Training Your Dog to use a Ramp

As our dogs get older, they can begin to lose some of their mobility and have trouble with stairs or jumping up into cars.  In my own case, my nearly twelve-year-old collie has developed severe arthritis in her lower back and hips and is no longer able to hop into my SUV and climb up on the back seat.  We’re addressing her age-related health issues with medication and physical therapy, but we still need a pain-free way to transport her to the places that she needs to go.

The solution for short trips around town was to place her in the SUV’s rear cargo area rather than the rear seat.   For her comfort, and to spare us the need to vacuum her fur out of the car every week, I put down a canvas sheet with an old wool blanket on top of it.  With the back seat folded down, this gives her a comfortable place to lie down with familiar scents and protects our vehicle.  Which left the issue of how to get her into the vehicle.  I’m a large individual myself and have no difficulty in lifting and carrying a 65-pound dog, but the same isn’t true for my spouse.   Therefore, we decided that it was time for our old girl to start using a ramp.

Some dogs are very accepting of new experiences and will take to using a ramp very easily.  They’ll see the ramp, say “Challenge accepted!” and will scamper right up it.  However, there are a lot of others who will be apprehensive about using it.  So, when planning to implement the use of a ramp for a geriatric dog, keep in mind that she is already uncomfortable and is losing strength and mobility; she is becoming unsure of her footing and will be nervous about walking up a narrow surface that is suspended in the air.  There are things you can do to make it easier for your dog.

Selecting the right ramp is very important.  They come in different sizes and lengths and a made of a variety of materials.  I have some suggestions for picking the right one:  First, it must be of a size and weight that can be managed by anyone who handles the dog and drives the vehicle that will be used to transport her.  Second, the walking surface should be composed of a non-slip surface that won’t be torn by a dog’s claws.  Avoid any fabric coverings that can become loosened or ripped.  Third, the ramp should be wide enough for your dog to walk on it with a fairly normal gait and posture.  Lastly, when fully extended, it must be long enough that it securely overlaps the bed of your vehicle and has a gentle slope to the ground – I recommend that it be less than the 35-degree angle commonly used for residential stairs.

The next issue is helping your dog to use the ramp.  As I indicated earlier, older dogs are likely to be reluctant to start using one.  They can experience a certain amount of discomfort when they’re walking or using stares and are losing some of the mobility they had in their younger days.  They’re also likely to be apprehensive about walking up a ramp with empty air on either side of them.  So, start slowly and let your dog become accustomed to using a ramp.

Begin with laying the ramp flat on level ground, folded or collapsed to its smallest dimensions, with the walking surface on top.  In the illustrations, I used a telescoping ramp that I had slid closed.  Put your dog on leash and walk him on it, with encouragement and treats, so that he becomes used to walking on the ramp’s surface.  Do this several times a day with only a few repetitions in each session.  Once he’s comfortable walking on it, repeat this process with the ramp opened to its full extension but still lying flat in the same location.  Again, take it slow.  Have several sessions each day with only a few repetitions each time.  Keep in mind that your goal is to have your dog comfortable with walking on the ramp, there’s no reason to rush him.

Once he is comfortable walking on the ramp when it is laid on a flat surface, you begin to get him familiar with walking on the ramp when it is suspended in the air on a small incline.  The objective is to help him learn to trust the ramp when he is walking above ground level.  Find an outdoor location where you can put the ramp on a small incline, such as the front stoop of a house or a small set of steps.  Just make sure that this spot is stable and the ramp won’t shift under the dog while he’s using it.  Then put on his leash and walk him to the bottom of the ramp.  Shorten your grip on the leash so that he can walk easily but you can prevent him from falling off either side.  Give him a verbal cue, such as “Up!” and walk him up the ramp, staying close to him and using treats and praise as incentives.  Once he’s at the top, turn him around and give him another verbal cue, and repeat the process as he goes down.  Repeat this only a couple of times.  You want the duration of these sessions short in case he has any anxiety about using the ramp, so that his nervousness doesn’t build while you’re training him.  Repeat these short sessions a couple of times a day until he willingly goes up and down the ramp.

At this point, you’re ready to use the ramp to get him in the car.  Repeat the same familiar process of using the ramp when you take him into the car:  Shorten your hold on the leash, stay beside him and use the same incentives and verbal cues.  And continue with short sessions several times a day.  He may balk at first, and you may find that he is nervous or hurries up and down the ramp.  But with repetition and positive reinforcement, he’ll get accustomed to using it.

Breed Specific Legislation – Banning Dogs on Sight

In a previous post I discussed the increase in dog bite incidents in recent years Increases in Dog Bites – What to Make of it? | The Animal Nerd.  Today, I’m delving into a related and highly controversial topic, that of Breed Specific Legislation.

Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) has been defined as “laws that regulate or ban dog breeds that are believed to be dangerous to humans or other animals”.[i] The regulation of dog ownership by breed and the prohibition of certain dog breeds has been a hotly debated issue for several decades in the United States and a considerable number of other countries; primarily in Europe but also in other regions as well.[ii]  In most cases, breeds are restricted based on the belief that certain of them, such as bull terriers, German shepherds and rottweilers, are  prone to violent attacks; while other breeds are restricted for other reasons.  For example, certain regions in China have prohibited dogs that are taller than 35 centimeters, and have specifically banned a wide range of breeds, to include, dalmatians, bearded collies and keeshonds.[iii]

The practice of restricting certain dog breeds began in the 1980s in response to media reporting of people being mauled and based on a growing popular belief that certain dog breeds had been selectively bred for aggressive behavior and were inherently dangerous.[iv]  Over the next two decades, laws and regulations were enacted in countries, states and municipalities, placing varying levels of restriction on certain breeds that were believed to have those characteristics.[v]  These restrictions have ranged from setting requirements for registration and a mandate for liability insurance, to authorizing local authorities to confiscate and euthanize and dogs believed to be from banned breeds.[vi] On the other hand, twenty-two states have prohibited the enactment of BSL to varying extents.[vii] Some insurance companies have gone so far as to deny coverage to households that have certain dog breeds, while others increase the premiums charged to those homeowners and renters.[viii]

The rationale used by governments in imposing restrictions on dog breeds is generally based on a public concern over dog attacks that are reported in the media and on certain beliefs held regarding specific dog breeds.  The problem with media reporting on these cases is that these reports are often rushed and sensationalized, based on low-quality information.  The collection of data related to dog bites is haphazard, without any consistent reporting of the severity and circumstances of bite incidents.[ix] The use of reporting by emergency rooms and police investigations is generally based on third-party information without verification of the dog breed involved in bite incidents.[x]  Further, as found by Arluke et al (2017), articles written by human healthcare professionals tend to use poor quality information, bordering on histrionics, when reporting non-clinical aspects relating to dog bites.  This includes speculation on the behavioral characteristics of dog breeds, “pack mentality”, and breed stereotyping.  Unfortunately, such articles are often cited by civil authorities when drafting BSL.[xi]

The stereotyping of certain dog breeds is a major component of BSL.  For example, the popular myths that “pitbulls” have “locking jaws”, can bite with far more force than other breeds, and will not stop attacking until they have killed their prey are often cited in popular literature.  These myths have also been used as the basis for legal decisions in the United States,[xii]  with court rulings venturing into lurid imaginings of the inherent viciousness, aggressiveness and other dangerous characteristics of pitbull terriers.[xiii]

Beware Of This Dog Pit Bull Terrier Sports Illustrated Cover Photograph ...

