Mandatory Introductions at Shelters?
I’ll be doing a Webinar for the ASPCA this Thursday (January 9th, 3 tp 4:30 PM Eastern) titled “Multi-Dog Households: From First Date to After the Honeymoon.” One of the topics I’ll be discussing is the “mandatory introduction” policy of many shelters and rescue groups, in which dogs can’t be adopted unless the resident dog is brought into the shelter to meet the potential adoptee.
This issue has received a lot of attention recently, especially after Dr. Emily Weiss’s article suggesting that mandatory adoption policies should be dropped. I hope you can join us for the webinar, but either way, I’d love to hear if you’ve had an experience with a policy that required a mandatory introduction.
Here is a summary of some of my thoughts about the issue:
1. PREDICTIVE? Most mandatory introductions appear to be motivated by a desire to ensure that the dogs will get along. However, Dr. Weiss is absolutely correct that the contexts (shelter versus home, short term versus long term) are so different that the predictive value is not what we would like it to be. I’ve had scores of clients whose dogs “did well” at the shelter, but ended up fighting at home. On the other hand, I suspect there are probably a number of dogs who exhibit some form of aggressive behavior during a first meeting who would be fine once they’ve settle down. I know of no research that actually tells us how predictive these first meetings actually are. Anyone looking for a PhD topic?
2. DO THE INTRODUCTIONS FOLLOW BEST PRACTICES? In the webinar I’ll talk about best practices for introducing unfamiliar dogs, and in my experience many shelters or rescue groups can’t replicate those conditions. Most critical are lots of room and space for the dogs to maneuver in, lots of choices for the dogs to make, and a lack of social pressure (no humans breathlessly hovering).
One of the reasons this is an important issue is the number of people (shelter staff included) who tell me they would never be able to take their dog to the shelter to meet a potential housemate. Indeed, I’d never take Willie to a shelter to meet a new dog: He would be overwhelmed by the sounds and smells of so many other dogs, and it would be the worst possible environment for him to meet a potential new friend. What about you and your dogs?
3. BENEFITS? Introductions with dog-savy professionals have a lot of benefits too, including modeling how best to introduce dogs, knowledge of the behavior of the new dog, a chance to talk about how to manage the first couple of hours in a specific home, and assistance reading canine body language.
Needless to say, this is one of the wonderful topics that seems small and focused, but that actually encompasses a wide variety of issues. I hope you join us for the webinar, and/or tell us your experiences here with introducing a new dog to your resident dog.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: 20 below this morning, and windy. Even Willie couldn’t stand it outside, he pottied, and immediately began his stress-face frowning while he picked up his paws. Tootsie was the star, and hopefully you’ll all forgive me for bragging about her behavior this morning. (Non-dog people couldn’t possibly understand, but I think you will…) My little puppy mill dog, who wouldn’t set foot outside if it was even slightly damp when we got her, hesitated for a second at the doorway, and then ran to me when I called, peed on cue instantly, danced a little dance as if proud of herself–eyes shining and tail wagging furiously, and then ran with me back to the house. I realize this all might seem trivial, but I’ve had numerous discussions over the weekend with people about getting their dog out to potty in this weather. There are no small number of dogs who are, as I write, peeing on a pad/newspaper/carpet in somebody’s house right now. Forgive me again, but it made my heart all warm and gushy to see Tootsie respond to her training so well.
Here’s a photo of the sky this weekend, early in the morning. I love the pattern of the clouds. No way I’m going out and taking any pictures today!