How to be kind to the shelter dogs when you visit

We would like to share some Do’s and Don’t’s with you for when you visit the dogs in the SPCA HC’s kennel area. We strongly prefer to bring dogs out for you to meet in the play yard or on a walk, because the kennel area is a stressful place for the dogs and they don’t always show their best selves in the kennel. However, we understand that many people want to be able to view the dogs in their kennels. Here are some things you can do to help reduce the dogs’ stress when you visit!

PLEASE OBEY POSTED SIGNS – SOME AREAS STAFF ONLY. We like to hope this one is easy to follow – but sometimes people don’t realize there are signs! We put up a No Entry sign at the entrance to the Dog Adoption kennel area during feeding time, so that the dogs can eat with minimal disturbance. Our Dog Adoption area has two segments, and sometimes you may find that the door to the further segment is closed with a Staff Only sign. We do this to give dogs who are stressed by visitors a quiet place to calm down. These dogs are typically still available for adoption, and if you ask we will be happy to tell you about them and bring them out to meet you! Please DO NOT enter the outer kennel areas, as per signage.

Don’ts:

  1. Don’t open the kennel doors. If you would like to meet a dog, request staff assistance.
  2. Don’t put your fingers (or other objects) into the kennels! How would you like someone sticking something into your personal space? Not very much, we suspect! The dogs don’t appreciate it either.
  3. Don’t stare directly at the dogs. Direct eye contact/staring is an aggressive action in dog language. Instead, turn your side toward the kennel and look briefly. If the dog looks worried or starts to bark, look away and keep walking.
  4. Don’t linger in front of a dog who seems worked up. The more they bark, jump, or growl, the more stressed they become. Please remember that these dogs have many people walking by their kennels, and many of them feel trapped and anxious while you’re looking at them.
  5. Don’t tease a dog with a treat! Please choose to either give a treat to a dog who is quiet/calm, or don’t show them a treat at all. It’s not fair to dangle a cookie in front of their face and make them wonder whether they get to have it or not!
  6. Don’t ask a dog to sit more than once. Many of the dogs know how to sit – when they feel calm and relaxed. If the dog doesn’t sit after you ask the first time, assume that they either don’t know what you are asking for or they are too overwhelmed to respond. Repeating the cue doesn’t help in this situation. If you would like to see what tricks a dog knows, please ask us to introduce you to them outside the kennel, where they have a better chance of success.

Do’s:

  1. Do keep children calm, quiet, and near you. We recommend introducing children and dogs in the play yard or on a walk with the assistance of a staff member, but you can bring your children through the kennel area if they follow the same rules as adults. The kennel area can be loud, and some children find this scary or overwhelming. There are earplugs available.
  2. Do remember that the dogs act differently in the kennel than they do in “real life.” They may be frightened, stressed, or overexcited in the kennel. Once they are outside and have a chance to calm down, even a dog who was barking vigorously in the kennel may be sweet as sugar!
  3. Do ask us questions about the dogs! The best way to find out which one might be a good match for your home is to talk to staff members who know them. We’re happy to bring them out to a play yard and introduce you to them.

Please be aware that evening walks are between 4 and 5 pm.  During this time, we may have limited staff availability to show dogs. You are still welcome to fill out an application, and we’ll be happy to help you find a time for a longer visit!