Sports Illustrated, July 27, 1987

The biggest single influence on the development of BSL has been the news media treatment of dog breeds.  Beginning in the 1980s, media outlets began reporting lurid accounts of dog attacks.  Magazines and newspapers began publishing articles describing pit bull terriers as “time bombs on legs” and circulating accounts of inner-city drug dealing gangs “brandishing their fierce pit bulls just as they would a switchblade or a gun”, going on to describe pitbull terriers as a breed that “revels in a ‘frenzy of bloodletting,’ and described as ‘lethal weapons’ with ‘steel trap jaws’ and as ‘killer dogs,’ and the new ‘hound of the Baskervilles.’. [xiv]  Sports Illustrated Published an issue with a picture of a snarling pitbull on its cover with the caption “Beware of this Dog”, and an article titled “The Pitbull Friend and Killer”.[xv]  One Denver reporter went so far as to stage dog fights for the purpose of producing a 1990 report titled “Blood Sport”.[xvi]  This media frenzy continued through the 1980s and into the 1990s; in 1987, the phrase “Pit Bull” appeared in more than 850 American newspaper headlines.[xvii]  This media attention, led to a public outcry to ban or regulate pitbulls and other breeds considered dangerous.  And, as indicated above, the exaggerated media accounts of the danger presented by these dogs influenced the language and wording of court decisions and state or municipal legislation.  This is borne out by court findings, such as Toledo v Tellings, in which the appellate court stated “Breed-specific laws were enacted because, in the past, courts and legislatures considered it to be a ‘well-known fact’ that pit bulls are ‘unpredictable,’ ‘vicious’ creatures owned only by ‘drug dealers, dog fighters, gang members,’ or other undesirable members of society.”[xviii]  This has led to accusations that BSL includes elements of racial discrimination and racial profiling of minorities.[xix]

Unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, BSL is based in flawed and inaccurate information.   In spite of media reporting of dangerous dog breeds, numerous studies in Europe, Australia and the United States have found that dogs from restricted breeds are no more likely to inflict bites on humans than those of unrestricted breeds.[xx],[xxi], [xxii], [xxiii], [xxiv] In fact, there is a strong indication that the data regarding bite incidents or aggressive behavior is skewed, as police and medical authorities are more likely to report incidents involving restricted breeds than non-restricted ones.[xxv]

The danger in relying on published statistics related to dog bites is that the information from which the statistics are drawn is largely unreliable.  Early studies conducted by the AVMA used data that was “collected entirely from media reports and those media reports were relied upon as complete and entirely accurate.”[xxvi]  Thus, authorities who rely on published reports to gauge the relative danger of specific dog breeds were reliant on the reporting of people who have no direct knowledge of incidents related to the dogs in question.  And that has not changed significantly since then:  For all intents and purposes, if anyone who reports an incident says that it involved a dog from a restricted breed, that is accepted as gospel by government authorities.  The Centers for Disease Control

Which leads us to the issue of how restricted dogs are identified.  Veterinarians, police, animal shelter workers and private citizens are expected to reliably identify the dogs that are subject to state and/or local restrictions; but are consistently unable to make these visual assessments.  This is particularly so when they are called upon to apply restrictions to mixed-breed dogs.  A 2013 study found that people working in dog-related fields were able to identify the primary breeds of dogs only fifty percent of the time, with very little agreement among respondents.[xxvii]  A 2015 study of animal shelter staff found that they could not reliably identify “pit bulls” and tended to label dogs as pit bulls who were found to be primarily other breeds through DNA analysis.[xxviii]  And a 2014 study of shelter workers in the United States and the United Kingdom found very little consensus in identifying dogs that would be subject to breed restrictions.[xxix] A comprehensive review by the National Canine Research Council concluded that visual identification of dog breeds is “inconsistent and unreliable.”[xxx]  This difficulty in identifying dog breed is compounded by the fact that mixed-breed dogs rarely have much physical resemblance to either of their parents.[xxxi]

The difficulty in identifying restricted dogs in further complicated by the poor definition of these animals.  In the case of “pit bulls”, this is an umbrella term that is used to cover a “type” of dog, which has been defined in various jurisdictions as including Staffordshire terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, the pit bull terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, American bull terriers, American bulldogs, English bull terriers or any mixed breed parented by one or more of those breeds.  Essentially, a “pit bull” is a dog that someone believes resembles a “pit bull.”  Based only on outward appearance, these dogs are considered dangerous in a number of jurisdictions.

The United Kingdom’s recently enacted “XL Bully Ban” is an example of banning dogs according to their physical “type”.  In response to a public outcry over highly publicized reports of maulings and deaths attributed to dogs that had been marketed and sold as “XL Bullys” or “American XL Bullys”, these dogs have been banned.  However, unlike pitbull bans which specify dogs that belong to specific breeds, the XL Bully ban is imposed on dogs that meet a very subjective physical description, which includes a general description as a “large dog with a muscular body and a blocky head”[xxxii], followed by criteria for height, head shape, body, hindquarters, tail, etc.  and a statement that “A suspected XL Bully breed type does not need to fit the physical description perfectly. If your dog meets the minimum height measurements and a substantial number of these characteristics, it could be considered an XL Bully breed type” and that this definition includes “cross breeds that look more like XL Bully dogs than any other type of dog”.    Based on this law, it is now “illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, abandon or allow these dogs to stray.”[xxxiii] Any people who own a dog that is considered to be an XL Bully are required to have the dog leashed and muzzled when out in public and must obtain a certificate of exemption in order to keep the dog.  This certificate requires that every dog must be neutered, microchipped, and the owners must pay a fee of £92.40 and obtain third-party liability insurance for each dog.  The owner must present the certificate of Exemption whenever asked by a police officer.   Further, all animal shelters or rescue organizations are prohibited from adopting or fostering these dogs, meaning that any of them in shelters at the time of the ban must be euthanized.

