17th April 2013
Spot the dogs answer at the bottom!
Rescue Remedies Principles of Homing
It takes a particular mind set to be involved in vetting families for homeless dog. A huge responsibility and we can’t dabble with our dogs lives lightly. Most people just don’t get it and it can take years until finally it clicks like a crystal realisation. Then you truly are coming from the individual dog’s perspective, what are their needs and will they be met. It is not about being protective but astute to their needs. The temptation is to fall continually into providing people with their wish fulfilment and fitting our dog into this. Wish fulfilment and dreams are the O2 / currency of the internet. This is ‘People pleasing’ and praying the dog will fit in! It all has to come from our homeless ill equip dog!?! I was tutored for years under my “Mary Godmother” (Mary Scully) who has run a home based Rescue 34 years. Our dogs have already had at least one other home, we need to make sure we get it right for them this time. In rescue we have to have an in-depth understanding dogs and their general needs; breed type needs and individual needs. It’s not about whether they are fully housetrained or prefer one flavour of food to another! It is a thorough theoretical understanding of the breed attributes as a gauge of behavioural patterns and expectations. Handling many of that type of breed you learn to read them very quickly but I’m talking having in-depth contact with many, many. This is when you become a breed specialist with attunement to their instinctual drives which shapes their engagement with life. Backed by the management and training strategy for those exhibiting behaviours e.g. environmental management.
We have an in depth Homing Policy which guides. It has principles and explains some of the protocols we work to. A Dog Rescue is driven by ethics and each Dog Rescue will have a different emphasis, different reasons for existing, their ‘Mission statement’, which features their core values. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and having been hard at it for nearly 10 years I can see inexperience and naivety and choose to nurture; respect and on occasions just placate where there clearly isn’t the depth of appreciation of why certain aspects are important or behavioural traits are there. We way up situational and life style issues, which will benefit or restrict our dogs; promote or inhibit their chances for their entire remaining short life. It’s a huge responsibility placing a dog within their family often where we know that family have a steep learning curve ahead. Rarely our dogs come back to us clearly telling us ‘you got that one wrong!’ We have to deal with very persuasive people whose egos are wrapped up in their self belief. 75 questions on our homing questionnaire enable people and us to reflect on aspects of what they are able to offer our dog and allows us to finely tune towards matching a suitable dog. When people turn around and say please advise us, these are the homes where we so get it right! We are actually not a Rescue where we expect our families to have all the experience in the world, with some of our dogs we do need that, but we have some key criteria we are looking for. We have to remain open and remember where were we, when we took on our first dog?
Foundations of a Good home
STABLITY We need to look into the future, we need to look at the prospects of that homing offer taken into the context of 5-10 years. Short-termism and people find us suggesting fostering eg someone studying for a course with time on their hands: Our mind automatically goes forwards 2 years, they’re going to have to put everything you have into establishing a career..where will our dog be then! We scan for stability of relationships; address; finances; past dog ownership; work role, future plans including planning children or health needs becoming prominent e.g. elderly people need supportive friends and family to step in, in an emergency.
Security is a feature of Stability above and Safety below. It involves the means to provide for our dogs care and needs. A mental strategy which is well thought out and borne through on paper and in conversation. We learn to tell a lot about a person through their voice and their responses. Getting the sense that people are telling you what you want hear or coming from the right place. Security of garden and property is also key.
SAFETY: When a dog is in transition it is at it’s most vulnerable, it is unaware of its territory. For a dog, in an new situation, people and dogs are unpredictable, they need to get a ‘sense of them and can be in danger of over reacting until they build trust. I call this the ‘Trust bond’ and between dogs it can take several weeks to build that sense of relaxation and energy attunement. Terriers and Lurchers being chase breeds by instinct can not manage their own safety in our world today. The 1940s era with quiet roads have gone and our housing areas are full of cats and foxes. We need our families to be safety conscious ‘Exit Management’ means front doors are not left open whilst they pop to the car or back gates left ajar as a bike is taken out and failure to secure when rubbish is taken through. Safety obviously also involves safe around children, other dogs and cats and risk management. Rescuers are anything BUT cavalier, but hyper aware of risks and are managing risks continuously as part of an dynamic process. Where there are ‘Key Risks’ we look for ‘Proven history’ from our dog e.g. proven around toddlers.
