All dogs have a story. This is Arthur’s.
As a loveable lab mix, Arthur doesn’t give the impression that he has special needs. In fact, meeting this dog would make you argue otherwise. He is youthful, loving, and attentive. But each dog has a past and this is especially true for shelter dogs.
Arthur struggles with severe separation anxiety.
Currently residing at the Niagara Falls Humane Society (previous article), this sweet pup is undergoing a structured training regime set out by Renee Cote, NFHS Dog Enrichment Program Co-ordinator. Renee is a professional dog trainer and we were given a chance to talk with her about Arthur’s special requirements and how she approaches training in general with the other dogs at the shelter.
Renee confirms, “It’s clear he has separation anxiety. Arthur gives us all the signs.” Now that they know that, it’s something they are focusing on.
It’s about working with Arthur slowly and progressing his training. The right person or family that chooses to adopt Arthur will need to continue working with him.
Renee says, “When you put too much distance, Arthur gets anxious. So I’ve been working on putting him in his crate downstairs and then I stand right there. He’s in his crate calm. He’s not whining. He’s not stressing out. Actually today, he sat and lied down! This is him learning. I’m moving up to progressions where I will go out of sight and come back. That’s his training. The bulk of it comes when you are home. Tossing treats in his crate to show it’s a positive thing going in there. He won’t just get locked in there and left behind.”
“With 100% confidence, I can say that if you leave Arthur he will go into a state of anxiety and he will become destructive. We know that. For the time being until the training really gets underway, he needs medication.” Focusing on positive training means that over time Arthur can transition away from needing medication to keep him calm. A stressed-out, destructive dog can hurt themselves – it’s not just a matter of tearing up your home.
A lot of the time the shelter doesn’t find out some of the animal’s behaviours until they’re placed in a home. Renee would like to see more of their dogs be in foster homes. It’s about exposing them to real life situations.
“Dogs are the best teachers” insists Renee. “I always say that I train owners, not dogs. You would be amazed at what you dog knows and you don’t. They are watching and learning.”
“Training should be something you work into your lifestyle. You train your dog at every opportunity. Every time you feed them, walk them or whatever it is. All those opportunities that you have throughout the day to give them structure and let them know where their place is, then they’ll have this understanding. It makes them calm and relaxed and look to you for direction.”
Structure is imperative to a dog’s happiness and comfort within a household. Many times we fail to recognize that these pups are still animals and don’t function on a level that we do. Giving structure to your dog ultimately makes their life easier to understand.
Renee’s style of training is positive reinforcement. “We get dogs in that don’t know how to sit, have never been on a leash, they know nothing. Everything is about getting them to make choices. They make the choice to sit and they get rewarded for that. We don’t ask them to sit, we don’t pull up on leashes or press their bums down. We wait for them to do a behaviour and reward them to say, That’s what we want you to do.”
Positive reinforcement training really is the best choice for shelter dogs. Emphasizing again that all dogs have a story, the unfortunate truth is that sometimes it’s not a good one.
Many dogs with special circumstances have found happy, forever homes. I don’t doubt that Arthur’s is out there somewhere. Renee has witnessed many of these adoptions and has a positive outlook for the future. “I have been here for two years. It’s been quite a journey and really amazing to see where things are right now.”
If you are interested in finding out more about Arthur, please call the shelter at 905-356-4404 to arrange to meet with Renee.
Niagara Falls Humane Society
The Niagara Falls Humane Society helps find loving homes for unwanted and mistreated animals, as well as trying its best to reunite lost pets with their rightful owners.
The NFHS provides a safe haven for pets in limbo, before they are placed in a new home. The Society tries to alleviate the suffering of all animals and to eliminate euthanasia as a method of population control for pets. At the NFHS, no healthy adoptable animal will ever be euthanized.
Location: 6025 Chippawa Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario L2E 6X8
Professional Dog Trainer
NFHS Dog Enrichment Program Co-ordinator