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Dog days: How the dogs at Cheltenham Animal Shelter work to become perfect pooches

Rosie Taylor-Trigg, animal behaviourist at the shelter, talks to Lois Cooper about all things pets as she works with both dogs – and owners – to make the transition into their forever homes as smooth as possible.

“What’s he up to now?” Rosie laughs as she runs up to Rowan, the friendliest eight-year-old Staffie you’ll ever meet. Having discovered a box of treats in the corner of the room, the black and white ball of energy tries to make a run for it. He’s a big personality for sure.

Rowan is just one of the 650 animals that Cheltenham Animal Shelter rescues and rehomes each year, since opening its doors in 1926. The shelter is the one of the oldest in Gloucestershire and is a charity that relies on public support, fundraisers and grants.

READ MORE: Claim that Cheltenham is UK’s second safest place branded a joke

For the past five years, Rosie has worked at the shelter and does a lot more than just teach dogs how to walk nicely on leads.

When dogs arrive at the shelter, many can be scared and confused, so it is important for the shelter to assess and understand each dog’s needs, to then be able to offer the correct support and get them ready to be rehomed.

“We tend to work very holistically, so we will just take it super slow and at the dog’s pace,” Rosie explains.

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Rosie also does a lot of scent work with the dogs, including Zoopharmacognosy, which means they are given the opportunity to sniff different natural scents. It is believed that, in the wild, dogs seek out these scents from different plants, in order to self-medicate eg for anxiety. Rosie tries to replicate this in the shelter.

“It’s basically dog ​​aromatherapy!” Rosie said.

A big part of getting the dogs ready to go home is preparation. So, in addition to working on any behavioral issues, the shelter also has a ‘faux living room’ which mimics one the dog may experience in their new home and get them used to the sounds and surroundings.

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But it’s not just the dogs, Rosie also works with pre-adoption owners, to be able to set the dog up for its best life and then provides ongoing support once the dog has gone to their home.

“There’s so many rescue dogs out there that there’s almost always the right match, it’s just all part of patience and understanding and we love to see the owners that are willing.”

A reoccurring trait in dogs that Rosie has noticed more recently is separation anxiety, as people are slowly migrating back into the office after working from home.

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In 2021, 3.2 million UK households decided to welcome a pet into their homes, according to the PFMA.

Rosie suggests that desensitization is vital to easing dogs into this transition: “People probably didn’t realize they had to prepare a dog for leaving, but the way they can prepare their dog is to remove leaving triggers. Things like carrying your keys around the house as you make a cup of tea or wearing your coat as you watch TV.”



Cheltenham Animal Shelter relies on the kindness of the local community

One of the recent highlights of Rosie’s time at the shelter was saying goodbye to Thor and Bertie, two of the longest staying residents at the shelter. Initially, Rosie and the team were unsure if they would be able to rehome the pair due to their nervousness. However, after working with them for the entirety of their stay they were able to go to their forever homes.

Being surrounded by dogs for so long in her career, Rosie previously found herself falling in love with her Staffie Boxer cross called Archie: “He was the single-handed best decision I made in life.”

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And when talking more about the dogs at the shelter, Rosie is all for adoption: “With adoption you get a full package, you get support from the Shelter, including vet checks and behavior support and advice.”

But for all the dogs in shelters, adoption makes a world of difference to them. She said: “It’s a nice thing to do. To give a dog another chance at a second life.”

Donate directly to the shelter here. To find out more about adopting a pet visit here.

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