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Volunteering at Local Rescue

violagirl
December 6th, 2011, 04:48 PM
I decided instead of going to the gym during my lunch hour, I will walk dogs at the local SPCA. Volunteer orientation was last night and today was my first day!

A couple of things surprised me.

Fortunately, I was dressed in old clothes, but I forgot a dog who is cooped up in a kennel where they poop on the floor will be excited and jumpy...AND poopy. I may go to local thrift store and try to find some scrubs.

Another thing that surprised me was my reaction to the dogs. The reason I haven't volunteered in the past was because I didn't feel like I could be there and not want to take them all home with me.

When I was walking them, I felt oddly dispassionate. There wasn't really a connection. Now the dogs I walked were former strays, so maybe that made a difference, but I am used to my dogs always looking to me for direction, reassurance, treats, pats, waiting on my every word. And these ones were single-mindedly sniffing and walking occasionally when i'd stop because they were pulling they would notice me but it was generally quite businesslike.

It was like I was kind of superfluous to their walk. Which probably was the reason i didn't really feel a big emotional connection to them like I thought I would.

Since I plan to be volunteering 3-4 times a week, should I concentrate on building relationships with a few dogs so that they will learn better and so be better able to score a new home or is it better just to do the dogwalking triage of who has/hasn't been walked yet this week and go from there?

Also any tips and tricks about working with rescue dogs would be good.

BenMax
December 7th, 2011, 07:24 AM
I volunteer for rescues and shelters. I cannot imagine being numb or disconnected to these dogs. (and the cats)
I make a connection with all, as if I did not then what good would I be in helping them relax, become more receptive and also how good of a trainer would I be?

In order to get these dogs ready for adoption it is imperative to get them in a personable state. If you are not connecting with these dogs that you are handling...then how is a potential adopter?

I think it is very important to be compassionate about their situation and not distance yourself from forming a connection or bond with the dogs you will be walking. Their lives depend on it actually as it is up to the volunteers to help these poor animals become more socialable and thus more adoptable.

chico2
December 7th, 2011, 07:34 AM
Very well put BM:grouphug:

violagirl
December 7th, 2011, 05:01 PM
I forgot this board is populated by paragons of virtue. :shrug:

I didn't think I'd be the only person to feel this way.

However, today I walked different dogs and we were a bit more in tune.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get a dog that is not used to having human interaction to be more interested?

Rgeurts
December 7th, 2011, 05:48 PM
I forgot this board is populated by paragons of virtue. :shrug:


violagirl, this board is full of people who love (and live) for animals, which is wonderful in my book. You may not like what BM said, but she's right. Volunteers are an integral part of preparing the animals for adoption.

Show them some affection :cloud9: :lovestruck:
If you really aren't "feeling" it, they know.
Some of them have no background history whatsoever, so who knows what they went through. Of course a lot of them are going to be disconnected and distrustful. As a volunteer, it's your job to do whatever you can to help them overcome that. You have to go slow and earn the trust. Unfortunately, there are going to be the occassional ones that you just won't get through to. You need to know how to read the body language so you can respond appropriately. See if some of the more experienced volunteers can help you. It would also be a good idea to talk to the people in the behaviour dept. I'm sure they will be able to give you some really good advice and certain behaviours to watch for. Places to start, anyway :)


Good luck!!!

Winston
December 7th, 2011, 07:50 PM
Violagirl I just wanted to say kudos to you for volunteering your time. :thumbs up

Perhaps you have taken this on with the thought that you may fall in love with all of them and become emotional about it?? if thats the case then just consider everything you have to offer to them even if you dont take them home?

I agree with what the others mentioned. You do have to show some affection but I think the time should also be appropriate. I think too it takes some time to relax and get to know whats going on and what you yourself are capable of providing to the dogs you walk.

As the others mentioned you and the other volunteers are the only chance the dogs have at a home and some form of rehabilitation so it is important for the dogs to be stimulated and adoptable.

I have always found with dogs that are not keen on approaching you at the beginning that I dont make eye contact with them and sometimes I will drop down maybe on one knee to their level and see if they approach you. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesnt.

Good Luck
Cindy

BenMax
December 8th, 2011, 01:54 PM
I forgot this board is populated by paragons of virtue. :shrug:

I didn't think I'd be the only person to feel this way.

