If you are thinking of adopting a dog, there are a number of things to consider.
The romantic version has people arriving at the shelter, falling in love with the dog with the pretty eyes, and everyone living happily ever after.
Sadly, the reality is often a long way from this happy vision. In practice, the new owner finds themselves with a dog that they can’t deal with. Some people just live with this, although it is pretty miserable for both the owner and the dog; some people return the dog to the shelter.
There are two main elements involved in avoiding such distressing outcomes. Both of these elements are offered in the Leadchanges adoption service and are defined by us as Matching and Transitioning.
We help match your personality type, lifestyle, energy levels and requirements to find the best dog for you.
Here’s an example:
You are looking for a small dog, because you live in an apartment in town and enjoy casual strolls to your local cafe. You enjoy a sedate walk once every day or so. You visit the shelter and see a small floppy eared dog that seems friendly, playful and hangs out with you for cuddles and scratches. All seems well, and you take the dog, which turns out to be a beagle cross, home.
You were hoping for a quiet dog that calmly kept you company on your walk. But you discover you have a dog that constantly pulls on the leash, wanting to be ahead of you, is distracted by every smell, pulling this way and that, and wants to walk at a much faster pace than you. When you let her off the leash, she’s off – she won’t come back when you call her and you have to follow her around until you can catch her. If she sees a squirrel or a cat, she’s off again.
When you finally get her home again, she won’t settle. You hadn’t realised how tiring it is to have a dog around that is always up and about, always wanting another walk.
When you start to investigate the reasons for all this, and you start, perhaps a little too late, to look into Beagle characteristics, you discover that they were bred for tracking – for the endurance and energy to follow scent all day if necessary.
You discover that Beagles need much more exercise than most people give them, which explains how many are overweight, leading to health issues. Although Beagles are often found living in apartments, they really shouldn’t be. They require long frequent walks and ideally a fenced area where they can stretch their legs off-leash. Fenced because Beagles are explorers and chasers who will follow their nose wherever that fascinating smell takes them. Because as a breed they are so obsessed with scent, getting them to recall is a major challenge.
Beagles left unfulfilled can soon become bored and could try to dig their way out, or howl.
Beagles need consistent and persistent obedience training based on respect. Food rewards can be an excellent motivator for Beagles, but if you base all of your training on food, you may find that you run out of options in more challenging situations.
The conclusion? A beagle was not the best choice for your situation. The right size, but the wrong fit. Because you consider yourself a conscientious dog owner, you are now committed to three walks a day, agility classes, obedience classes. You are considering taking up tracking to keep your dog entertained and under control.
The right dog for your situation would have been, for example, much more of a mixed breed, without the strong characteristics of a dog bred for a particular purpose. But how would you have known?
What you needed was Leadchanges’ Matching and Transitioning service
Having matched the right dog to the right owners, the next stage is transitioning. Leadchanges will foster the dog for an agreed period, during which we will check the behaviour and training of the dog.
Often shelter dogs steal food from tables, don’t know how to eat politely around other dogs, don’t always know how to walk on a leash, may be fearful (especially of vets), might not travel well and many just don’t have any manners.
What is often not realised is that dogs that have been adopted from shelters are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety than those who have been with one family since they were puppies. We can help with this.
At the most basic level, a dog should:
- walk on a leash
- leave it
- wait to be fed
- not push through doors, out of cars or down steps (safety reasons)
- travel well
- accept the vet
Teaching dogs how to get on within a home environment is essential, testing the dog to see how it responds around children, other pets and in particular cats and livestock, is also important.
Although one always hopes that much of this work will be done by the new owner, the fact is that, however well meaning, most new owners do not do this, either through lack of knowledge or confidence or simply because there is no informed help at hand. While transitioning at Leadchanges can really only be the start of the training process, it provides a solid foundation for the owner to build on and Leadchanges can provide advice and practical help going forward.
With Leadchanges they start to make the change. The advantage of adopting a dog is that they are most often very well socialised to other dogs – but not always. This is something we start to work on during their stay. Owners are encouraged to visit as often as possible and take part in the process and are given a full written report of the training and progress made They are also given skills and information to help them once they are home to continue the process. Full support is given after the dog returns home and they are given a discount off holiday kennelling fees for the first year.