more than anything else in the shelter.  They get to learn from their own.

Benito was moved to more secluded section of the shelter and was given more attention.  As he became more and more friendly, he was walked by more and more people.  He started to become one of the dogs we would always use in playgroups to help the other scared dogs.  Last week, Benito found the perfect home.  We let his adopters know about all of his history and since they had lived with numerous terriers in the past, they were more than happy to continue his work.

Not all small dogs have a hard time adjusting to shelter life, but some do.  As we continue to learn and understand more about small dogs, we will be able to help them more quickly and hopefully find ways to stop this from happening at all.  If you are looking to add a small dog to your life, please check out your local shelter.  There may just be a lot of dogs like Benito looking for someone to give them a loving home, a little help and a chance at a new life.  The love and joy they return to you will be immense.

Written by Joe Hinkle
Manager of Behavior & Admissions at Wayside Waifs

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