As I mentioned earlier, these bans on breeds or “types” of dogs are rationalized by the belief that certain of them are inherently predisposed to aggressiveness and to violent attacks on humans and other dogs.  However, this belief has been repeatedly demonstrated to be false.  Recent studies of aggressive behavior in dogs has shown there is a wide variation of behavior among individuals of each breed and that a dog’s breed is not a predictor of its behavior characteristics.[xxxiv]  The differences between dog breeds are primarily physical characteristics, with little or no inheritable behavior traits;  a dog’s breed is found to be a poor predictor of disposition or behavior.[xxxv]  A study compared the aggressive behaviors of restricted dog breeds with those of golden retrievers, considered to be among the best-natured and gentlest of dog.  This study found no differences between the breeds tested, concluding that “a scientific basis for breed specific lists does not exist.”[xxxvi]

As discussed earlier, the data concerning dog bites and the effect of BSL is weak and generally drawn from questionable sources.  However, the information we have from regions with dog breed restrictions has shown there is little or no difference in the bite cases or dog-related hospitalizations.[xxxvii] The 2018 Denmark study found that restricting breeds and the required use of leashes and muzzles had very little effect on the number and severity of bite injuries.[xxxviii] The implementation of BSL in Missouri was found to have no effect on bite-related cases requiring visits to emergency rooms.[xxxix]  The overall ineffectiveness of BSL is demonstrated in a 2010 analysis of dog bite data, which concluded that it would be necessary to ban 100,000 dogs in order to prevent a single hospitalization due to dog biting.[xl]

si.cover.dec29.2008.jpg

Sports Illustrated, December 28, 2008

The XL Bully Ban aside, BSL is slowly losing popularity.  This is due to a recognition that the laws are ineffectual and unfairly target dogs that are not actually dangerous, and to changing perceptions about the dogs that are targeted.  For example, in 2008, twenty-one years after Sports Illustrated’s famous “Beware of This Dog” cover story,[xli] that same magazine published a highly sympathetic cover story about the plight and recovery of the dogs from Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring.[xlii]  As of April, 2023, seventy-three municipalities in the United States had repealed their BSL bans,[xliii] and twenty-two states have enacted laws to ban the implementation of BSL, with some of them going to far as to prohibit insurance companies from restricting dog breeds of policy holders.[xliv]

 

Among the many organizations that oppose BSL are the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the National Animal Control Association, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the American Bar Association, the American Kennel Club, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the British Veterinary Association, and other professional organizations with expertise in canine behavior and welfare.  Hopefully, this trend will continue and more dog breed restrictions will be repealed in favor of laws that target irresponsible or criminal dog owners and in public education regarding dogs and animals in general.

[i] NAIC (April 13, 2023).  Retrieved from Breed-Specific Legislation (naic.org)

[ii] Petolog, retrieved from Full banned dog breeds by countries updated 2023 XL Bully UK (petolog.com)

[iii] PBS Pet Travel, retrieved from https://www.pbspettravel.co.uk/blog/uk-favourite-dog-breeds-which-are-banned-in-other-countries/

[iv] Weiss (2001).  Retrieved from Breed-Specific Legislation in the United States | Animal Legal & Historical Center (animallaw.info)

[v] Alain, J. (2023).  Retrieved from Restricted or Banned Dog Breeds in Each State (thepetzealot.com)

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Wisch, R. (2022).  Retrieved from Overview of States that Prohibit BSL | Animal Legal & Historical Center (animallaw.info)

[viii] Leefeldt, E. and Danise, A. (October 3, 2023).  Forbes Advisor.  Dogs Breeds Banned by Home Insurance Companies.  Retrieved from Dog Breeds Banned By Home Insurance Companies – Forbes Advisor

[ix] Patronek, G. J., Slater, M. and Marder, A., (2010).  Use of a Number-Needed-to-Ban Calculation to Illustrate Limitations of Breed-Specific Legislation in Decreasing the Risk of Dog Bite-Related Injury.  Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 237 (7).

[x] AVMA.  Why Breed-Specific Legislation is Not the Answer.  Retrieved from Why breed-specific legislation is not the answer | American Veterinary Medical Association (avma.org)

[xi] Arluke, A., Cleary, D., Patronek, G. and Bradley, J. (2017).  Defaming Rover:  Error-Based Latent Rhetoric in the Medical Literature on Dog Bites.  Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 21 (3).  doi: 10.1080/10888705.2017.1387550

[xii] DogsBite.org.  Legislating Dogs.  Retrieved from Appellate Court Decisions Affirming Pit Bulls are Dangerous (dogsbite.org)

[xiii] Barnett, K.  (2017).  Post-Conviction Remedy for Pit Bulls:  What Today’s Science Tells Us About Breed-Specific Legislation.  Syracuse Law Review 67 (24).

[xiv] Brand, D. (July 27, 1987).  Time Bombs on Legs:  Violence-Prone Owners are Turing Pitbulls into Killers.  Time.

[xv] Swift E. M. (1987).  Sports Illustrated.  Retrieved from https://vault.si.com/vault/1987/07/27/the-pit-bull-friend-and-killer-is-the-pit-bull-a-fine-animal-as-its-admirers-claim-or-is-it-a-vicious-dog-unfit-for-society

[xvi] UPI (July 23, 1991).  TV Reporter on Trial for Staging Dog Fights.  Retrieved from TV reporter on trial for staging dog fights – UPI Archives

[xvii] Delise, K.  (2007) The Pit Bull Placebo:  The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression. Anubis

[xviii] Barnett (2017)

[xix] Linder, A. (2018).  The Black Man’s Dog:  The Social Context of Breed Specific Legislation.  Animal Law (25) 51. 51-74

[xx] Cecchi, F., De Toni, G. and Macchioni, F. (2022) A Survey on the Number of Dog-Induced Injuries Inflicted by Pure-Breed and Mixed-Breed Dogs in Italy.  Dog Behavior 7 (3). doi: 10.4454/db.v7i3.143

[xxi] Creedon, N. and O’Suilleabhain, P. S. (2017). Dog Bite Injuries to Humans and the Use of Breed-Specific Legislation:  A comparison of Bites from legislated and non-legislated dog Breeds.  Irish Veterinary Journal 70 (1).  doi:  10.1186/s13620-017-0101-1

[xxii] Wyker, B. and Gupta, M. (2023).  Emergency Department Visits for Dog Bite Injuries in Missouri Municipalities With and Without Breed-Specific Legislation:  A Propensity Score-Matched Analysis.  Research Square 1 (2023).  doi:  10.21203/rs.3.rs-3411634/v1

[xxiii] Nilson, F., Damsager, J., Lauritson, J. and Bonander, C. (2018).  The Effect of Breed-Specific Dog Legislation on Hospital Treated Dog Bites in Odense, Denmark -A Time Series Intervention Study.  PLOS One.  doi:  10.1371/journal.pone.0208393

[xxiv] Slater, E.(2017)  Deed or Breed?  Evaluating Bite Reports and Breed Specific Legislation in South Australia.  Flinders University.

