How does our pioneering rescue work?
Dogs 4 Rescue is different – that’s why we’ve answered your Kennel-Free questions below.
From sleeping arrangements to dinner time, learn what a dog’s life is here at D4R!
Kennel-free means our dogs live together as a family, or in small packs; they are not housed or locked up in traditional kennels. Sometimes referred to as ‘free-running’ the dogs enjoy a lot more freedom and time together, living, eating, playing, relaxing and sleeping together with their doggie friends.
Happier, more social dogs. Their outdoors time is not just a walk or an hour in a pen, they get more freedom, variation and stimulation over the course of a day. Because they have constant interaction and company, they are well socialised and do not suffer from separation anxiety, kennel-stress, or develop typical reactivity issues while here. Our pack also helps rehabilitate new dogs, teaching them manners and showing them how to trust.
We typically have 40 dogs staying at the rescue at any one time, with many more in our care. At the moment, 20% of dogs living onsite are looking for a forever home, 80% are our Sanctuary Dogs or those needing long-term rehabilitation. This will change when phase 1 of our new site opens this year. We also have many more dogs in our care either in foster homes or on trial across the Greater Manchester area.
Feeding mainly happens in small, supervised groups. As it is routine, we have trained it to be a relatively calm affair and the resident pack teaches any newbies. There is always an extra bowl or two, as they naturally swap around. We supervise every feed and ensure every dog is getting the right amount of nutrition for them. A small number of dogs are best fed alone. This could be if they have any guarding issues or are on special diets, or else take a longer to eat. All dogs are different so this, like much of what we do, is fluid and ever changing depending upon who is here.
Life here is very carefully managed and we know our dogs inside out. We plot their energy and friendship circles, knowing who can co-exist harmoniously together, who will play together, who can relax together and how each dog might react in moments of stress. It’s a fluid situation that can change day by day, occasionally hour by hour. Our dog handlers are constantly observing behaviours and feeding back daily with a happiness scale completed for every dog to give a 360 degree view of their wellbeing.
Just like a human family or group of friends relationships can change. We allow our dogs to be dogs and communicate with each other. Bad combinations are avoided and petty squabbles are interrupted when they are low level to prevent any escalation. The pack want to be harmonious and as long as they know they can rely on us to keep things safe and calm they get on with playing or relaxing. A handful of our dogs don’t thrive in large pack situations but every single dog here has at least two doggy friends. New arrivals are greeted by our welcoming committee, a selection of gentler energy, non-reactive dogs who like making new friends or will be indifferent to their arrival. The way our trusted pack behaves with a new dog gives us so much information.
The dogs have communal log cabins and rooms in our house and caravans where they sleep together at night. After a good day’s play most are pooped and we don’t hear a peep all night. For newbies or more feral dogs they also have halfway house log cabins where they can be inside or out. This stops them feeling trapped and as soon as they learn bedtime treats are on offer, they naturally start to follow the others inside. If a dogs needs extra love or has had an operation we will take them to bed with us at night. Dogs may be in different sleeping groups than their daytime group, again all determined by our experience and knowledge of the pack. Some of our more feral dogs like to be outside at night but they always have access to shelter.
Street dogs are fantastic at reading each other’s body language and generally want to live harmoniously. They often teach the UK dogs socialisation skills and better doggie manners. But most of these dogs have never known toys and many have had little to no contact with people. The UK dogs teach them how to play and our stable pack helps them learn to be a dog again. Traumatised dogs who have shut down and come to us for rehabilitation will sit and watch the other dogs and eventually start copying their behaviours. They join the pack, re-engage with their natural doggy instincts and start to relax which then creates a window for us to work with them. Our pack teaches and reassures the dogs more than we ever could.
It is all about enrichment and options for different groups of dogs. We used to have just one big area but have learned that moving into a new area is exciting and stimulating for the dogs. It’s a whole new environment with different smells to explore and things to do. They are like excited children running through the gates. This helps prevent boredom and areas like the kitchen bring the dogs in close contact with people. Different levels and surfaces, things to dig, plants, things to hide in/ under, it all makes for both mental and physical stimulation and also for peaceful nights.
A typical day starts with a morning toilet and stretching of legs. They always run out full of excitement for a new day and if you ever wonder where we get our inspiration from it’s the excitement they exude just about being alive and living in safety. Then feeding starts, in a rotation which can take up to two hours. During the day they have lots of playtime outside, rotating in groups that get along well together across the different areas. Some dogs will go out with a dog walker or get specific rehab work while sanctuary dogs get time with their Enrichment Angels doing favourite things which may be just getting stroked, or Milo with his bubbles.
Some dogs will be off to the vet there’s usually at least one vet run a day. Some dogs will be being bathed ready for going on trials. Some get to meet visitors looking for matches and that’s always an exciting time for all. Sometimes there’s new arrivals, some expected some not. There’s never a boring or samey kind of day here. After last toilet they choose their spot and settle down for the night. Happy, safe, full bellies and having had an action-packed day. They don’t want for much here and that’s the idea – that they feel like it’s home and if this is their happy ending then it’s as happy every day as we can make it for them. Our dogs don’t know they’re homeless, they’re not lonely or waiting for someone and if a trial doesn’t work out they are happy to return.