However, today I walked different dogs and we were a bit more in tune.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get a dog that is not used to having human interaction to be more interested?

Sorry I did not put it more diplomatically perhaps. I would say I was being honest.
And yes, others feel the way you do. I don't understand it, not because I try to be 'all that' but because I truly don't understand a disconnect when an animal in dire straights, possibly misunderstood.

The best way to get an animal more inclinded to human contact would be to bond with him/her. If an animal is off standish, then I would not impose any training until a bond is established first. Baby steps.
If the dog loves toys, then play. If they respond to food, then feed. If they respond to nothing then just be patient and do not push yourself on the dog. He/she will come around.

We have had some dogs that respond to nothing. What we do (myself and DH) is just make things light. No training, just walking, sitting down in a nice quiet area, and just relax with them. Because we volunteer at a no kill, we have the luxury to take our time until trust is established.

I also network with a kill shelter where this methodology does not work due to time restraints. If that is the case, then a bond must be built quickly in order to get the dog to respond. It is a matter of life and death, and therefore you need to change your mindset and find whatever it is that will enable the dog to respond. Many times, it could be another dog (if dog friendly). If you pay attention to one, the other will follow. Again you need to focus in on what the dog responds to: treats, toys, play, brushing, massage...whatever you can figure out.

Rgeurts brings a very good point...seek advice with other volunteers or the behavioural department. They may provide some insight on the dog and give you the necessary background as well as other helpful hints.

Good luck.

Dog Dancer
December 8th, 2011, 03:42 PM
I think the dogs you walked probably acted exactly as one would expect. They have been abandoned by whomever owned them, dumped and maybe abused. Their life in a kennel is not very stimulating so when they do get outside for a walk I would imagine they are very interested in sniffing and checking things out. The smell of everything outside would be much more interesting than you are unless you put in an effort to make yourself interesting to them. Why should they trust you anymore than the human who put them there?? I think you got good advice already and just need to be patient and give the dogs time to come around to your efforts. Thank you for volunteering.

violagirl
December 8th, 2011, 06:58 PM
So back to my original question, should I concentrate on creating a bond with a few of the animals instead of just walking who hasn't been out yet?

I will up the ante with the type of treats I'll bring and be patient. For example, one dog was a very jumpy, nippy Lab. She was friendly but horrible to walk, if I worked with her a couple times a week, I might be able to help her to jump less and walk better.

I am torn between, just giving a dog a chance to get out of the kennel and building something with a dog. I'm not sure how much progress I can make, just randomly selecting dogs that need to walk.

BenMax
December 8th, 2011, 07:18 PM
Do you not have someone at the shelter that mentors and helps with this?
The bonding process is walking the dogs actually. Every dog however is different and not all rules apply.
What you are asking is impossible to answer. Each dog evaluates differently.
Speak with the shelter staff and they will give you guidance for each dog based on behaviour, temperment, breed, specific needs etc.
If the shelter is responsible, and if they detect that you are unsure, then I doubt they will ask you or expect you to take a dog out that requires alot of socialization or behavioural modification.

Also, grooming a dog also creates a bond.
Does this answer your question?

violagirl
December 9th, 2011, 07:52 PM
I've only been there a week, so far since the orientation session, staff pretty much ignores me.

I go in, wash my hands, sign in, look at the list of dogs that haven't been walked yet this week, attempt to remember their names, go out to the kennels, read the dogs chart to see their behaviour assessment, go in get the dog, walk or go play in the fenced area, bring it back to its kennel. Go get another etc etc. When I go back into the shelter, i mark down who i walked and maybe a comment about them, wash my hands and leave. Attempted to talk to girl at desk about one dog but was ignored for the most part.

Not sure how other shelters work. Do you walk different dogs every time? or just walk who hasn't been yet?

luckypenny
December 9th, 2011, 11:31 PM
Thank you so much for giving some of your valuable time to these dogs in need :).

Their life in a kennel is not very stimulating so when they do get outside for a walk I would imagine they are very interested in sniffing and checking things out.

My thoughts exactly. Firstly, they're most likely not getting the physical and mental stimulation they need in a shelter. Dogs also explore their environment mainly through their sense of smell. What you're witnessing when you take one outdoors is their attempt to discover their surroundings in addition to expending their pent up energy.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get a dog that is not used to having human interaction to be more interested?

So back to my original question, should I concentrate on creating a bond with a few of the animals instead of just walking who hasn't been out yet?