[xxv] Creedon and O’Suilleabhain (2017)

[xxvi] Delise (2007)

[xxvii] Voith, V. L., Trevejo, R., Dowling-Guyer, S., Chadik, C., Marder, A., Johnson, V. & Irizarry, K. (2013).  Comparison of Visual and DNA Breed Identification of Dogs and Inter-Observer Reliability.  American Journal of Sociological Research 3 (2).  17-29.  doi:  10.5923/j.sociology.20130302.02

[xxviii] Olson, K. R., Levy, J. K., Norby, B., Crandall, M. M., Broadhurst, J. E., Jacks, S., Barton, R. C. & Zimmerman, M. S. (2015).  Inconsistent Identification of Pit Bull-Type Dogs by Shelter Staff.  The Veterinary Journal 206 (2).  197-202, doi:  10.1016/j.tvjl.2015.07.019

[xxix][xxix] Hoffman, C. L., Harrison, N., Wolff, L. and Westgarth, C. (2014).  Is That Dog a Pit Bull?  A Cross-Country Comparison of Perceptions of Shelter Workers Regarding Breed Identification.  Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 17 (4). 322-339 doi:  10.1080/10888705.2014.895904

[xxx] NCRC (2021) Visual Breed Identification.  Retrieved from Visual Breed Identification – National Canine Research Council

[xxxi] Scott, J.P., & Fuller J.L. (1965). Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

[xxxii] DEFRA (November 22, 2023).  Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/official-definition-of-an-xl-bully-dog/official-definition-of-an-xl-bully-dog

[xxxiii] Blue Cross.  Retrieved from https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/wellbeing-and-care/xl-bully-ban-explained

[xxxiv] Hammond, A., Rowland, T., Mills, D. S. and Pilot, M. (2022). Comparison of Behaviorl Tendencies Between “Dangerous Dogs” and Other Domestic Dog Breeds – Evolutionary Context and Practical Implications.  Evolutionary Applications 15 (11). 1806 – 1819.  doi: 10.1111/eva.13479

[xxxv] Morrill, K. et al (2022). Ancestry-Inclusive Dog Genomics Challenges Popular Breed Stereotypes.  Science 376 (6592). doi:  10.1126/science.abk0639

[xxxvi] Ott, S. A., Schelka, E., von Gaertner, A. M. and Hackbarth, H. (2008).  Is There a Difference?  Comparison of Golden Retrievers and Dogs Affected by Breed-Specific Legislation Regarding Aggressive Behavior.  Journal of Veterinary Behavior 3 (3).  134-140.  doi:  10..1016/j.jveb.2007.09.009

[xxxvii] O’Suilleabhain, P. (2015). Human Hospitalizations Due to Dog Bites in Ireland, 1998-2013:  Implications for Current Breed Specific Legislation.  The Veterinary Journal 204 (3). doi:  10.1016/j.tvjl.2015.04.021

[xxxviii] Nilson. F. et al

[xxxix] Wyker & Gupta

[xl] Patronek et al.

[xli] Swift, E. M.

[xlii] Gorant, J.  (December 29, 2008).  Sports Illustrated.  Retrieved from https://vault.si.com/vault/2008/12/29/happy-new-year

[xliii] NAIC

[xliv] Wisch

Renting with a dog? What are your rights?

The rental housing market is extremely tight throughout the country. (Image from Freepik)

I recently encountered a very sad and difficult situation involving a dog that had been adopted from our shelter, and returned by its devastated owners.  It turned out that the house they had been renting was sold to a new owner, who decided that their mixed-breed dog resembled a “pitbull” and gave them the choice of giving up the dog or being evicted.  Although the family was heartbroken, they had no choice but to surrender their handsome, happy, well-socialized, 35-pound dog only three weeks after adopting him.

Since the adopters’ lease did not specifically address the issue of their dog, the new owner was well within his rights to discriminate against him.[i]  The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against human tenants, but their pets are not covered under this law.  The only exception to this is a requirement for landlords to make “reasonable accommodation” for service animals, to include Emotional Support Animals.[ii]

In the U.S., both landlords and tenants are presently under serious pressure, a number of factors are combining into a perfect storm that is creating a shortage of rental homes:  During the pandemic, there was a decrease in new construction and in people relocating to new homes; but as we emerged from the COVID-19 lockdowns there was a surge in the formation of new households.[iii]   Also, the increase in short-term rentals, such as AirBnB, has cut into the availability of family housing units and driven up the cost.[iv]   This has placed renters in a very unfavorable position with regard to finding properties that meet their needs and allow dogs to be kept, and landlords have little incentive to be flexible with prospective tenants.  Indications are that the trend in reduced availability and higher costs may be easing, but there won’t be relief in the short term.[v]

In addition, The insurance industry is putting pressure on landlords to limit their tenants’ dog ownership.  Landlords are required to carry liability insurance on any properties they own, which is intended to cover any injuries to tenants or guests – including dog bites.  Many insurance companies have determined that certain breeds are “dangerous”, meaning that they are more liable to inflict bites that involve insurance claims, and have placed them on a “banned list”.[vi]  If these companies find that a banned dog is being kept on an insured premises, they are able to limit coverage for dog bites or refuse to cover bites altogether, raise the landlord’s premiums, or cancel the insurance policy altogether.[vii][viii]   As a result, many landlords have established breed restrictive policies that match those of their insurance carriers.

So, what can a renter do?

Pitbulls, Akitas, Rottweilers, and other breeds are often banned by munipalities, insurance companies and landlords. (Image from Pixabay)

First off, be knowledgeable about the laws in your state.  Certain states, such as Michigan, Illinois, New York, Nevada and Pennsylvania, prohibit the dog breed restrictions in insurance coverage.[ix]  Other states, such as Florida, have adopted laws that prohibit dog breed or size restrictions in public housing.  But, also be conscious of the fact that, even if your state or municipality places no restrictions on breed ownership, there is nothing to prevent your landlord from doing so.

Second, if your landlord has no restrictions on a dog breed, have that included in the text of your lease.  This way, even if your landlord sells the property, the new owner must honor the terms of the lease until it expires. And be aware that, in a month to month rental, you have no such protections.

Third, be willing to negotiate with your landlord.  If he has reservations about your dog living on his property, offer to have renter’s insurance coverage for both damage to the property and liability coverage for any bites or injuries caused by the dog.  There are several national insurance companies that offer these policies for renters.[x]  It is very possible that the landlord may be amenable to allowing your dog to reside with you if you take on the insurance burden.

Unfortunately, as a renter you have very few rights and little power in this situation.  But these steps can help to overcome a landlord’s reluctance to allow your choice of dog at his property.

[i] American Tenant Screen (2023, January 29).  Landlords can Discriminate Against Dog Breeds.  Retrieved from https://americantenantscreen.com/landlords-you-can-discriminate-against-dog-breeds/

[ii] The Humane Society of the United States (nd).  The Fair Housing Act. Retrieved from https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/fair-housing-act-and-assistance-animals

[iii] Bahney, A. (2023, March 8).  The US Housing Market is Short 6.5 Million Homes.  CNN.  Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/08/homes/housing-shortage/index.html

[iv] Barron, K., Kung, E. and Proserpio, D., The Effect of Home-Sharing on House Prices and Rents: Evidence from Airbnb (March 4, 2020).  SSRN, doi 10.2130/ssrn.3006832

[v] Helhoski, A. (2023, July 21).  May Rent Report:  Inflated Rent is Poised for Decline.  Nerdwallet.  Retrieved from https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/may-2023-rent-report

[vi] Maughan, J. (2016, November 17) Landlords, Insurance and Dog Breed Restrictions. [Web Log].  Retrieved from https://rentprep.com/blog/property-maintenance/landlords-insurance-banned-dog-breeds/

[vii] Hagen K. and Waterworth, K. (2023, August 1).  Understanding Dog Breed Restrictions in Homeowners Insurance.  The Motley Fool.  Retrieved from https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/insurance/homeowners/homeowners-insurance-dog-breed-restrictions/

[viii] Leefeldt, E. and Danise A. (2023, August 23).  Dog Breeds Banned by Home Insurance Companies.  Forbes Advisor.  Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/advisor/homeowners-insurance/banned-dog-breed-lists/

[ix] Sheppard, A. (2023, June 28).  Homeowners Insurance and Dog Breed Restrictions.  FindLaw.  Retrieved from https://www.findlaw.com/injury/torts-and-personal-injuries/homeowners-insurance-and-dog-breed-restrictions.html

[x] Hagen and Waterworth (2023)

Volunteering at a shelter – Handling and Socializing Dogs, Part One.