NURTURING: Most people pay little attention to what they feed their dogs. Rescue dogs have not had the best of care…often fed on cheap colourant filled dried food with a sense of laziness. We have had dogs come in with every condition lung worm; tape worms; round worms; fleas, maggots. A good basic diet with variety is essential to readdress their previous poor diet foundation. Rescue dogs are often ‘needy’ emotionally as well as having been starved of affection and may be over attentive or uncomfortable being handled. They may have been starved of opportunity too. People often say their foster or rescue dog is defensive outside. This usually is where a dog hasn’t ever been regularly walked and doesn’t know how to get a sense of the outside as their territory and acknowledging it is in fact shared territory. Some behaviourists suggest not walking the dog. In extreme cases perhaps, where it clear it is so stressful for that dog but I would always advocate taking the dog out at quiet times and giving them a sense of territory for them to gain the feeling of feeling safe and relaxed. So a homeless dog needs lots of types of nourishment
COMMITMENT: The most important thing a rescuer gives is …rock solid commitment. What comes with this is clear thinking. Demonstration how they have been preparing for dog ownership, research into breeds; rescues they can trust; local dog walkers; local vets; local training courses, emergency strategy for those days you get caught at work or other commitments have to take prescient. Where judgements have the dog’s best interests in mind and a dog isn’t just going to be an appendage within a very busy family but central to the family’s ethos. We are always looking for what a family is actually offering our dog. Not what our dog is offering them. The right dog will match lifestyle. We learn to express our concerns and speak with objectivity. Homing volunteers have to make very difficult phone calls and can often be seen as ‘Party spoilers’. We can’t help it, we have to be grounded in realism. Some people take offence but others understand and genuinely see why we need reassurance. We are our dog’s guardians.
COMPASSION: We are looking for identification with our dogs plight. We are looking for a caring attitude with nurturing, and this is the flavour in conversation and can easily be masked by a more intellectualised stance. We look for heart. Dianna is particularly thorough in this area and she so often is saying and what will do you if our dog ‘isn’t this or that’. We have to bring realism in and ask people to offer forgiveness, give our dogs time, work with our dogs, Vicky’s phrase ‘baby steps’. We have known so many people bring our dogs back within 3 days where they haven’t begun to offer the dog any support. We are seeing whether the family has heart to bring a dog through, act as their anchor as it adapts and adjusts. One family member without heart can send our dog zooming back. We can be accused of ‘painting it too black’, making it too hard to home, but we are not dealing with boxes of cornflakes. A returned dogs hits us mortally, like a stab in the stomach. We always take the responsibility personally, reflecting back on the depth of conversation we did or didn’t have; back to the statements on a family’s homing questionnaire. Just a minor reference to something, and suddenly its presented as ‘the Deal Breaker’ as the dog is returned. We scrutinise for Deal Breakers and that is Dianna “oh and would that be a problem if our dog isn’t fully housetrained, isn’t able to have another dog in its house, cope with car journeys, how will you manage a terrier on a campsite! How old are your grandchildren and do they stay etc. People have to identify with our dogs predicament. If they expect a “ready made” dog we are setting our dog up to fail but at the same time we will get a sense this family are naïve but aware, and will rise into dog ownership. Potential owners that bring breed experience, allows us to know the family will be adept and alive to certain traits and these no longer become deal breakers. Homing conversations spin around the expectations placed on a homeless dog’s shoulders.
IDENTICATION This one factor we ask from our potential homers from the start together with empathy. We have to educate to the stark realities of dog rescue. How we have dogs lives weighing in the balance for the sake of a chance, and kennel occupation has to be optimised to save lives. We don’t have a cosy rescue centre with limitless kennel space where people can take 4 weeks to consider whether a dog is for them. We continue to attempt to home our dogs with every opportunity, we owe our dogs that. So we do not even begin to discuss dogs until the family are go go go. We only reserve a dog for the max. of 3 days purely based on difficult logistics between homecheck and meeting. Our potential homers must be made aware of the plight of a dog stood in kennels. It’s an environment we want our dogs out of ASAP. If there isn’t identification with the urgency of our dogs needs, we suggest try another Rescue who may have the wealth of time. We can’t hide the fact we are under constant and intense pressure and move heaven and earth to get our dogs into their homes TODAY!
