Give them a break

dog being massagedWhen I volunteered at our local shelter and ran a ‘working with the dogs’ orientation for new volunteers, one of the suggestions I made was to give dogs a break. When most people volunteer at a shelter they usually think in terms of walking or playing with the animals. Both are wonderful things to do, but along with exercise and stimulation, animals living in shelters often need the chance for some down time. A dog spending all day alone in a kennel may look like it’s relaxing but often they are experiencing high levels of stress.

Instead of going out for a walk, why not find a quiet room where you can sit with a dog or cat. Give the animal time to settle into the space, this may take a few minutes while they sort out what’s going on. Get comfortable and invite the animal onto your lap or sit on the floor while gently and calmly stroking them and speaking quietly to them. Look for indications they are decompressing. Some will sigh, lie down, even close their eyes. Gentle massage or TTouch can be soothing as well.

The opportunity to have a break from a cage or kennel run, doing what we hope our shelter animals will end up doing, spending quality time with a human, is a gift we can afford to give them.

This post was written for Blog-a-thon 2011 to help raise money for homeless animals at the Nebraska Humane Society. Click here to donate!

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4 comments so far

  1. Dogdaes on

    This is one reason I like Sue Sternberg’s “Do nothing” exercise. We teach the dog to learn to settle, get rewarded, and calmly stroked and petted – all things that we hope would happen in a normal house setting.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Sue has great resources and ideas for shelter dogs. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Mel on

    SO love this post! Having worked in a shelter environment for 8 1/2 years as a volunteer I can tell you that the down time is so very important to dogs. Just sitting with them and massaging them and petting them is a calming event for them and one they so badly need when they are in a stressful environment like a shelter.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Mel. The opportunity to practice relaxing is so valuable.


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