Don’t Judge a Dog in a Cage
Everyone has heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we forget that we have to do the same for dogs. Often times the behavior one sees from a dog in a cage is not what they would see if they met the dog on a walk or a quiet room. Dogs who are scared off in a corner or even right at the cage door baring teeth end up being fine when removed from that environment. It is a sad but true fact that even after meeting these dogs outside, potential adopters still see a “shut down” or “aggressive” dog.
Let’s try to put ourselves in the dogs shoes… or paws rather. We come to a new, stressful, loud place where dogs are always barking or crying. We were, at some point or another, once a loved dog. Either our owner surrendered us or we got loose and never found our way home. We are put into a cage. The staff and volunteers at this place care and try their best to get every single dog out at least once during the day, but what about the other 23.5 hours of the day? We sit and we lay and we watch as people pass us by. “No, not that one” we hear too often. We only have this small space to ourselves, cornered, as people stare in at us. Don’t they know that strong, long eye contact is a threat to dogs? It makes us nervous, those strangers talking and staring at us when we have no where to go. Some dogs don’t mind it at all and others retreat to the furthest corner of the cage and try to ignore the strangers. Personally, we decide that barking, growling, and baring our teeth gets them to move away much faster. It’s such a strange feeling, in any other place we would want that person’s attention, but here… stuck in this cage with all this cooped up energy turning into anxiety… It’s just too intimidating.
Pay It Forward for Pets volunteers got to meet the most wonderful dog this past weekend while photographing!! Her name is Whitney. Canine behavioral trainer Ron Shannon brought her in the room and let us know to go slower, she was nervous and growled a little in the cage. Always on the side of caution, we listened. Quickly, however, Whitney’s tail started wagging, her ears perked up, and she was ready to play and receive attention. We kissed her on the lips, talked to her, asked her to do tricks, and wouldn’t you know this dog knew her tricks… even “sit pretty.” We asked her to do it over and over again until we got one of our new favorite photos:
Everyone who works with pets can agree on this: They never stop surprising you, and they never cease to amaze you. Whitney was adopted pretty quickly and we heard from her new mom that she’s doing great in her forever home. Many people think that a dog that shows bad in a cage will have other aggressive behaviors. This simply is not true. The stress that these dogs go through in a shelter environment is abnormal for them and you can’t compare that to how they’ll be when they are in the comfort of a loving home.
We’ve seen it time and time again though… dogs that show badly in a cage (bark too much, jump all over, spin, growl, retreat to the back, shut down) get passed up. Please remember that on your next visit to the shelter looking for “the one”– Don’t judge a dog’s behavior in a cage! Put yourself in their position and think about what they must be thinking.
Furthermore, be smart and ask a staff member or volunteer about the dog. There is a big difference between being nervous of strangers/environment and cage aggression (where they are actually protecting their cage). Most of these dogs just need some time to decompress and are not trying to protect anything other than themselves. If you’ve read an awesome bio on a dog only to visit the shelter and see them acting badly in a cage, ask a staff or volunteer to introduce you to them on a walk. You’ll be amazed at their transition! And if you adopt them… they will only continue to blossom.