Our dogs have been rescued from different situations. We take in many cases of abuse: dogs who have been chained up their entire lives, with collars biting into their necks; or groups of dogs confined to tiny cages, gardens or sheds. We have taken in female dogs who have 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 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 them find their happy endings.
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 Heart dog and 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 centre 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 on 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; 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 and nothing being taken away from them should help them relax around food when other animals are present.
We feed dry food with a good protein content. Most street dogs aren’t fussy, but we recommend a raw food diet for those that can and want to offer it to their dogs.
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 some 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 might want to try having a man sit on the ground and using a light and happy voice and avoiding eye contact, offer treats to your dog. This will help the dog realise that men are not a threat and 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 the time; others are more stately and reserved and cuddles will be on their own terms. We will advise on your dogs 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 you bond and reduce any bored or frustrated behaviour in the home. Dogs love being outside and will love you forever if you spend time out there with them.
New situations may take some time to adjust to. The Street Hearts BG centre is in a remote area and so the dogs experience with crowds, traffic and trains is limited. Where possible we will take dogs to our town 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 and adjust well. Some puppies may have missed out on crucial learning periods before they come to us and will take time to be bold. Those born at our centre, or who have been kept with mum, are more likely to be confident and deal well with new situations.
At times, rescue dogs can take a little time to bond, but when they do, you will have a companion for life.
THE FIRST FEW WEEKS
Our dogs travel to you in a van over three 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 dogs environment as calm as possible and that you take things slowly. Avoid over-exposure to excessive stimuli such as childrens' 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 hand-feed when 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: don’t worry!
We strongly advocate having a crate for your dog, especially when 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 and can be used to ensure 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 on the special nature of these cases and work to find the best home for them, or on overcoming their fears. Dogs should never be tied up outside shops or on their own without supervision or training.
We are always on-hand to give advice where we can. If you do develop any issues please get in touch. It is not a failure: every dog adapts differently and early intervention with any challenging behaviour will prevent long-term issues.
We use nylon slip leads for lead training and the dogs are used to them. They are cheap and simple tools that allow for really clear communication between you and your dog when walking. Please do not let your Street Heart off the lead until you are confident with 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 are then much more difficult to catch. Dogs also respond much better to lead work when on a collar, not a harness.
Bulgaria has deer and occasionally our dogs will chase after one in the forests, but we don’t have squirrels. So if you adopt a Street Hearts BG dog and live in a country with squirrels, please be aware that many of our dogs are descended from hunting breeds and have high predator drives. Squirrels are pretty 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 this drive if it is problematic. The easiest way is to structure walks with exciting play time and work with treats and praise to make you 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 the difference and set you and your Street Heart on the right path together.
We use positive training methods so use of treats and praise is recommended. Our dogs are almost all very food orientated so to get the best out of your dog make sure you have plenty on you 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 the microchip (all details in the passport) through PetLog UK so that you are the registered owner of your dog. This is a legal requirement and also means you can be contacted if your dog is lost and then found.
Your pet passport must be taken to the vet to keep up-to-date with vaccinations. If you wish to travel with your dog then the rabies vaccination will need to be kept up-to-date as well as the annual vaccinations.
STREET HEARTS BG PROMISE
We provide life-time support, so if your circumstances change then please let us help you and your Street Hearts BG dog.
Advice from Landela Dogs (Street Hearts BG skivvy and dog behaviour advisor)