Adopting A Shelter Dog
Unfortunately, you will see that not all animals living in shelters have had all they needed to survive and flourish in their past environments. Some animals have been abused, neglected, or left at a shelter due to no fault of their own. This could because of changes in their household, such as a new baby being born, or because their guardians moved to a home that didn’t allow companion animals. Sometimes their human guardians do not want to give them up, but can no longer afford their care, or otherwise care for them, or they may be protecting them from violence in their household. Sometimes their guardians pass away unexpectedly and haven’t made arrangements for their care.
Sometimes dogs and cats scratch floors and furniture or go to the bathroom in the house. These animals can typically respond to training, but some owners cannot afford training or do not want to take the time to provide it. Sometimes animals may be aggressive towards human or other animals when at home. Once labeled a “behavior problem,” these animals have a very hard time getting adopted and need to be placed in an experienced home where they can be taught new skills with patience and care. Dogs who are aggressive or bite have typically been exposed to aggressive or intimidating humans or have not been socialized. When they are around kind humans who know how to work with them through providing praise and other kinds of positive reinforcement they can feel safe and trust humans again. Isn’t this much the same for humans?
Pit Bull-type dog breeds, usually any dog with big, block-shaped heads, are labelled as “Pit Bulls,” are often the victims of cruelty and abuse by the hands of humans. They are often used for dog fighting, either as a fighting dog or as a bait dog who is used to train fighting dogs. While many pit bulls are loving, loyal dogs, they are often in shelters because they are the victims of breed discrimination. Some cities and countries around the world have implemented laws that do not even allow pit bulls to live in some places. This decision is not based on anything an individual dog has done or not done, but just because of the way they look. Like all homeless animals, many of these types of dogs end up in animal shelters and are euthanized when they cannot find homes.
- Have you ever experienced difficult times in your home or with your families as some of the dogs in the shelter have?
- Has your behavior ever been misunderstood? Have you ever been labelled and misunderstood like some dogs have? Has it ever been said that your behavior is a problem?
- Have you ever felt unwanted? Had nowhere to go or no one to care for you?
- Have you ever been discriminated against because of the way you look? Or have you discriminated against others because of the way they look?
- Is this what we want to see more of or less of in the world? How can we create a more just and humane world for all humans and non-human animals?
- Has anyone witnessed animal abuse? If you did: How did you handle it? Have you ever talked to anyone about it? Usually when an animal is abused in a household other vulnerable members of the household are suffering, too. This is called LINK violence because crimes like animal abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse and child abuse are linked to each other. (Understanding this LINK can help professionals working with different vulnerable populations understand signs of cruelty and neglect and intervene to help more effectively.) Has anyone had any experiences with this type of violence in their own lives? How do you think your Companion Dog may help you if you have?
- Why do you think society accepts that euthanizing an animal (“putting them to sleep”) is an acceptable solution to the shelter animal overpopulation problem? What other solutions exist that would be better for everyone? How can you get your community involved in working together and implementing these solutions?
Preparing to Adopt a Shelter Pet
When deciding to adopt a shelter dog, especially a working school dog, sometimes what you want or think you want is not necessarily the best fit for your home, the school, or the dog. You will have to practice compromising, problem solving, and coming to an agreement that can make everyone happy. Most importantly, you will have to think about the dog and what is best for her/him. Their personality, their ability to tolerate loud noises, and be around many young people will be some factors used to determine which dog is the right fit. You must put others first, and think about what will be best for your canine companion in his forever home and at your school. Of course, the primary guardian will have to be considered as they will be spending the most time with their new adopted dog and providing their overall care.
A Shelter Behavior Evaluation form will be used to help determine who will be the lucky dog to find their forever home and become your Mutt-i-gree therapy partner. Ask students to create a shelter Behavior Evaluation form. What should a form include?
Dogs do not use words, but they do communicate non-verbally with their bodies and with sounds.
- When you meet the dogs, how will you use your observation skills to carefully interpret what they are telling you about who they are and what makes them comfortable?
You will likely feel sad for the animals you have to leave behind. Although many people who love animals want to take them all home, the reality is that one family cannot adopt all the animals in the shelter to solve the animal overpopulation problem. What can you do to help the animals who still need homes?
Some students start campaigns to educate people about the importance of spaying and neutering animals, so they do not continue to have babies that will add to the number of homeless animals. Some students look for organizations to work with who can provide free and low-cost spay and neuter in their communities. Others create social media campaigns, flyers, and “cage cards” to bring awareness to hard- to-adopt animals at the shelter and to spread the word to the community about all of the animals who need homes. Others focus on educating people to “adopt not shop” when they want to open their home to a companion animal. Still others focus on teaching people about the plight of Pit Bull-type dogs and the discrimination they face that leads them to be overrepresented in shelters and as abuse victims.
- What can you do to help? Create an action plan to help the animals you will have to leave behind at the shelter.
Use skills learned in preparation lessons to choose the dog that’s the right fit for your family. Show what the students have selected to do for the dogs they must leave behind. Have them make cage cards and social media posts to highlight the dogs they saw. Ask the students why they think someone should adopt these animals and who would be a good fit for them. Have students speak or write in the dog’s voice (from his/her point of view).
Training your Mutt-i-grees School Dog: How Animals Learn (Human and Non-Human!)
You will learn how dogs respond to positive reinforcement and clear, consistent, and kind interactions with humans. Humans optimally learn the same way! How have you learned things best? Do you get positive reinforcement for a job well done? Do you give positive reinforcement for a job well done?
Teach about how dog trainers shape behaviors and use positive reinforcement to teach dogs important skills for living with people.
- Write about how you learn best. What do you need to understand what others are expecting of you. Do you teach others about your learning styles and needs? How do you communicate this? What needs does your Mutt-i-gree dog have? How will you teach them with kindness and patience? What will you do or say to yourself if you get frustrated with your dog or your classmates/teachers/parents?
We hope this gives you a start and perks your creativity to create your own Social Emotional/Humane Education lessons.
Please don’t forget to contact us at: [email protected] if you should have any questions and better yet – to share your ideas!
Now, let’s get going on your Mission Mutt-i-grees! Saving Pets, Changing Lives!