The Importance of Story Time

Okay, not actual story time – just simple quiet time is what I’ll be talking about today, but it’s the same idea. Quiet time with people can be just as important for shelter dogs as getting out of their runs and exercising.

Stress in animals can be gauged by measuring levels of the glucocorticoid cortisol. Cortisol is released by animals in times of stress, meant to be used as a body’s way to combat sudden environmental changes and other stress-inducing situations. Prolonged exposure to stress, however, causes elevated levels of cortisol over long periods of time, which begins to have a negative impact on the body. Prolonged elevated cortisol levels in animals can lead to illness, behavior changes, depression and more.

It’s no secret that the shelter environment is stressful for dogs. That is why progressive shelters these days are doing so much to try to combat the negative toll that shelter stays inevitably have on many dogs by implementing enrichment, play groups and, of course, human interaction. A study in the journal Physiology & Behavior was published about the effect of human interaction on shelter dogs. Not surprisingly, human contact is essential to helping shelter dogs stay more mentally stable.

We’ve begun to realize though that maybe it shouldn’t always be “runrunrun let’s get your energy out!” when folks have the opportunity to take shelter dogs out of their kennels. Exercise is necessary to help dogs alleviate their pent up energy, but it can sometimes be so stimulating that it has the opposite effect of what we want (a calm, happy dog). Quiet time with people is a great way to give dogs the human attention they crave while teaching them to be calm and relaxed.

Settling down doesn’t always come naturally to dogs, especially in an environment as hectic as a shelter. Having some quiet time with shelter pups gives them an opportunity to practice being settled in the presence of a human. Think about it – if humans always mean getting jazzed up and excited and rambunctious (how lots of shelter dogs react when they first get out of their kennels), that’s not going to show so well to potential adopters, is it? If getting out of your kennel sometimes means cozying up with a volunteer and a good book, then a dog is less likely to develop the habit of becoming crazed at the thought of being with a human.¬† Plus, back to the main point of writing this – quiet time can help to reduce stress!

When we bring shelter dogs at work back to our cubes to hang out, we are giving them an opportunity to relax. Not only are they escaping the loud kennels for a bit, but they are practicing calm behaviors and being settled. Sometimes we help them achieve a zen state of mind by providing a long lasting chewable like a bully stick or a stuffed Kong, and sometimes they are just so happy to be out of the kennels that the zonk out right away! Check out adoptable S’mores enjoying her time with us in the office today. Another perk of quiet time: you discover adorable traits like being a total lap dog!

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Quiet time can be in the form of reading time (many shelters are implementing reading time with kiddos – how cool is that!), massage time or just plain old belly rub time. Spend my time cuddling with shelter dogs for their own good? Don’t mind if I do!