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Stephenville, Newfoundland, Canada
SCAPA is a NO-kill, NO-cage animal shelter serving the Bay St. George area of Western Newfoundland. SCAPA survives solely on the support of the community and it's volunteers.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Dog Behaviour at SCAPA

It has recently come to my attention that there is a common misconception about our dogs at SCAPA and their behaviour. As someone who is very interested in dog training and behaviour I would like to address this issue and clear up any concerns that may prevent people from adopting one of our great four-legged friends.

Misconception: Our dogs bark when people approach therefore they are aggressive.

This is not the case. Yes, our dogs do bark when people approach the shelter. This is typical dog behaviour and is NOT a sign of aggression.

Dogs bark for a number of reasons, some of the main reasons our dogs bark are as follows:

Territorial Barking: Bottom line, SCAPA is their territory. Their home. They bark to alert others (dogs and workers) to the presence of visitors. While there isn't a single aggressive dog at SCAPA, we do have a few shy dogs who are afraid of strangers due to their past circumstances. These shy dogs engage in territorial barking as a way of alerting you to stay away from them. However, with a little attention and showing them you mean no harm they will warm up to you.

Attention Seeking Barking: This is as straight forward as it sounds, some dogs bark at people or other animals to gain attention or rewards, like food, toys or play. Rewarding this behaviour will encourage this type of barking.

Greeting Barking: Some dogs bark simply to say hello. You can generally tell this is a greeting bark by his body language; relaxed, wagging tail, excited behaviour.

Socially Facilitated Barking: Some dogs will bark because they hear other dogs barking. Dogs are social animals and this is very natural. At SCAPA we currently have 14 dogs. So when one begins to bark most of the others begin to join in. They may even do this when they hear dogs barking off in the distance.

All of these behaviours are also seen in most dogs, not just shelter dogs. While training can reduce the amount of barking, it will NOT eliminate barking altogether. Barking is a way of communication for a dog, like speaking is for us, and to expect them to never bark is not only unrealistic, but it is a denial of their very nature. For those who expect a dog never to bark I suggest that you re-consider owning a dog. Please keep in mind that certain breeds are more inclined to bark than others. For some it is part of what they were bred to do. It is hard-wired within them, it is instinct. And training NEVER trumps instinct.

(Please note that because of the number of dogs we have and the nature of a shelter we do not do barking related training with our dogs. This type of training is best done once a dog has been adopted into a forever home.)

If you are interested in adopting any of our dogs and have concerns about their behaviour please inform us so that we can address the issue and clear up any misconceptions you may have. Often times meeting the dog is enough to show you how friendly and harmless our dogs are. If you would like to meet one of our dogs we can set up a time to do so. You can even take the dog on a walk to get to know him/her a little better.

If you do not know what a behaviour means, do not assume. Find out!

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