Helping Dogs be Dogs

OHS often rescues or takes in pets who need extra care. That needed TLC may not be medical in nature, though—many of our toughest cases are pets who need training and behavioral help. To help unsocial or untrained pets become adoptable, we rely on the OHS Training and Behavior team.

Five Dogs Finally Find Forever Homes

In my line of work, some dogs will always stick with you. Unfortunately, these are often cases that you feel you couldn’t help or do enough for. But then there are the cases that motivate you and remind you why you do what you do. Here’s one of my favorites.

Auggie at OHS

Five young herding dogs came to OHS: Claude, Auggie, Benedict, William Bea and Tex. The information given to the Behavior & Training team is that they were probably littermates who had been abandoned on a property when the owner moved away. When the dogs arrived at the shelter, they were terrified. No one could touch them, they viewed a leash as a torture device, and no kennel could contain them—they could jump or climb almost anything! It didn’t take a trainer to recognize the fear, but it did leave me wondering, can we help these dogs find homes?

The rest of the training team and I were determined to do what we could to help these dogs and give them a chance at a normal life. It was going to be a long road, however. When we began by simply entering their kennel, they panicked and climbed the walls trying to escape our presence.

One day, I entered the dogs’ section of the shelter to see Tex standing on top of his six-foot-tall covered kennel. How he did it, I’ll never know, and I’ll never forget that moment.

It Takes Time

Ever so slowly, we began the process of desensitizing the dogs to our presence, and then to being on leash, being around other dogs and normal city life—one slow step at a time. It took a ton of treats and a ton of patience before they started coming around. We celebrated the small victories, like when Benedict took a treat directly out of someone’s hand, Claude made eye contact, or Tex stopped barking when someone approached his kennel.

William Bea and Benedict were the first to become more social and so they were soon adopted. The other three were skeptical about us for much longer, but gradually over time they began to enjoy normal dog things, like going for a walk and playing with toys.

Special Homes Needed

Tex playing coy
Tex playing coy

These dogs were adorable, but they needed very special homes, and very special adopters. We sat down with many potential adopters to help them decide whether they were the right fit for one of these boys. After a few months, Auggie found a wonderful home, and we all celebrated, and hoped that a home like that was coming for Claude and Tex.

Another month of working with the dogs, and Claude was the next to go home. Days after the adoption, we received sweet photos of Claude in his new home, curled up on his very own dog bed, playing with a toy, and standing on the dining room table. …He wasn’t perfect, but he was home, and his new family loved him dearly.

Finally, after one more month, Tex’s turn came. I don’t think I’ll ever forget saying goodbye when it was Tex’s turn to leave. Happy tears were shed by me, and many other staff members, as we watched Tex go home. Tex is still happy in his home today. I ran into him and his family recently and it was such a joy to see Tex walking nicely on his leash, with his family–happy and healthy, and home at last.

Contributed by Jenna Kirby, OHS Dog Trainer

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