Volunteer (adult/behavior dogs)

Hi all!

I am a longtime volunteer at a large municipal shelter (Pima Animal Care Center in Tucson, AZ). A number of years ago our shelter started using Trazodone for some of our dogs suffering from kennel stress. They also prescribe Prozac for a few dogs with more specific needs. This has really been a game changer for our dogs and the staff and volunteers who handle them.

As we continue to save more dogs who exhibit more difficult shelter behaviors we are growing our behavior program and learning how best to help the dogs who are most difficult to handle due to kennel stress. These dogs may exhibit frustration over-stimulation, jumpy-mouthy behavior, dog reactivity, barrier reactivity with potential to redirect, leash biting etc. and may require special equipment like hoods, chain leashes and basket muzzles.

Our clinic dispenses meds 2x a day but not always at the same times. For example, they may dispense as early as 6am or as late as 9am in the morning depending on workload and emergencies. We try to work with our most reactive or difficult dogs out as early as possible (doors open to volunteers at 6am) to avoid many other walkers (we don't have separate kennel areas for these dogs and not a lot of quiet places free of dog/people traffic to work with them). So the dogs are often not actively medicated when we are taking them out early and with some dogs it really makes a difference. In the evening we face the same issues. The morning dose has likely worn off and the evening meds haven't been dispensed yet. When meds aren't onboard we really see the difference in some of our highest level behavior dogs. The concern is for increased behavior issues, bite risk and the learning capability of the dog whose stress and arousal level we are trying to keep to a minimum.

For those of you with more developed behavior programs and more difficult to handle dogs, do you experience the same challenges and do you have any solutions to try to mitigate? Many thanks for your thoughts!

  • November 06, 2019 at 09:49 AM

    Hi Christy. At our shelter we have found that when we don't have a quieter place available for the more reactive dogs, a blanket over the front of their kennel (if they don't pull it in and chew it) or an X-Pen with a blanket covering it in front of their kennel has helped them. We also use a little table with treats in a container in front of their kennel since it has been helpful for those who have issues with people going by their kennel. Staff and volunteers working with them IN their kennel and treating them as people and dogs go by helps them create better associations too. I also can't say enough good things about the flower essences we use by Black Wing Farms and found the Witchy Mare formula has worked really well with some of our kids that will randomly explode at the front of the kennel. Wishing you success with all the fur babies there.

    • November 06, 2019 at 01:44 PM

      Thanks for your input!