Our dogs have been rescued from different situations. We take in many cases of abuse, from dogs who have been chained up their entire lives with collars biting into their necks, to groups of dogs confined to tiny cages, gardens, or sheds. We have taken in female dogs who’ve had litters of puppies twice a year since they were nine months old, living on the street and scared of human contact. We also have friendly, happy dogs who have been abandoned or whose owners have passed away. We have taken in tiny puppies dumped at the roadside, and mothers who have just given birth and are too exhausted to run away, finally brought here with their babies to safety and comfort.
Each dog has a different story - but they all come together at Street Hearts BG, where we work to rehabilitate them and help to find them furever homes.
We will give you as much information as possible about your adopted Street Heart, but here is some general insight on what to expect from a Street Hearts dog, as well as some basic training tips.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM A STREET HEARTS BG DOG
Our dogs are well socialised with dogs, cats, and our horse. We will let you know if any dog chases cats. The unique benefit of the free-run nature of our shelter is that the dogs experience constant interaction in a large space with no competition over food or resources. As a result, our dogs have good manners and, for the most part, are observant and respectful of other dogs and play very well with others.
Our dogs are generally calm and patient around food due to the fact that food is available from many sources throughout the day at our centre. You can continue with this style or feed as you wish. Street dogs are very adaptable and will adjust, or they may dictate their own preferences. Some dogs will only want to eat once a day, whereas others may prefer to 'graze' throughout the day. Use common sense and keep an eye on their weight.
Occasionally, some dogs may demonstrate mild food aggression around new animals. This can be as a result of having had bouts of starvation or times when food has been scarce or competed for. These dogs simply need to be fed in a safe place where other animals won’t make them feel insecure. A few months of eating without competition, with nothing being taken away from them, should help them to relax around food when other animals are present.
We feed our dogs dry food with a good protein content. Most street dogs aren’t fussy but we recommend a grain free diet or sensitive diet on arrival, as upset tummies are not uncommon during the first few days in a new environment. A good probiotic, such as Pro Kolexin or Canikur pro paste, usually resolves this problem. Once your dog has settled and his / her poops are normal, you can then start to introduce the diet of your choice.
As a general rule, street dogs initially seem to respond better to women than men. Please do not take this personally! They are simply responding as a result of the experiences they have lived through so far. If your dog does happen to react in a negative way towards men, you simply need to change their experience! Once they begin to receive treats and praise from men, their reactions will also change. You may want to try having a man sit on the ground, using a light and happy voice to talk to your dog whilst offering treats and avoiding eye contact. This will help the dog to realise that men are not a threat, and also help them to feel secure and gain confidence. Once a street dog trusts you, they will be grateful, loyal, and your friend for life!
Affection and Separation Anxiety
Every dog is different. Some dogs want affection and attention all of the time, whereas others are more reserved and cuddles will be on their own terms. We will advise you regarding your dog’s character and make sure they are the right fit for you. Separation anxiety is not common in street dogs but it can be created by never leaving them alone and letting them develop a dependence on your presence. It is strongly advised that you routinely leave them to their own devices for periods throughout the day. Giving them chews and safe toys can assist with separation. Street Heart BG dogs are used to sleeping outside and away from humans, so there should be no problem if you start this early on.
“A tired dog is a good dog.” This is just as true for street dogs as it is for pedigrees! Giving your dog enough exercise will help to strengthen your bond and reduce any bored or frustrated behaviour in the home. Dogs love being outside and will love you forever if you spend time outside with them.
New situations may take some time to adjust to. The Street Hearts BG shelter is located in a remote area, so the dogs experience of crowds, traffic, and trains is limited. Where possible, we will take dogs to our town in order to acclimatise to these noises and sights, but there may be a period of learning and adjustment when your dog comes to you.
Older dogs are often calmer and have had more life experience, meaning that they usually adjust to new situations quite quickly. Some puppies may have missed out on crucial learning periods before they came to us and will take time to grow in confidence. Those born at our centre, or who have been kept with their mother, are more likely to be confident and deal well with new situations.
