Allowing dogs to be dogs in and around the shelter is often a more reliable indicator of a dog’s true personality than the dog’s reactions during the intake process. Yet in thousands of shelters across the country, following intake – dogs are segregated, locked up, and their emotional and physical needs are denied until they are claimed by an owner, transferred, adopted, fostered, or euthanized.
Sadly, decisions about a dog’s temperament might be made during the staff’s initial intake evaluation. That initial evaluation, combined with observations of the animal’s behavior while kenneled, might dictate whether a dog is grouped in a crowded kennel with other canines, put into isolation for medical issues, or kenneled with a warning that the dog is aggressive or unsafe for contact with volunteers and adopters.
Further, many dogs suspected of displaying unpredictable behavior may be the first ones euthanized in order to make room for the dogs perceived as being more highly ‘adoptable’ based upon age, color, breed, manners, markings, and physical appearance.
Yet, the truth is that sometimes what appears to be aggressive or insecure behavior can often be attributed to the pain and suffering being experienced by that dog, an overwhelming fear of unfamiliar surroundings, or being kenneled with other dogs that bully or deny the insecure dog food and water. Even worse, once dogs are mis-labeled, those canines may never get the chance to exit their kennel, wag their tails, sniff nature’s curious smells, romp with their buddies, and show their true friendly personality in more normal circumstances. Instead, at some shelters, a death sentence can result from one unfriendly canine reaction that was actually caused by fear, confusion, illness, or pain.
A dog deprived of regular exercise, mental stimulation, and human touch can physically and emotionally decompose from the stress of being kenneled without any enrichment. DPFL allows dogs play time outside their kennels in a more natural habitat. In many cases, this enrichment tool instantly demonstrates to staff that dogs initially feared as being aggressive or unbalanced, really belong on the adoption floor.
“My team and I were excited to host Aimee Sadler and her Dogs Playing For Life Program, but we had no idea what a game changer this training would be for every one of our team. We had two dogs on our euthanasia list for dog aggression before we started DPFL. By the end of the second day of the Program, we transferred these same two dogs to our adoption building.” Mary Martin, Executive Director Santa Fe Humane Society Santa Fe, New Mexico