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Welcome to Shelter Life at the East Bay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

We began as the Oakland SPCA in 1874. Today, the East Bay SPCA includes two animal shelters and three clinics in our community.

This is our day.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

The dogs in our shelter are actually the lucky ones

Each day when I drive to work, I come down Edwards/73rd/Hegeberger. On that short trip, I see many dogs in their backyards. Some pits, some rotties, and some mutts. Some are loose. Some are tied up. Some seem nice. Others, not so much. What they all have in common is being outside. Most of them are sitting patiently at the back door to their house waiting to get in. I'm not sure if any of them every do get in, but there they sit, waiting.

Dogs outside. It seems like it makes sense, doesn't it? It seems like what dogs really want. Fresh air, a place to run, the ability to bark and go potty whenever they want. Who wouldn't want that? But in actuality, most dogs want to be inside with their family (their pack). Unfortunately, many owners don't housetrain their dogs or can't deal with the chewing or destruction that comes with an untrained, disobedient dog. Rather than teach them these basics using crate training and other confinement techniques, they toss them in the backyard where they will not only never learn these important skills, but where they learn other bad habits like digging, barking, fence fighting, escaping, and jumping.

It makes me sad every morning when I see this and it reminds me the dogs in our shelter are actually the lucky ones.

You are correct....I volunteer at the SPCA, and I also make the drive down Hegenburger for my weekly shift. At first I thought the SPCA would be a sad place, and perhaps I could only stand it long enough to make it through a few months. Well, it has now been a few years, and I have yet to leave there feeling bad about the dogs calling the shelter their temporary home. I only get sad when I see the dogs alone, outside.

 

I totally agree with you that dogs shouldn't be left in the backyard all of the time - that they want to be with their pack. But some of those dogs that you are seeing might be in their backyards because no one is home. I imagine their owners think, reasonably, that their dogs probably prefer to be outside in those circumstances (unless the weather is not comfortable, of course). Also, some of those dogs might be choosing to be in the back yard. We have a doggie door and our shepherd mix chooses to spend a good deal of time in the backyard, especially when we are not home. She seems to like sitting in the sun and keeping the squirrels in check. So maybe some of those dogs are getting the best of both worlds... Not all of them, I'm sure, but some of them, surely... (-:

 

You are certainly right that for some dogs it is a good thing. We think most dogs would rather be inside when no one is home though, then in the back. Every dog is different, of course, but most left alone feel safer (and less barky and protective) inside. That said, my dogs like their doggy door, too, to monitor the always-important squirrel situation in the back yard!

However, many people leave dogs outdoors because they can't be trusted inside. And that is a different problem altogether: a dog that is anxious and untrained, isn't going to be happy in either place. It's just easier on the furniture if he is outside. That's why we will recommend crate training to help the dog feel comfortable.

Thanks for bringing this up!

 

I think the Basic Obediance class requirement probably also helps with this. Our instructor did manage to incorporate a conversation on dogs and their general care, which surely helps those who really don't understand dogs and their needs... Our instructor talked about everything from sleeping arrangements to food, and we learned alot of things that I think have helped us to create a much better life for our new dog.

Do you also give out some kind of pamphlet/booklet/handout on suggestions for dog care to everyone who adopts one? I know the Humane Society does, and I found it very helpful.

 

We do! Our complete dog adoption package is available on line, as well as a similar package for cats.

We have found through trial and error that the best way to ensure a good adoption is to make sure the new home has proper expectations.

Basic Obedience is a great resource too, not just for the actual course content, but for the access to someone who can answer questions as they arise. We also encourage adopters (and non-adopters) to call our Cat and Dog Behavior hotlines to get more assistance. Even if we didn't provide the pet in the first place, we consider that we can help a family be successful with the pet, and reduce the number of pets that get surrendered to Animal Control.

 

Rachel,

Would you be interested in contacting Tammy at Dogs Deserve Better? She can send you information on maybe giving or leaving info on these peoples' doors, etc. on leaving your dogs outside. They are part of the family.

 

I'm not sure who Tammy is, but I'm always interested in new ways to help people with their animals. Contact me off-line at info@eastbayspca.org

 

Seems like such a thing would have to be done very carefully, in a way that won't put people on the defensive - otherwise you will just make people mad and not have the desired effect. Maybe if you blanket the entire neighborhood with pamphlets so people don't take it personally? People find it difficult to listen and take in suggestions when they feel like they are being criticised, when they are on the defensive. Generally they go into justifying the way it is and their behavior, or to reducing the person making the suggestion to various derogatory terms... This is why I asked how much info and counseling people receive when they first adopt their dogs - this seems like the best time to address this (and other dog care issues) because people are generally more open to suggestions at this point because it is less of a "you are doing wrong by your dog..." kind of thing. One thing I've learned - if you want people to listen to you, you must not start out by making them feel bad about who they are or what they are doing. In this case, I think the best bet might be to make it impersonal somehow. Beyond that, focusing on educating new adopters is probably going to give you the biggest impact for your efforts.

Thank you for doing what you all do - the dogs and cats are lucky to have you all looking after their best interests!

 

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