At times, rescue dogs can take a little time to bond with their new human families but, when they do, you will have a companion for life.
THE FIRST FEW WEEKS
Our dogs travel to you in a van over several days. They will have left behind everything they know and the freedom to run around with their friends, so the first few days can be bewildering and disorientating. Street dogs are infinitely adaptable and will come around quickly. We recommend for the first few weeks that you keep your dog’s environment as calm as possible and take things slowly. Avoid overexposure to excessive stimuli, such as children’s parties. Also, never force affection on scared animals; simply allow them to approach you in their own time once they feel comfortable and secure.
There may be a loss of appetite during the first few days if the dog feels a little unsettled. Please do not worry or create too much fuss around meals. Place the food with them in a safe place and let them eat as and when they want to. We handfeed our dogs during training, so this may help them to eat and create a bond with you if they are not eating on their own. A hungry dog will eat eventually, so don’t worry!
Making a Safe Space
We strongly advocate having a crate for your dog, especially when they’re getting to know a new home and family. It offers a safe space away from anything noisy or visitors they’re not yet ready to meet. A crate can also be used to ensure that your dog doesn’t get into trouble when unsupervised.
The crate must never be used as punishment, only as a place of calm and safety. Placing blankets over it can increase the sense of a ‘den’, which most street dogs will appreciate. Occasionally, we have dogs with a history of confinement and abuse or neglect that will not take well to crates, but we will advise you on the special nature of these cases and work to find the best home for them.
We use nylon slip leads for lead training and the dogs are used to them. They are cheap and simple tools that allow for clear communication between you and your dog when walking. Please do not let your Street Heart off the lead until you are confident with their recall. Street dogs can be easily spooked by loud noises and large or fast objects at first and will run much faster than you! We recommend the use of a long trailing lead (10m) when gaining confidence with recall. It gives the dog the feeling of freedom of movement and then, if they are ignoring your commands or running off, you should be able to stop them by standing on or picking up the line.
Harnesses are actually easier to slip than a collar that is the right tightness. If a dog panics and rolls around they can wriggle out of harnesses and they are then much more difficult to catch. Dogs also respond much better to lead work when on a collar, not a harness.
Dogs should never be tied up outside shops or on their own without supervision or training.
Prey Drive and Squirrels
Bulgaria has deer and, occasionally, our dogs will chase after one. However, we don’t have squirrels. Therefore, if you adopt a Street Hearts BG dog and live in a country where squirrels reside, please be aware that many of our dogs are descended from hunting breeds and have high predator drives. Squirrels are irresistible to most dogs, so please be aware of this and keep your dogs under close control near roads and in parks with no fences. You can also work with a trainer to reduce prey drive if it becomes problematic. The easiest way is to structure walks with exciting playtime, work with treats and praise, and make yourself the focus, not the fluffy, tempting squirrel.
Please attend puppy or obedience classes, or employ a one-to-one trainer if you are not confident teaching these skills on your own. A few early sessions will likely make all of the difference and set you and your Street Heart on the right path together.
We use positive methods when training our dogs, so use of treats and praise is recommended. Our dogs are usually food orientated so, in order to get the best out of your dog, make sure you have plenty of high value treats in your pockets when training. Toys are slightly alien to street dogs but, if you persist and create fun interactive games with them, then they may eventually come around.
Passport, Vaccinations, and Microchips
You must change the details of your dog’s microchip (all details can be found within your dog’s passport) through PetLog UK so that you are the registered owner of your dog. This is a legal requirement and also means that you can be contacted if your dog is lost and then found.
Your pet passport must be taken to the vet in order to keep up-to-date with vaccinations. If you wish to travel with your dog, the rabies vaccination will also need to be kept up-to-date as well as the standard annual vaccinations.
STREET HEARTS BG PROMISE
Furthermore, we are always on hand to give advice where we can. If your dog displays any problematic behaviour, please get in touch. It is not a failure! Every dog adapts differently and early intervention with challenging behaviour will prevent long-term issues.