critter sitting: inaugural edition

I did my orientation at the local shelter last weekend, and did my first shift yesterday.  This task is called “critter sitter”, which means to sit with animals to increase their socialization.  Some animals are fearful by temperment, some because of trauma, and some because of the change and the strange situation they find themselves in.


I was assigned to Max, a husky that had come in the previous day and was scared.  When I went into his pen he withdrew to his back area.  After a bit he came up nearer, but was visibly nervous and his body language was withdrawn/tight.  The pic above was after about 30 minutes of warming up – he’s looking at a piece of kibble on the floor.   Normal dog behavior, which is a win in my book.

The fearful ones usually progress like this;

  • movement as far away as possible

  • moving closer but scared

  • lying down, very tight body position:  tail, head, and legs held against body

  • opening up the posture a bit

  • moving toward the human a bit.  Sometimes it’s only a paw moving a couple of inches

  • moving closer, maybe a couple of feet

  • extending legs more.  This is the first time I try to touch them.  A smooth motion toward the paw, maybe a brush with the hand.  They tend to withdraw the paw (and extend a few seconds later) the first few times.

  • comfortable with longer paw touches, strokes, etc

  • moves closer, sometimes a foot or less.  Might be willing to get a face touch, ear rub, etc.

  • at that point the animal relaxes and starts Normal Dog Behavior:  looking around, reacting to the enviroment, scratching, yawning, panting.

  • comfortable moving around in all areas of the pen with human present - goes to check things out, comes back for some physical contact.

When Max got to that last stage I left to sit with other dogs.

I took a pic of him just when he licked his chops after eating a treat;  looks like he’s going to eat me but I really just caught him mid-lick:




I also sat with Ivy, a young GSD + (terrier?) mix.  She was shy and was worried about unexpected noises, etc.  After a while she did come over and sit/stand near me.


I am reminded of the fox-taming part of The Little Prince.

This GSD mix is also called Max.  He chilled out enough to get this pic:


Note:  I have to go to bed early today (4am work shift next couple of weeks) but I’ll look up some videos on dealing with stressed dogs.

There are other dog-sits but I really must sleep.