Module 1 of the dog rescue worker course examines various roles a dog
rescue worker may undertake and takes a close look at aggression. A
great deal of the work is done behind the scenes but is relevant and
important to the rescue centre as a whole.
are many varied types of rescue organisations. Most will be registered
Charities. There are varied roles fulfilled by volunteers and paid
staff at dog rescue centres. Different organisations and charities have
different principal grades.
1 also considers the outdated so called “dominance” theory in respect
of managing behaviour. The dominance theory often advocates using
aversive techniques in order to “dominate” the dog and “show him who is
boss”. Electric collars, vibration collars etc. are totally against
welfare and should never be used.
addition, there is no scientific support for the dominance theory, its
relationship to companion dogs and how it can help to change behaviour.
It is known that behaviour is a
combination of nature (genetics) and nurture (enrichment and
experience). Aggression is a survival behaviour. A dog will use
aggression in the circumstances that they believe it to be appropriate
and they will use the degree of aggression that they believe to be
appropriate for each encounter. This will depend on what they have
learned previously. Averting or reducing a challenge can be carried out
in many non-aggressive ways.
Module 2 of this dog rescue worker course looks at canine body language and signals. Module 2 also covers stress in kennelled dogs and how environmental stimulation can prevent and change unwanted behaviour. When working with dogs in any capacity we need to ensure their needs are being met, including emotional needs such as being able to feel safe. This should underpin all our work with dogs, no matter what capacity we are working in. Animal welfare involves both the physical health of the animals (e.g., preventing and treating illnesses and injuries), as well as their psychological well-being.
Rescue centres should place a priority on reducing stress and promoting the physical and psychological well-being of their animals.
Rescue dogs often live in a stressful environment, are mentally and physically under-stimulated and are confined to a small area (cage or run) where they have no control. This can lead to boredom, anxiety and the development of behavior problems including abnormal behaviour.
Dogs that find themselves in shelters will be confused and possibly frightened, especially if they find themselves away from their owners. Even stray dogs will be anxious finding themselves confined, despite access to food, water and shelter. Research indicates that mental stimulation is emotionally rewarding to animals and there is a strong motivation to seek novel stimuli.
Research also shows that many animals prefer to work for their food rather than have it freely available.
We must also consider that enrichment is not always about increasing stimulation. For some dogs, it may mean reducing stimulation by using barriers or quiet kennels. As a rescue worker this should be uttermost in your mind when interacting or working with any of the dogs.
All dogs need opportunities for play, whether it is with another dog, with a dog rescue worker or on his own.
Dogs spend a great deal of time playing, chewing and investigating. Dogs mainly play using their mouths although some will use paws or their whole body.
There are many toys on the market varying from useless and dangerous to strong and resistant. Good judgement needs to be used when selecting toys for kennelled dogs. It will not be possible to supervise a dog with a toy all of the time, therefore safe toys need to be used.
Play does not have to be with toys. Fun agility, off lead areas, sand pits and paddling pools can also provide opportunities for play. Play can also include teaching fun tricks or free shaping using a clicker. Clicker training can also be used to reinforce wanted behaviour. For example, a clicker can be used with a dog that barks for attention. As soon as he is quiet or there is a break in the barking, click and give a treat to let the dog know what is required. This can be repeated to reinforce. We should avoid giving barking, attention seeking dogs any attention while they are barking.
Sleep is essential for all dogs. When a dog first goes to sleep, he enters the quiet phase of sleep. He lies still and is oblivious to the surroundings. Breathing slows and blood pressure and body temperature drop. His heart rate decreases too. After about ten minutes, a dog will enter the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep. He rolls his eyes, he may bark or whine, or may jerk his legs. Dogs require around 14 hours of sleep per day.
Providing opportunities for natural behaviour could include olfactory gardens or fenced areas with herbs and dog safe plants. Pieces of food can be tied to trees and bushes to encourage sniffing.