No More Shying Away: Rex’s Rehabilitation Story
Rex’s future was bleak when he arrived at the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society. He had spent his life in a small cage with little hope for a future. Rex was the most timid dog in the group. He was unsure of himself, people, and other dogs. Our animal care team knew it would take dedication and time to encourage him to come out of his shell.
Even something as basic as doorways made Rex uncomfortable. The animal care team had to formulate a plan if Rex was ever going to thrive in a home environment. They invested countless hours encouraging positive associations with doorways. By leaving food and treats in the doorways, they slowly built Rex’s confidence and trust.
When Rex would go into his kennel, it was very difficult to get him to come back out. That was his safe space. His care team tried luring him out with high value treats, but it wasn’t working. When they realized that Rex had become friends with another dog at the animal centre, they started walking that dog by Rex’s kennel to encourage him to come out and build positive associations.
Leashes were another problem for Rex – one that would prevent him from being adopted. Animal behaviour experts at the Ontario SPCA realized it was the feeling of having a collar around his neck that terrified Rex. By using a harness instead of a collar with his leash and associating the leash with something positive like walk times, Rex became more comfortable.
In addition to his routine daily care, the animal care team devoted 15 minutes three to four times each day to work on modifying Rex’s behaviour. In addition to those short training sessions, they spent about an hour a day building his confidence levels through fun play-based activities. By the end of the week, they had invested about 14 hours into his rehabilitation in between caring for other animals. But they never gave up, and they slowly began to see the transformation.
“He was very nervous and shy of new people in the beginning. It was obvious he was worried of his environments,” says Megan Holmes, Animal Behaviour Coordinator at the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society. “But even when he was scared, he was very friendly and sweet. His confidence was building and he started to really love walks.”
Learning to be a dog again
Megan says that as the team worked to build up Rex’s confidence, they saw him start to come out of his shell as he learned how to be a dog. They encouraged him to play and introduced him to toys. The once shy and skittish dog began to play bow and wag his tail – signs of a happy dog!
After four weeks in the care of Ontario SPCA, Rex had progressed so well in his rehabilitation that the team wanted to find him a foster home to continue to encourage those skills and teach him how to be a dog in a home. Two weeks into his time in foster care, Rex was adopted by his foster parent, Phill, who fell in love.
Phill says it means a lot to know he’s given Rex a new home after all he’s been through.
“He never really had a chance. But he just gets to be a dog now,” Phill says. “He’s a real companion, and someone for me to focus on right now. I can refocus my energies on him, and it’s positive.”
Playing with toys and running around is now an average day for Rex. It’s the second chance that he almost never had.
“Rehabilitation really does change an animal’s life,” says Megan. “Putting in the time and effort from knowledgeable professionals who are really able to tailor the individual plans for each animal gives them the second chance they deserve.”
For dogs like Rex, rehabilitation can make all the difference. Once built, the Provincial Dog Rehabilitation Centre will give dogs like Rex the opportunity to receive specialized behavioural rehabilitation tailored to their specific needs. Imagine the possibilities of a place where dogs who need extra support can go for emotional and physical rehabilitation – a healing place custom-built for the unique needs of dogs who need more support than a regular animal centre can provide.
You can help change the lives of dogs like Rex. Help us make the Provincial Dog Rehabilitation Centre a reality.
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