Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Dogs Trust Loughborough - Sadie's Diary

Sadie is a 6 year old Jack Russell Terrier who transferred to the care of the Loughborough centre in May from our Newbury centre. This is the story of her settling in to our care and getting to know all the important new people in her life.

Sadie arrived with us late on a Wednesday evening with Sophia the Training and Behaviour Advisor for Dogs Trust Newbury. Sadie has been living at the Newbury for a little while, waiting for the perfect home to come along. We decided a transfer to Loughborough to give her a new audience of potential adopters and to assist her rehabilitation following an injured cruciate. At Loughborough we have a fully equipped hydrotherapy suite and full time veterinary hydro therapist.  
On her arrival Sadie was taken down and settled in to her new kennel in our intake block. This is the area of the site where all new arrivals have the chance to settle in and find their feet. It is a quieter block with a small group of staff members meaning the dogs can settle in and bond with people.

On Thursday it was time to be introduced to myself, Heather, the TBA for Loughborough. Sadie met me out on a walk where I woo’d her with yummy pieces of hot dog. She was soon choosing to walk by my side instead of her old friend Sophia’s in the hope that I would throw her a tasty treat again. Later that day we took her out for another walk and showed her round the centre. I was able to take the lead this time and return Sadie to her kennel. She was more than happy to have me handle her closely to unclip the lead and seems to like her new surroundings. 

Friday came around quickly for Sadie and she was still fast asleep when we arrived on the intake block in the morning and greeted us yawning and stretching her legs. Me and Sadie were now firm friends and able to go for walks and spend time together without Sophia as our chaperone. This is a big deal for Sadie as she spent so long at her previous centre being handled by familiar staff members. In the afternoon we introduced her to our Homework House where she had a whale of a time emptying the toy box and selecting something to carry back to her kennel. Homework House is a fully functioning home environment that we use to give dogs a break from kennels. It is the perfect place for a nervous dog like Sadie to learn a new strategy for greeting visitors to the home and this is something we will teach her once she has settled in. 

In the afternoon Sadie was introduced to Kym and Grace who work in the intake block. She met them in the kitchen and we made sure they had yummy treats for her.
Saturday morning we waved goodbye to Sophia who drove back to Newbury after her visit. Sadie has settled in very well at the centre and didn’t seem to notice she had gone! She has bonded very quickly with me and we are firm friends now.

During the first week of any dog’s stay with us we are assessing their temperament and character and building up a picture of what sort of home the dog is looking for in the future. We do not put the dog through a series of rigid tests, it is more of a fluid process of simply observing their reactions to a variety of different situations, people, other dogs and things dogs can value highly such as treats and toys.
It was soon clear that Sadie’s driving passion in life is toys. The noisier the better!

As Sadie is such a worried little girl and has a history of being scared of the vets she has been enjoying some fun introductions to our veterinary suite and Emily our vet. Here she is enjoying some peanut butter as part of the bonding process!

Here Sadie is learning to jump on the scales for a reward. We will have to minus off the weight of her toy duck though……….


Sadie has been enjoying gradual introductions to Carol-Ann our hydro and physiotherapist. At first Sadie was simply going up to the hydro suite to get familiar with the room and to meet Carol-Ann and get used to her voice, smell and learn that she gets lots of tasty treats in the meantime.

She is a fast learner and soon worked out where the treats are stored……

Sadie’s introductions to Carol-Ann went much faster than we had anticipated and within three sessions was so comfortable with the space and the noise of the treadmill that she was brave enough to try on the treadmill with some shallow water. Carol has developed lots of ways to handle the dogs and encourage them to swim in a hands-off manner. This helps nervous dogs like Sadie not to become worried by the experience and ensures she always feels confident in Carol-Ann’s company. 

Long term dogs or dogs with specific training needs have assigned handlers who work with the dog as a project. The photographs above show Sadie meeting her project handler Jake for the first time. He is meeting her in a place that we know she feels comfortable and happy, one of our exercise runs filled with sand that is great fun to dig and roll in! Jake uses food rewards to make positive associations with spending time around him. Jake is throwing the food on the ground so that she does not have to take it from his hand, as leaning forwards to feed her may make her feel worried that he is crowing her personal space and she may panic if she is too close to a new person too quickly. In between each treat she comes closer to him and makes eye contact and he praises her and throws another treat in her direction.

Sadie has now completed her assessment and we feel we have got to know her really well and know what makes her tick. During her settling in period we have ensured she has built strong relationships with many of our Canine Carers but we have focused on the most important people in her new life her at Loughborough. Myself as her Training and Behaviour Advisor, Jake her project handler, Carol-Ann her hydro therapist and of course the vet team. By practising all these introductions we have it down to a fine art and we are ready to introduce Sadie to her new family.

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