If you’ve taken the first steps towards becoming a volunteer at an animal shelter, then congratulations!  You’re about to have a fun and rewarding experience.   As I discussed in a previous post,  Volunteering at a shelter (animalnerd.com, there are a lot of ways to contribute to the operation of a shelter and to the welfare of the animals housed there.  My own area of expertise is in handling and socializing shelter dogs, and that’s what I’d like to discuss here.

The first thing to do is to go through your shelter’s orientation program, paying particular attention to animal handling and safety measures.  I can’t stress that enough.  Second, become familiar with the equipment that you will be using, including how it should fit properly.  For example, martingale collars should be fitted so that you can fit two fingers under them when they’re drawn tight.  And every dog harness fits differently – you should practice putting them on dummies or large stuffed animals before trying to put them on a live dog.  In (  ), I discussed my preferred way to hold a dog’s leash to keep him from pulling it out of your hand, or pulling you off-balance.  You might find it helpful – but if you find a method that works better for you, please post it.  Third, have some appetizing dog treats.  They don’t have to be expensive, a hot dog that’s been chopped into tiny pieces works just as well as designer dog morsels.  The smaller and stinkier they are, the better.

Now you’re ready to deal with a shelter dog.  There are a few of things to keep in mind when you approach one of these dogs for the first time:  First, be constantly aware that this dog is highly stressed and overstimulated.  No matter how much a shelter tries to make itself a quiet and easy place for a dog to be housed, it is still a highly stressful experience for them.  These dogs have been separated from whatever life they’ve known and are in a new place where they’re being constantly bombarded with new noises, new smells and new people who handle them, wash them and perform medical exams and procedures on them.   These pups are completely on edge.   Second, keep in your mind that this dog doesn’t know you.  As far as he’s concerned, you’re just another human.  This may change over time as you handle this dog in days to come, but for the first few times that you handle him, you’re just someone with a treat bag who’s holding the leash.  Third, remember that you are not there to do the specific job of walking the dog:  You are there to help the dog get adopted, and that may mean helping him to cope with the stress.  You are not there to add to his stress level.

Watch the dog as you approach his run and observe his body language and facial expressions.  Do not immediately open the door, just stay relaxed and calm and see what he does as you approach.  Also, do not stand squarely in from of the entrance and lock eyes with him or stare at him, this can be perceived as threatening.  Instead, turn yourself about 45 degrees away from him, and see what you can detect from his general posture and expressions.   Is he watching you or turning away?  Does he approach you as you stand outside?  Is he fearful and guarding the entrance?  I’ve included some good links (Below) for interpreting canine body language and facial expressions, which may help you in decoding the messages that the dog is sending you at first meeting.

Don’t rush your first meeting.  If the dog is so stressed that he is growling or showing teeth, then you might decide not to even go inside his run.  In my experience, this sort of reaction isn’t uncommon when a dog is newly arrived in a shelter.  Just keep yourself turned somewhat away from his run and sit or kneel down outside it where he can see you.  Be as non-threatening a presence as possible.  If possible to put some treats into his run without opening the door or putting any part of your hand inside, go ahead and do so.   And just stay there for a while, so he can get used to the idea that you aren’t scary.  After a while he may settle down and you might be able to enter the run safely.  If not, or if you are uncomfortable going inside, then just maintain a calm presence until he begins to relax, and then let him be while you go handle another dog.  By doing that alone, you are helping him to adjust to the shelter and making it easier for the next person.

Which brings me to my next point:  Work within your comfort level.  If you feel that a dog is too worked up or too strong for you to handle, if you feel that the dog is dangerous or if you are just uncomfortable with a particular dog for any reason, end the interaction on a positive note and leave him in his run.  There’s no problem or stigma associated with that.  In fact, the shelter staff would appreciate that as feedback about the dog.  You can’t help a dog if you are stressed out while working with him.  And part of the reason that you’re there in the first place is to enjoy yourself.

Once you’re inside the run with the dog, continue to relax and take it slow.  You might not be able to leash him up during the first meeting – which is perfectly OK.  The dog can react to you in a number of ways.  You may get an excited, even overly excited greeting, with the dog jumping on you or even mouthing.  If this happens, it is an excellent time to start working on socialization and behavior management.  Just turn your back on him and stop all interaction until he’s stopped with all four paws on the floor, then give him a calm bit of praise.   If he starts over-reacting again, repeat this lack of feedback as many times as necessary.  If he doesn’t stop after five minutes (which will seem like an eternity while you’re in there), then leave and come back later.

On the other hand, the dog may retreat and huddle as far away from you as possible.  If this happens, my preferred response is to sit or crouch down, facing away at a right angle, and let him calm down.   Watch his face and posture for hints as to his level of stress (below).  The key thing is to let him set the pace of the meeting.  Since we have limited time to work with these dogs, I sometimes get the dog to approach by scattering a few treats in the space between him and me.  The important thing is to not increase his anxiety.  If he doesn’t approach you at the first meeting, that’s perfectly OK.  You can leave, let him scarf up the treats that you’ve put out, and come back a little later to try again.  It may take a few visits to get him to relax and approach you.

In any case, there are a few things that you should definitely NOT do.  First, never approach the dog (or any unfamiliar dog) head-on and bend over them.  This is a threatening posture, and he may react either fearfully.  Always turn at an angle and make yourself a little smaller.   Also, do not loom over the dog when you’re attaching a leash or putting on his harness.  Put yourself alongside him, facing in the same direction as him, and spend as little time as possible reaching over him.

That’s enough to cover in this post.  In the next article, I’ll discuss leashing up the dog and handling him on a walk.  As always, please feel free to comment or add your experiences.

References:

Dog Body Language.pdf (lmu.edu)

Guide to Reading Your Dog’s Body Language | PetMD

7 Tips on Canine Body Language | ASPCApro

Volunteering at a shelter

If you’re reading this, you’re interested in being a volunteer for an animal rescue or shelter.  Which, I can tell you, is a wonderful experience – whether you are helping to care for dogs, cats, birds, farm animals or any other of our fellow creatures.  And, as in all things we do, you will find volunteering rewarding in proportion to the thought and effort that you put into it.  I’ve been volunteering for years at a shelter here in Rhode Island and would like to share some of the things I’ve learned.

