This year I have had an influx of cases that started their life as 'street dogs' from Romania, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Poland.
The problems are all very similar and most of the owners have been first time dog owners....
So what are the problems...........well most are reactive to people and have ranged from reactive barking to biting and puncturing the skin causing wounds, bruising and worried or scared owners not knowing what to do.
This piece is not meant to be a moan about dogs coming over from abroad (although there are thousands of dogs in UK rescue centres looking for homes) but more about some of the issues I have seen and are you prepared for them or what might be.
Why do people get imported dogs? they tend to be 'cute' they are not like the rows of staffies seen up for rehoming in the UK and there is a constant supply of puppies along with the emotions pull of stating these dogs will be put to sleep if they don't get homes in the next week! Some of the importing organisations do not do the proper checks needs that UK rescues do and are more likely to give you a dog. Bear in mind that these dogs normally haven't lived in a home, had any behavioural assessment or had a chance to be visited for you to get to know them properly before taking them on.
So if I said to you, I'll give you a dog, you wont know what personalities his or her parents had, but hey are likely to be nervous, scared and can display reactive barking a lot would that make you think? If I also said the dog wasn't behaviourally assessed by a suitable person as they have been in a kennel or compound would that make you consider how it will cope in a home? If I told you the likelihood of that nervous dog becoming a problem to visitors or people that walk pass when you go to the park would that make you consider. These are all comments I've had from owners of street dogs, saying, if only I knew what I was getting.
So the main issue tends to be that these dogs are nervous and of course this is terribly sad but why are they nervous. Street dogs are wary of people, some people may bring them food if they are nice humans, but if they are not nice they bring some pretty horrible experiences and this is where they learn that humans can't be trusted. Most of the street dogs have a good bond with the immediate family but anyone else seems to bring problems and sometimes it doesn't matter if they have met that person before they still wont trust them.
Dogs like us learn by experience and if your mum barked at everyone that got close then the puppies learn to do the same and before you know it we have a reactive puppy that quickly develops to reactive dog that is louder, bigger and no signs of being friendlier. Sometimes its not just people that your dog may react towards, it can be noises... a street dog may not come from a busy town centre and be comfortable with everyday noises, these may scare your dog and this is very stressful for them to live in a loud and noisy environment. They may also not be adequately socialised with other dogs and start to be reactive to them as well. All this takes a lot of work from you to gently coax them to be more confident dogs and show them how to behave in a way that gets them rewards and never punish them.
It is likely that this training will be throughout the life of your rescue dog... the same can be said for any dog as we will always find new or odd experiences and have to teach them how to cope. However, there does seem to be a pattern of first time dog owners getting these dogs and I would say that even the most experience dog owners would struggle. I certainly wouldn't take a street dog on....my life is quite unstructured and this would not help a dog that needs confidence building and a lot of time to put towards training.
If you are thinking of getting a street dog or puppy them please do some research I would be happy to help you with this. If you have a street dog and need help then of course I can help but be aware this is a long old road you'll be on....there are no quick fixes.