Curing ‘Kennel Crazy’ Dogs Increases Adoption Chances
GOLDEN, Colo. -- The shelter community calls it “Kennel Crazy,” and it’s one of the leading reasons why an otherwise healthy dog becomes unadoptable.
A kennel crazy dog will often bark and jump uncontrollably, making it drastically less attractive to potential new owners.
But, there is a shelter in Colorado that has found a way to help those dogs, and the program is working miracles with animals that might otherwise be termed the worst of the worst.
At the Table Mountain Animal Center, mornings are filled with an eagerness to start the day.
The shelter’s volunteers and dogs alike are ready to hit the trails in Golden, Colo.
“What I try to do for them is get them out here and get them exercise, and get them out of their pens,” said George Kourkouliotis, a Table Mountain volunteer, who came to walk Eloise and three other dogs.
Eloise is one of several dogs considered to be “long timers,” meaning they have been at the shelter for more than two months.
“The first time I tried to walk her, it was a battle,” said Kourkouliotis.
In fact, Eloise and her three canine companions were at one time struggling to adjust to their new life, and they were failing.
“If you put a dog in a three by five kennel, and the dog lives its life like that for two or three weeks -- they start to experience frustration, depression,” said Nick Fisher, executive director of TMAC. “They’re in jail basically.”
The day-to-day noise and stress at a shelter is a world away from living in a home with a family. This poses greater hardship for dominant breeds.
In Colorado, both Denver and Aurora have banned pit bulls within city limits and that means shelters like Table Mountain have had to take them in.
“Once they go kennel crazy, it’s hard to bring them back behaviorally,” said Fisher. “Depression is the biggest thing. They start drooling, they start licking themselves, creating bid sores -- it’s not a good quality of life for them.”
The solution here is a program that on the surface seems so simple, but it’s giving these dogs a better life while they are here –- and a better chance at being adopted.
“Exercise combats depression, same thing for humans,” said Fisher. “So we get these dogs out, get them exercise.”
If a shelter is like a jail for dogs, then this is a daily dose of probation. It is for those who have hit 30 days at the shelter and the program, called PHAT, stands for psychology, health and training.
The keys to PHAT are exercise, socialization, discipline and affection, but this program differs from others because it’s based on how dogs see the world –- and each other.
“I think that it gives them chance, you know,” said Jennifer Strickland of TMAC. “It helps them maintain both their physical and mental well being.”
One of the shelter’s success stories is Brenda. When she first came to the shelter, she was anxious and agitated, now she’s the shelter sweetheart.
The proof that PHAT has worked can be seen as Brenda sits quietly in her kennel, while she is surrounded by noise and chaos. Now she is much more attractive to a possible new owner.
“You need to get them out so they can have a little free time,” said Kourkouliotis.
The program also utilizes dog “play” time and deals with misbehavior by using “pack” socialization.
Since the program started, 100 dogs have completed it and 80 percent of them have been adopted.
For more information on PHAT and the shelter’s training classes -- visit the Web site tablemountainanimals.org.
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Robin Wallace, Pet Pulse, contributed to this story.
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