First, think about what you want to do and carefully pick the shelter that matches your interests.  Take some time and think about what you’d like to do as a volunteer and then look at the websites for the various shelters and rescue organizations that are near to you.  Research their rules and requirements, and their various volunteer programs.  You may find that some are looking for help in areas that do not match your goals.  You may also find that some have hours set aside for volunteer work that do not line up with your available time.  For example, I know of a wonderful avian shelter that has very specific in-house training requirements for volunteers that may be more than you want to take on.  Or you might find that a shelter has specific time slots for volunteers so that they can maintain a certain number of personnel on site during the day, which may be unworkable for you.  Take your time and look at every shelter that interests you and is within a reasonable distance for you before plunging in.

Second, I suggest that you stay local.  If you want to be active with a shelter organization, you should pick one that is within a relatively easy commute.  Your time is important, and you don’t want to spend your day in your car.  If you’ve decided that you can spend “x” number of hours helping at a shelter each week, you don’t want to add a lot more time to that just driving back and forth.

Third, be flexible.   You might sign up to walk and socialize dogs, care for cats, feed the animals, assist with adoptions or do groundskeeping (a very important and often overlooked function), but you might be asked to do other tasks as well.  Many shelters are dependent upon volunteers for their basic functions; you might have opportunities to help with a fundraising activity, transporting animals, or doing other tasks that help the shelter function.  Remember, you’re there to help.

Fourth, check your ego at the door.  Shelter staffs are underpaid and overworked.  They are busy with essential functions every moment they are at work.  Believe me, they appreciate what you’re doing to help them and the animals, even if they don’t always have the time or energy to say so.  Seeing the animals go home with adopters is your reward.

Fifth, watch and learn.   The more you know about the operations of the shelter, the better you can help the staff to run it and the more assistance you can provide.  If you don’t understand why something it being done, ask.  Keep in mind that a reputable shelter must function within strict state and local regulations regarding almost all of its activities, from animal care to fundraising.  Take all the training that the shelter can offer you, from orientation to advanced care.

Sixth, stay positive.  Shelter staffs are stressed and fatigued, and if you can be a positive presence, it makes their jobs a little easier.  And every day won’t be a good day.  You’re inevitably going to find that the animals’ stories don’t always have a have a happy ending.  And if you find that a particular case is heartbreaking, keep in mind that its even harder on the shelter staff.

Seventh, be good at what you do.  If you are there to clean dog runs or cat cages, to do administrative work or to feed the animals, do it well.  If you are there to do maintenance or groundskeeping, do an excellent job.  Each of these functions is essential to the health and welfare of the animals – which is why you’re there in the first place.

Again, these are just my observations.  You might find that there are aspects of shelter volunteering that I’ve missed, or that I haven’t made a point well enough.  Feel free to comment or add your observations.

Finding a Canine Behaviorist

So, your puppy is growing up, or your rescued dog has been in your home for a while, and your best buddy is turning into a terrible roommate.  Your dog is incessantly barking, or chewing everything in sight, or aggressively charging other dogs, or doing something else that is making you miserable.  You’ve taken the first step and decided that you need help.  Who do you turn to that can transform your problem pet back into the sweet companion that you brought home?

This is the difference between a dog trainer and a canine behaviorist.  A behaviorist is a professional who addresses a problem behavior – namely something the dog does either too often or not often enoughto the extent that it cannot be ignored.  All you need to do is figure out who’s the right behaviorist to help you.  How can you tell whether a behaviorist is reputable?

Like many pet-related professions, this is an unregulated business.  Literally anyone can put up a website, print some business cards, and call himself a behaviorist.  Let’s discuss how you can find one who’s actually put in the time and effort to learn this profession, abides by professional standards and ethics and knows what he’s doing.

First off, a good behaviorist will not:

  1. Start off by saying that he’s dealt with situations like this and knows exactly what to do.
  2. Immediately tell you what’s causing the dog’s behavior and how he’ll fix it.
  3. Guarantee results.
  4. Say that he’ll take the dog to his facility for treatment, and bring it back completely fixed.
  5. Advocate the use of aversive methods or punishments as a standard approach.
  6. Disparage other professionals or their methods.

On the other hand, a good behaviorist will:

  1. Tell you that he will have to determine exactly what triggers and reinforces the problem behavior by careful observation of the dog before, during and after that behavior occurs.
  2. Involve you in identifying the causes of the behavior and implementing a treatment.
  3. Be credentialled by the ABS, IAABC, CCPDT or other reputable body.
  4. Not guarantee results.
  5. Collect data on the effectiveness of the treatment being applied and change the behavior modification program, as needed, based on that data.
  6. Provide you with feedback and progress reports.
  7. Abide by the ethical practices of this profession.

See the difference?  A knowledgeable and ethical behaviorist will implement a program of Applied Behavioral Analysis, which is a structured methodology for changing a problem behavior by modifying the events or conditions that happen before and after the behavior takes place.    He might ask you make video recordings of your dog, keep a record of the behavioral incidents – in other words, take an active role in the treatment.

By maintaining a professional certification, your behaviorist is demonstrating that he is continuing his education and keeping knowledgeable of developments in this field, and abiding by stringent ethical standards.  Most importantly, he will abide by the Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) protocols for behavior modification.  I’ll get into the details of what this means in my next post, but for our purposes today it means that he will be primarily concerned with your dog’s physical, mental and emotional welfare.

Next:  What is LIMA?

  1. Chance, Paul.  (2006).  First Course in Applied Behavioral Analysis.  Long Grove, IL., Waveland Press

Shelter Dog Welfare

This is a short paper that I did a couple of years ago.  Its still current today.

Shelter Dog Welfare Challenges

Dogs hold a unique place in American society.  They have been our companions and work partners for many thousands of years and are unique among non-human animals in their ability to form attachments with members of other species.  They are the most commonly found companion animal in the United States; a recent survey found that 48 percent of US households include at least one dog, and the majority of dog owners are described as considering their dogs to be family members (Humane Society of the United States, n.d.).  Despite the affinity between dogs and humans, approximately 5.5 million are put in shelters every year (Woodruff and Smith, 2017).

Dogs enter shelters or rescue organizations from three primary sources:  They may have been confiscated by local animal control or police as abused or endangered,  or because their owners were taken into custody.  They may have been picked up as strays, having been lost or abandoned by their owners; or simply as “street dogs”.  Lastly, the dogs may have been surrendered by their owners for any of a variety of reasons, such as loss of income, the family having to move, medical issues or behavioral problems.  In some cases, dogs are moved from one shelter to another either for space and funding restrictions, or to provide a better chance for placement.

In any case, the dog entering shelters face multiple challenges to their emotional and physical welfare; some of these issues stem from limitations of care available from the shelter organization, and some simply from the shelter’s environment.   This paper will attempt to identify these issues and their impact on the dogs, and will discuss possible ways to mitigate these challenges to improve the dogs’ welfare while they are kept in shelters.  This will conclude with possible ways of influencing the outcomes of their stays in these organizations.