I'm thinking their basic needs must be met foremost and that would be through some sort of vehicle to get the exercise they need. Bonding/trust comes in time and realistically, how much time would you, as a volunteer, have with each dog? Just walking/playing with them is an immense help to begin with and I think that should remain your priority if you're comfortable with it. As you get to know the individual personalities of the dogs, you'll learn what gets their attention best. You're on the right track here:

I will up the ante with the type of treats I'll bring and be patient.

Some dogs are more food motivated while others prefer play, toys, affection. Yet others would prefer a good sniffing session, a run, or chasing balls. You'll discover soon enough which dogs prefer what.

For example, one dog was a very jumpy, nippy Lab. She was friendly but horrible to walk, if I worked with her a couple times a week, I might be able to help her to jump less and walk better.

This is a great example. She reminds me of a Black Lab I used to walk at a shelter...I ended up adopting her two months later :rolleyes:, lol. Your girl sounds like she has lots of energy that needs to be spent. Rather than a walk at first, can you take her to play in a yard? Is she food and toy motivated? Try tossing her a ball and see if she brings it back to you (you can always entice her with treats). If she can get at least 10 minutes of hard running before you head out for a walk, she may be a little more calm as she gets used to her routine with you. In time, you may even be able to teach her simple cues like sit, stay, come, etc..

I am torn between, just giving a dog a chance to get out of the kennel and building something with a dog. I'm not sure how much progress I can make, just randomly selecting dogs that need to walk.


Not sure how other shelters work. Do you walk different dogs every time? or just walk who hasn't been yet?

It's hard when there are so many and you only have so much time, eh? I give you lots of credit for trying to find the best answers. This is just me but, I would focus on making sure they each get time outdoors first. Of course, I don't know how many dogs there are at your shelter and if it's even feasible for you to take them all out given your time constraints. Once you're done with the walking/exercise, if you have an extra 10-15 minutes, choose a dog you think might benefit from some more one-on-one time with you. I used to leave my 'favorites' until the end of my day or I'd feel too guilty for spending more time with them than the others :o.

Please keep us updated on your progress and experiences at the shelter. It won't always be easy but the rewards are more than worth it, I promise :).

violagirl
December 10th, 2011, 11:31 AM
I have never seen as many dogs at the shelter as they have now - the other day I counted 54.

It looks like maybe 1/2 of them get out during the week. The better behaved ones are taken out maybe 2-4 times a week.

I have my own dogs to walk after work, but I have decided instead of going to the gym during my lunch time, I'd go walk some dogs. I can usually walk 2 dogs during lunch, sometimes I take a longer lunch and walk one more.

My husband was worried I'd come home with some sob stories, but my JRT mixes are about as many dogs as I can handle at the moment.

There is a little JRT/pug? mix at the shelter that was returned because "it had too much energy". :( She reminds me soooo much of my own dogs, so I like to bring her out. She doesn't seem that high energy to me but I guess I'm used to it. I find the JRT bouncing to be cute! Not everyone shares my view I guess.

It isn't a no kill shelter, but they do hang on to the animals a long time. There were a couple recently adopted that had been there over a year.

pbpatti
December 10th, 2011, 01:10 PM
Violagirl the time that you are able to spend with these dogs is invaluable. Thank you for spending your lunchtime with these furbabies, I am sure that they enjoy every minute you give them.

I am really surprised that they only get out of their kennels 2 times a week, does the shelter staff not take them out also? Does the shelter have an area where a couple of dogs can play together for some doggy socializing? Maybe you can take two out at a time and supervise their play.

Maybe you can visit with them in their kennels as well giving them some one on one time that way. Enjoy your time with them :angel: patti

violagirl
December 10th, 2011, 01:49 PM
Maybe the shelter staff take them out more, I haven't seen any shelter workers walking them when I'm there. The ones I saw were cleaning kennels, probably a full time job.
They do not allow volunteers to take out more than one dog at a time. Only time we could take two would be if there were 2 dogs together in a kennel and 2 volunteers.
The dogs that don't get out as much seem to be the more difficult dogs. The ones that bark when you go by their cage. Since I am just starting and not as comfortable with the very big dogs I haven't taken any of those out yet. I have little dogs myself, and feel like I can handle more the misbehaving dogs that don't know any better over the dogs with more problems.