Marigold and Clover's journey to a forever home - BC SPCA
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Marigold and Clover’s journey to a forever home

January 7, 2022

Marigold, an Anatolian shepherd mix and Clover, a German shepherd mix, were found living loose on a property. They had never been inside a home and were not socialized.

When they first arrived at the Victoria BC SPCA more than three months ago, Marigold and Clover were hand-shy and untouchable. “They are still quite new to being touched and Clover in particular is still getting comfortable being pet on her back,” says Blaze Fullbrook, shelter attendant – animal behaviour, Victoria BC SPCA. “Marigold tolerates petting on her back, neck, chest, and around her ears. We used desensitization and counter conditioning to pair treats with the approach of hands and eventually with touch so that they associate the yummy treat with hands approaching them.”

Desensitization and counter-conditioning is a type of training that involves finding a level of the trigger a dog can tolerate and repeatedly pairing exposure with something positive like treats, play or attention.

“When dogs grow up isolated from people, it can be a challenge to get them comfortable living in a typical home environment,” says Karen van Haaften, BC SPCA’s senior manager, behaviour and welfare. “Under-socialized dogs often require a lot of time, and slow, careful rewards-based training to help them build trust with people and become comfortable with everyday experiences such as handling, leash walks, and car rides.”

These girls have been in the care of the BC SPCA for over three months now, which is a relatively long time for dogs to be in a shelter. “Special needs dogs may need longer shelter stays to get them ready for adoption,” says Fullbrook.

They are making it as easy as possible for Marigold and Clover by housing them in a separate wing of the shelter so they aren’t exposed to barking. The dogs have a strict routine and schedule to give them structure. An enrichment program provides them with daily novelty and a variety of volunteers interact with Marigold and Clover to help them get used to people with different physical characteristics.

“Marigold and Clover have come so far,” says Larissa Johnston, assistant manager, Victoria BC SPCA. “We can totally see their potential.”

They are working on getting the girls accustomed to playing by introducing them to toys, which are new to Marigold and Clover. “We leave toys in the kennel for the dogs to explore at their own pace,” says Fullbrook. “Eventually Clover started to chew on toys and then engage in play with Marigold.”

Fullbrook says that shortly after that Marigold also started playing with toys when she was alone. Their favorite game is to play in the gym and Clover plays ‘keep away’ with the toys, making Marigold chase her.

When they are ready for adoption Johnston says they will need a guardian who understands and respects Marigold and Clover’s boundaries. They will need to be patient, gentle and above all kind. The dogs are not used to being around bikes, buses and cars and their forever home will need to expose them to new people, places, and things slowly and to continue positive reinforcement training as they get used to all of the sights and sounds on streets and in homes.

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