Welfare Challenges

Methodology.  This review of welfare concerns will deal with dogs in shelters that meet the following criteria:  First, the shelters must be “intake facilities”, meaning that they accept dogs from various sources including owner surrenders and confiscation by authorities.  Second, they must adopt dogs to the public.  Third, the shelters must be “brick and mortar” facilities, meaning that they have a physical location for housing and caring for the dogs.  No distinction will be made between shelters operated by local governments and those run by private organizations.   The various challenges addressed in this paper are drawn from peer-reviewed studies and from data collected and published by animal welfare organizations.

Welfare Issues

Euthanasia.

When a dog is placed in a shelter the possible outcomes are limited.  Strays can be returned to their owners.  Dogs can be adopted or transferred to other organizations such as breed-specific rescue organizations or shelters and rescues with higher adoption rates.  Lastly, the dogs can be euthanized due to space and funding concerns, medical reasons or behavior issues that are judged to make the dog unadoptable.   In many cases, owners surrender dogs to shelters for the purpose of euthanizing them, often for reasons of age, health issues or behavioral concerns (Patronek, Glickman & Moyer 2015).

Estimates of euthanasia rates vary widely, as there are no real metrics maintained by state or local agencies.  Recent survey data shows that approximately 777,000 dogs are euthanized annually; however, there is no information available on how many were “put to sleep” for medical or behavioral concerns or based on owners’ instructions.  Further, the likelihood of a dog being euthanized by a shelter varies by geographic area; shelters in the southeast and southwest united states are more likely to euthanize unadopted dogs than shelters in other regions of the US (Woodruff & Smith, 2017).  In any case, approximately 14 percent of all dogs in placed in shelters every year will be euthanized.

Medical Welfare Issues.

Dogs housed in shelters are particularly at risk for exposure to infectious diseases.  The population of dogs in any shelter is fluid, as new dogs arrive frequently from multiple sources in varying degrees of health.  In many cases, dogs are surrendered or seized by authorities with no, or unreliable, information on their immunizations, medical  history or current state of health.  Dogs seized by authorities as a result of criminal activity, such as dog fighting operations, have been found to have had a very low degree of preventative care and are at high risk for spreading disease and disease-bearing parasites (Cannon et al, 2016).

A 2014 study found that dogs entering shelters from the local community with infectious respiratory illness, such as Canine Influenza, had a very high incidence of affecting other dogs held by the shelter (Pecoraro, Bennett, Nuyvaert, Spindel & Landolt, 2014).  Further, the majority of shelters do not have on-site veterinary staff and use local veterinary clinics on a periodic or ad hoc basis (Laderman-Jones, Hurley & Kass, 2016).  The training and disease awareness of shelter staff and volunteers is also a subject of concern, creating higher risk of disease transmission within shelters (Steneroden, Hill & Salman, 2010).

The gaps in veterinary staffing and availability mean that intake evaluations are conducted by shelter staff with varying levels of expertise, increasing the risk that medical conditions or infectious diseases will not be detected (Steneroden, Hill & Salman, 2011).  Further, shelters have a high concentration of animals, which creates a situation in which animals are more likely to be exposed to diseases than they would be in private residences (Newbury, et al., 2010).  Although guidelines have been published for the vaccination of shelter dogs (AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines, 2017), they are not implemented uniformly (Pecoraro, Bennett, Nuyvaert, Spindel & Landolt, 2014), increasing the likelihood of disease transmission within kennels and by transfer of dogs between shelters.

Stress-related welfare issues.

The experience of being housed in a shelter is stressful for dogs.  Upon entering a shelter, dogs find themselves separated from any personal attachments they may have, isolated in unfamiliar surroundings and being cared for by strangers.  This naturally creates a state of heightened fear and anxiety, which impact their health and behavior.  This fear reaction can result in dogs’ exhibiting defensive behavior and avoidance of humans and other dogs (McMillan, 2017).  Aside from the direct impact on a dog’s quality of life, the behavioral indications of stress, such as stereotypic behavior, increased arousal or displays of anxiety, negatively affects dogs’ chances of being adopted (Wright, Smith, Daniel & Adkins, 2007).

There are multiple stressors affecting shelter dogs’ quality of life:

Separation.

Dogs have lived with humans for tens of thousands of years and have adapted to be human companions.  They affiliate with humans and form attachment bonds with their owners and caregivers, and these bonds provide a measure of security for dogs when they are in unfamiliar situations (Bradshaw, 2012; Mariti, Ricci, Zilocchi & Gazzano, 2013).  Isolation from their human attachment figures and people in general, particularly in an unfamiliar environment, causes anxiety and stress.  This condition persists as long as the animal remains isolated (Marston & Bennett, 2003).

Further, dogs are social animals with a natural desire to interact and form attachments with other members of their species.  To reduce the transmission of disease and the possibility of aggression and fighting, shelters typically isolate them from each other. Thus, shelter dogs are aware that other dogs are nearby, but are unable to engage in normal social activity with them.  They can detect stress and excitement from the other dogs’ vocalizations, but are unable to communicate and interact with them as part of their natural behavior (Hedges,2017).  This serves to increase their frustration and anxiety while housed in shelters (Grigg, Nibblett, Robinson & Smits, 2017).

Confinement and reduced activity.

While kept in shelters, dogs are housed in confined spaces and have limited access to outdoor spaces.  The fact of being kept in a restricted space with no means of exit and no opportunity to engage in any play or physical stress-relieving behavior has been shown to increase the anxiety and stress reactions of dogs in shelters (Normando, Contiero, Marchesini & Ricci, 2014).  The confined space also requires dogs to engage in an unnatural behavior of eliminating and urinating in close proximity to the spaces in which they eat, drink and sleep, adding to their anxiety (Wagner, Newbury, Kass & Hurley, 2014).

Environmental stressors.

The lack of a familiar environment in a shelter can be exacerbated by sensory overstimulation.  The dogs are suddenly thrust into completely new surroundings and the sounds and smells within a kennel can be overwhelming.  Their senses are suddenly bombarded by intense new odors and sounds.  The noise level found in shelters is particularly concerning from a welfare standpoint.

Dog shelters are noisy environments.  The shelter interiors are generally hard, smooth walls and floors to facilitate cleaning and disinfecting.  While these hard surfaces are beneficial from the standpoint of hygiene, they contribute to the problem of excessive noise levels inside the buildings.  Although dog’s hearing is far more sensitive than that of humans and extends to frequency ranges that are not audible to humans, dogs housed in kennels are regularly exposed to continual noise levels that exceed ranges considered safe for a human work environment. The sound levels in shelters has been found to regularly exceed 100 decibels; by contrast, the mean sound level of human houses is 45 decibels (Coppola, Enns & Grandin, 2006).  Although the physical effects of this noise exposure in dogs has not been adequately explored, the noise levels commonly found in kennels have been found to cause damage and stress in animals with less sensitive hearing (Sales, Hubrecht, Payvandi, Milligan & Shield, 1997).

