The first time I went to do a B&E session with Samson, my impression was that he was a beautiful, gentle boy who was feeling pretty sad. I opened the door to his pen, leash in hand, but he didn’t get up. He looked at me for awhile while I talked to him before finally walking over and letting me clip the leash to his collar.
He walked nicely on leash but wouldn’t make eye contact with me, accept treats, and just didn’t seem to be having a lot of fun. When we sat down in the grass, he did smile while I rubbed his head and back but still wouldn’t look at me and didn’t solicit affection or attention.
Yesterday, I went back for another B&E session, just a short week later, and encountered a changed dog. Samson broke out into a smile when he saw me and stood up and walked over as soon as he saw the leash in my hand. On our walk, he not only made eye contact but smiled up at me often. His stride was completely different and he even pranced and frolicked a few times, clearly out of happiness.
When we stopped for awhile by a shady tree, it was again a completely different experience than the first. He was very happy and responsive, solicited affection, and rolled around on his back like a puppy accepting belly rubs. He was also very into the chicken treats that I’d brought and even sat waiting for more when I went over to give some to the dog in the next pen.
I left thinking to myself, “This is the kind of change that’s going to get him adopted.” A few hours later, Samson went home!
The B&E Team (Behavior & Enrichment) is part of APA!’s Dog Behavior Program. B&E Team members receive training in dog handling and behavior before beginning work with the APA! dogs. They then can pick the dogs up from adoption sites or foster homes to take on “field trips” like hiking, the greenbelt, the park, etc. B&E Team members work on basic commands, skills, manners, socialization, and getting the dogs some much needed exercise & FUN!
We work to prevent behavior issues from developing or escalating as a result of boredom or frustration, to increase adoptdability by giving dogs the social skills and confidence they need to thrive as companion animals, and to ensure they get the physical and mental enrichment they need while living in a shelter environment.
Samson is just one of the many stories that tells me our program is working. He’s a 7 year old dog who’d been medically (infected tooth, heartworm positive, matted coat) and socially/emotionally neglected for a large part of his life. We were able to turn things around and teach him how to enjoy time spent with people.