Monday, March 21, 2011

Handling the Lonely Dog In the Kennel

As a kennel owner, I teach my staff to be sensitive to when a dog seems “blue”.

Beginner level: shaking, continued barking, hiding in the corner are all obvious symptoms of a scared, lonely, stressed pooch. The number of kennels I’ve been in where these behaviors are handled as “normal” dismays me.

As part of training for kennel workers, we need to teach staff to notice these behaviors. It surprised me to learn how many people think that is just the way dogs are away from home.

We cannot take it for granted that our dog loving staff sees the stressed out behavior or knows what to do. In my book, once I’ve trained you to recognize and respond to the dog’s needs, if you don’t; you will want to work elsewhere.

Beginner level action: sit in the yard with a scared dog until the dog trusts you enough to approach you. When singing or talking to a dog, watch the dog’s response. The more you watch, your preconceived notions become dispelled.

Newcomers to dogs all think they know everything based on experience with a handful of dogs. It always takes a few teachable moments before people become open to really listening. The sooner a new hire realizes that they don’t know as much as they think they do; the quicker real training can begin.

During this phase it’s best to ask the newbie questions to stimulate their observational skills. “What position was the dog’s tail in?” always gets a, “Huh?” “Which dog controlled that exchange?” frequently gets, “What do you mean?”

Your superior skill at handling dogs is no guarantee that a newbie will follow your advice. My mouth flew open, when I heard a girl say, “When I’ve done this as long as you, I’ll be able to do that.” She wasn’t listening while I was trying to teach her something, so I don’t know how she thought improvement would come.

It takes those aha moments before we are ready to learn. I find that asking questions is more productive with most newbies. It seems to open the mind quicker.

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