Aoife Harkin spoke to Cheltenham Animal Shelter’s Chief Behaviorist Rosie Taylor-Trigg, who gave her expert advice on animal needs and reminded prospective owners of the responsibilities of dog ownership .
Rosie is one of two teams of behaviorists at the shelter founded in 1926. She began volunteering with rescue dogs after dealing with her own anxiety issues and hasn’t stopped since.
Alongside his colleague, his job is to conduct behavioral assessments of each dog in their care and uses this information to support their well-being and match them with suitable owners. When animals arrive at the shelter, their most common state is usually nervousness, which usually manifests as growling or hiding.
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“The sudden surge of stress can cause them to become a bit of a shell,” Rosie explains. “But we work very holistically, going at their own pace to install them.”
During her five years working there, Rosie became known to all residents of the Refuge. She introduced Rowan, an eight-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who was brought in from another reception centre.
Free to move, he immediately jumped up to the nearest person to say hello and, guided by his nose, began to scan the room for hidden treats. Having failed in his mission, he trotted between the seats, this time seeking some much-needed attention.
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A dog of his breed is often considered dangerous and tends to spend more time looking for homes than dogs like Labradors or smaller breeds like pugs.
“Collies are massively misunderstood; they need a lot of coaching and research. People think they’re good with young children, but that’s not always the case.
“The media don’t help; they are working dogs and need a lot more mental stimulation. That doesn’t mean they’re not an option, but you really have to think about it.”
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Over the past few months, the shelter has seen more dogs brought into their care.
In many cases, these dogs come from some of the 3.2 million households that purchased a pet during the series of lockdowns. With owners struggling to care for their dogs once life returns to normal.
So how do you know if it’s the right decision to make? Rosie emphasizes the importance of commitment and learning flexibility:
“Patience is key and being willing to listen to advice. You need to think about your job and consider whether a dog would fit into your daily routine.
” You have to be reasonable. Do you have time? Are you in the right physical environment – who has access to walks?
“Are you likely to change your lifestyle in the next five years? Do you have the money for the vet bills? »
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Dog adoption advocate Rosie says it’s “an ethically nice thing to do” and gives them “a chance for a second life”. She added: ‘Adoption gives you ongoing advice, animals are microchipped and support is provided for those who need it.’
She herself saved Archie, a staffy-boxer crossbreed, who lived the rest of his life under her care.
“I just fell in love,” she says. “It was the best one-handed decision of my life.”
For more information about Cheltenham Animal Shelter and ways to show your support, click here.
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