ACTIVE: The energy of the family has to match the energy of our dog. It is a real wake up call when sadly a family have lost an elderly dog and are asking for a dog between 6-12 months. We ask them have they had any recent contact with an adolescent dog? If they refer to when their dog was that age you have to remind them they are 10-13 years older. Again it’s about realism and preparedness. We laugh because most of our dogs are that exact age and why do so many dogs lose their homes between 9-15 months old because they are coming into adulthood and are trying to come to terms with their own energy at its prime, often without having been given the socialisation and skills acquisition to focus their energy. A 3month old puppy running around your living room or pulling at clothing to get your attention is completely different to an 11 month old. So provided people are genuinely prepared, excited and can’t wait to connect in with a high energy dog and enjoy that energy and hone their dog’s energy into a purposeful and active life style fine. Otherwise we are always going to advise go older.
INTEGRAL Again we have to come at this from the dog’s perspective. Dogs are pack animals. Leave a pack of dogs to occupy a house and early morning go inside & they will all be in the one room most huddled up together…NOT one to each room with do not disturb on the door! Dogs see you as their pack and will want to be with you but will be tutored into accepting ‘their place and their space’. Some dogs are very connected and will at the very least want to sleep beside a member of family’s bed. Or they will gravitate to the next best thing, a comfortable chair especially if their humans scent is on it. We consider whether a home is an inclusive home. Certain breeds are more likely to adapt to one or another. For example the bull breeds tend towards being an inclusive dog and they easily get labelled with ‘separation anxiety’. On the whole they are just complainants and will try and milk the situation and whine for sympathy. If they know you are out the house they settle; if they know you are in the house ‘what’s the problem!?’ We rescue our dogs out of situations where they are kept in crates; kept in kennels; have an existence in kitchens by day and by night. Life style issues will affect what individual dogs we consider and we often speak about this dog needing a ‘companion home’ work from home; part time working or retirement situation.
So just to give a glimpse into some of the issues we are looking for when seeking our dog’s next family. We are professional about this and truly our aim is to match a dog but we need reassurance that people understand the responsibility involved.
(Wilfred; Breeze; Wasdale; Rosco; Marley; Tex; Scooby; Inca; Big AL)
12th April 2013
A few cultural features of our Rescue the ‘F’ word
Freedom: We don’t do crates unless carefully specified prescribed use, and ofcourse for travel. Seen so much abuse and resultant phobias. Its so convenient to protect the furnishings etc. So what is so wrong with the open dog’s bed? Crates are cages.
Food: We advocate dried complete kibble mixed with moist food to give our dogs flavour and interest and also suggest variety; no colourants in food and treats; raw diet is purest and commendable. Dried food alone dogs often graze and to live on the same dried flavour for ever more …I rest my case. We hate to witness dogs over weight in the same way we hate to witness them under weight. We advise to feed our dogs before we have our meals, they shouldn’t be hungry watching you eat a meal. We NEVER play around with a dog’s food and ‘test’ its temperament in this way..abhorrent to us and would you do it to your children? If a dog is precious about its food then we respect this and always give them space and focus on offering them more eg smaller portion and adding into their bowl. Dogs relax much more fed in separate rooms and so tend to offer them this pleasure. Guarding a chew bone? give them another and another. Never teach a dog to favour prime foods like roast meat; they are smart and will start to refuse ‘dog food!’ Guarding a toy tell them how lucky they are and leave them be, offer them an alternative and engage them in play. We never use tug of war as a mode always fetch and retrieve or hide and find. We are working with a dog to become less precious and working with their inner sense of ‘neediness’ Hate to see dogs focused on treats for rewards I will always prefer praise as the currency of favour.
Fostering: We are not looking to our fosterer to give our dogs labels. We don’t define our dogs in this way. I work from the basis of having fostered over 1000 dogs in the space of 10 years and the focus is on their essence and management to facilitate our dogs relaxing into achieving success, and positive strategy for them to feel successful. Our dogs are ‘homeless’ so are treated! as such. We welcome fosterers taking responsibly and managing our dogs quirks of character and will support on this but have seen it so often when fosterers start off telling all what is wrong with our dog only to tell us 24-40 hours later they have ‘cured’ them. Fosterers labels tell us more about them than the dog. Experience allows them to move the dog through their initial nerves and begin to drop tension and truly feel they are managed within a reward giving environment based on praise. Dogs need time to adjust and read a situation what is permissible and ways to please. How many times have we seen our dogs be described in completely different ways in different households. So we always tend to reflect on our learning, our management and place the responsibility on the pack managers shoulders not the dogs. With sensitivity and clear messaging a homer or fosterer works in with a dog and respects their needs. Gentle stretching into a broader horizons is great and is real achievement. Often fosters lay it all on our dogs shoulders and subtly make themselves the hero’s of discovery. They are the heros but true achievement isn’t there in 2 weeks that is merely discovery of what is already there waiting for the right tempo to provide a platform of skills. Our fosterers give our dogs the platform to shine and appeal to their future owner with pictorial temptations and showing the fun they offer.