Conclusion

Dogs in a kennel environment face unique challenges to their health and general welfare.  The causes for these challenges tend to overlap, requiring great care in identifying and addressing particular issues.

The most pressing concern is the possibility that shelter dogs will be euthanized for non-medical reasons.   Although there are no statistics available to determine the number of dogs that shelters euthanize for medical reasons, the raw numbers suggest that non-medical euthanasia occurs at a high rate.  Short of increasing space, funding and training for shelter staff and volunteers, the most obvious solutions would appear to provide outreach and assistance to owners in the process of surrendering their dogs and to increase the dogs’ chances of being adopted once they are in the shelter.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that interviews with owners who are surrendering dogs to shelters, coupled with assistance in resolving the issues leading to the surrender, would assist them in keeping their dogs at home (Protopopova & Gunter, 2017).  Increasing dogs’ chances of being adopted once in the shelter can be accomplished by human interaction and socialization, coupled with enrichment of their environment and training in basic behavior.  (Luescher & Medlock, 2008).

The next major concern is the risk to dogs’ health. Animals in shelters are at a heightened risk of exposure to contagious diseases due to the density of the shelter population and the varying states of preventative care that the animals received prior to intake.  Steps should be taken to increase the level of training among shelter staff and volunteers in disease awareness and transmission, and to encourage the administration of all recommended and optional immunizations for shelter dogs, regardless of their medical history (Steneroden, Hill & Salman, 2011; American Animal Hospital Association, 2017).

The above steps would also serve to remove causes of stress and anxiety in these dogs, enabling them to interact with visitors and becoming more adoptable.  When it is all said and done, the best way to improve a shelter animal’s welfare is to have a family take it home.

References

American Animal Hospital Association (2017). Vaccination Recommendations – Shelter-Housed Dogs. Retrieved from: https://www.aaha.org/guidelines/canine_vaccination_guidelines/shelter_vaccination.aspx

Bradshaw, J. (2012, November 19).  The bond between pet and owner. Psychology Today.  Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pets-and-their-people/201211/the-bond-between-pet-and-owner

Cannon, S. H., Levy, J. K., Kirk, S. K., Crawford, P. C., Leutenegger, C. M., Shuster, J. J.,…Chandrashekar, R. (2016). Infectious diseases in dogs rescued during dogfighting investigations.  The Veterinary Journal 211 (2016). 64-69.  doi:  10.1016/j.tvjl.2016.02.012

Coppola, C. L., Enns, R. M. and Grandin, T. (2006), Noise in the animal shelter environment:  Building design and the effects of daily noise exposure.  Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 9 (1). 1-7. doi: 10.1207/s15327604jaws0901_1

Grigg, E. K., Nibblett, B. M.. Robinson, J. Q. & Smits, J. E. (2017).  Evaluating pair versus solitary housing in kenneled domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) using behavior and hair cortisol: a pilot study.  Veterinary Record Open 4 (193) doi: 10.1136/vetreco-2016-000193

Hedges, S. (2017).  Social behaviour of the domestic dog.  Veterinary Nursing Journal 32 (9). 260-264. doi: 10.1080/17415349.2017.1333474

Humane Society of the United States (n.d.).Pets by the numbers.  Retrieved from: https://www.animalsheltering.org/page/pets-by-the-numbers

Laderman-Jones, B. E., Hurley, K. F. & Kass, P., H. (2016).  Survey of animal shelter managers regarding veterinary medical services.  The Veterinary Journal 210 (2016). doi:  10.1016/j.tvjl.2016.02.007

Luescher, A. U. & Medlock, R. T. (2008). The effects of training and environmental alterations on adoption success of shelter dogs.  Applied Animal Behavior Science 117 (1-2). 63-68.  doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2008.11.001

Mariti, C., Ricci, E., Zilocchi, M. & Gazzano, A.  (2013). Owners as a secure base for their dogs.  Behaviour 150 (2013). 1275-1294.  doi: 10.1163/1568539X-00003095

Marston, L.C. and Bennett, P., C.  (2003) Reforging the bond – toward successful canine adoption. Applied Animal Behavior Science 83 (3).  Doi:  10.1016/S0168-1591(03)00135-7

McMillan, F. D. (2013). Quality of life, stress, and emotional pain in shelter animals.  In L. Miller and S. Zawistowski (Eds.), Shelter Medicine for Veterinarians and Staff (pp 83-92). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell

Newbury, S., Blinn, M. K., Bushby, P. A., Cox, C. B., Dinnage, J. D., Griffin, B.,…Spindel, M. (2010).  Guidelines for standards of care in animal shelters.  Retrieved from: http://www.sheltervet.org/assets/docs/shelter-standards-oct2011-wforward.pdf

Normando, S., Contiero, B., Marchesini, G. & Ricci, R. (2014) Effects of space allowance on the behavior of long-term housed shelter dogs. Behavioral Processes 03 (103). 306-314. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.01.015

Patronek, G. J., Glickman, L. T. & Moyer, M. R. (2015).  Population dynamics and the risk of euthanasia for dogs in an animal shelter.  Anthrozoös 8 (1).  31-43. doi:  10.2752.089279395787156455

Pecoraro, H. L., Bennett, S., Huyvaert, K. P., Spindel, M.E. & Landolt, G. A. (2014). Epidemiology and ecology of H3N8 Canine Influenza Viruses in US shelter dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 28 (311). doi: 10.1111/jvim.12301

Protopopova, A. & Gunter, L. M. (2017) Adoption and relinquishment interventions at the animal shelter: a review. Animal Welfare 2017 (26). 35-48. doi:  10.7120/09627286.26.1.035

Sales, G., Hubrecht, R., Peyvandi, A., Milligan, S. & Shield, B. (1997).  Noise in dog kenneling:  Is barking a welfare problem for dogs?.  Applied Animal Behaviour Science 52 (3). 321-329.  Doi: 10.1016/S0168-1591(96)01132-X

Steneroden, K. K., Hill, E. H. & Salman, M. D. (2010). A needs-assessment and demographic survey of infection-control and disease awareness in western US animal shelters.  Preventive Veterinary Medicine 98 (2011).  52-57. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2010.11.001

Steneroden, K. K., Hill, A. E. & Salman, M. D. (2011).  Zoonotic disease awareness in animal shelter workers and volunteers and the effects of training.  Zoonoses and Public Health 58 (7). 449-53. Doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2011.01389.x

Wagner, D., Newbury, S., Kass, P. & Hurley, K. (2104) Elimination behavior of shelter dogs housed in double compartment kennels. PLoS ONE 9 (5). doi: 10/1371/journal/pone.0096254

Woodruff, K., A. & Smith, D. R. (2017), An Estimate of the Number of Dogs in US Shelters [Slide presentation].  Retrieved from: https://petleadershipcouncil.org/resources/uploads/MSU_Shelter_Census_Presentation_NAVC_2017.pdf

Wright, J., Smith, A., Daniel, K., Adkins, K. (2007). Dog breed stereotype and exposure to negative behavior:  Effects on perceptions of adoptability.  Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 10 (3). 255-265.  doi: 10.1080/10888700701353956