Some dogs do “ok” in a shelter environment and some dogs just start to shut down. There is a common occurrence called “Kennel Crazy” where a dog is literally going stir crazy in their kennel. This is a common occurance for long timers in a shelter. The depression can start as listlessness, drooling, obsessive licking, spinning, cage charging, barking and other destructive behaviors. Life at a shelter can be a jail sentence for a depressed dog. It is very hard to bring a dog back to normal behavior once he crosses over to kennel crazy.
At Mostly Mutts Animal Rescue and Adoption, in Acworth Georgia, we have great volunteers and the majority of our dogs are in foster homes. Our mission is to pull animals from the surrounding animal control, high-kill shelters. Sometimes, we have some long-term residents in the shelter who haven’t found their forever homes and have not been – no fosters available, larger dogs seem to be harder to foster, dog/dog fear or aggression, special needs or a plethora of other reasons.
Dennis, has been in our shelter for a while. He’s a loving and active dog and seems to get along well with other dogs. He can also scale a 6-foot fence and that makes him a bit of a special needs dog. We are lucky that we have so many dedicated volunteers and have four shifts of volunteers a day come in to walk the dogs, clean cages, feed and water, etc. but that doesn’t always prevent a dog like Dennis from getting depressed.
“…when I turned back to head back to the shelter on our walk, he was noticeably upset…he just wanted to keep going,” said Julie Wall, a Mostly Mutts shelter volunteer.
When dogs fall into this depression, it effects their ability to get adopted. The Kennel Crazy can evolve to lunging at cage front, barking at potential adopters, not being able to self sooth. The daily noise and stress of being in a shelter can make it extremely difficult to adjust to a real home life if and when they do get adopted. Even in the best, most comfortable and high-tech shelters, the boredom of being in a smell kennel or crate 20+ hours a day among the chaos of kennel life.
If you can’t foster a dog like Dennis then consider “checking” a dog out at your local shelter. Many shelters have programs where a volunteer can take the shelter dogs on outings. Some of our shelter residents have been hiking up Kennesaw Mountain or Red Top Mountain, boating on Lake Allatoona, or even going to weekend slumber parties at volunteers’ homes who work too many hours during the week.
Exercise, psychological stimulation and plain, old fashioned love are keys to prevent Kennel Crazy. Can you help Dennis or a dog like Dennis in your community? If you are interested in fostering for Mostly Mutts, check out our website.