Furniture: We don’t buy into the simplistic ‘dominance’ analysis. Our dogs are pets and we seek for them to be integral to their families not closed off in kitchens, dog gates or kennelled holidays unless born out of true need i.e. lack of dog skills in multi dog house.We see application of people working full time with 30 mins relief in the middle of the day with dog in hall or kitchen, then 3 hours of interaction at night and back in the hall or kitchen at night. Our thoughts are what are they offering our dog? Our dogs need to be part of the family, central to the daily regime which centres around their needs and a cherished life style of their carers. So many of our dogs will enjoy sofa surfing and even sleeping on their masters bed if not beside, or in the lounge. Just in case you think we are against this, you couldn’t be further from the truth!
Forgiveness: We always ask our homers to offer our dogs forgiveness and to analysis their management strategy after the event to understand the dog’s needs further and to work in with those needs eg. need to space; need of clear awareness of body language; different method of introducing to strangers. Coming from a terrier background they’ll have you in stitches with their antics and “hum we won’t be making that mistake again!” is our attitude. Dogs have likes and dislikes. Some dogs are more vocal than others; most dogs give clear signals. Tia the Rottie comes to mind she growls when strokes and fussed her fosterer know that and see her pleasure within that growl. It is clear, leave a front door open a terrier will be ‘gone’ so who do we forgive…the dog and vow tight exit management from now on. People can say a dog’s behaviours are unpredictable, we say rarely. This often means they are ignoring the dogs comfort levels and signals and the acquired knowledge surrounding that dog. We look to prevent that dog manifesting forthright behaviours by respecting their needs. Our dogs can become uncomfortable and try to tell us, we need to listen and adjust accordingly. Communication is 2 ways. A grumble is a dogs means of communicating. A look can say it all, I’m on edge in this situation. We try to soften that look so the dog relaxes and befriends. Our dogs are not second rate dogs but their pasts have often been second rate.
7th April 2013
Drumming on: The constant pressure: How after homing 10 dogs with week do we find ourselves with
106 dogs officially on our books and 10 I haven’t had the time or head space to put on the Forum
51 dogs in hired kennels with additional 5 coming in beginning of the week
praying our Fosterers hold and knowing some are under duress for the sake of our dogs
The constant pressure for one reason or another having to find 8-9 kennels a week…with no time to relax back and enjoy the achievements and homings other then rejoicing in my head whilst on the motorway or as I put my head on the pillow each night.
What we achieve is phenomenal and it is often understated..we are attracting excellent families for our dogs, who just haven’t and wouldn’t have a chance.
6th April 2013
Well analysis of March is in..a very wet very cold month in deed..
We took 33 dogs on to our books we needed to decease our kennel hire numbers down over Easter with the help of many who took one of our dogs home over Easter and our kennel numbers bounced straight up after Easter this week! and set to rocket next week!
We homed 27 dogs in March which included a pair..Juke and Floss. 14 terriers and 7 Staffies and 6 All breeds. We delighted in seeing some old friends Lucky; Flash; Kiwi; Sidney & Poppy found their way home. The sad news was 4 returns within the month. We tutor people in realism and guide them towards a dog to match their life style and can often get a lot of flack but suddenly our dog is being returned for reasons like size or where no time had been given to settle a dog, or the family just show no confidence or skills to lead a dog through. Its a ‘take away’ “ready made” menu!
Incredible pressure to take dogs especially coming out of families like we are a public service obligated to allow a family to ‘dump’ any responsibilities they have for their dog. They want it GONE! It has always shocked me how people cut off any feelings and seek to dispose of a dog out of sight then out of mind. I often worry about what these parents teach their children in relinquishing any sense of caring, responsibility..just dispose of family member here today gone tomorrow.