September 26, 2012

Sit. Stay. Good dog!

What is temperament testing and why do we do it?

Dogs at RSPCA ACT undergo comprehensive behaviour testing before being made available for adoption. We test dogs to learn about their temperament and personality so that we are better able to match them to a suitable family.

The types of traits that we test are: sociability; touch; vet checks; toys and play; food treasures; strangers; toddlers (with a dummy, not real toddlers!); mental sensitivity; other dogs; containment; and previous training. We also collect detailed information from previous owners wherever possible.

If we identify any behavioural issues that need addressing, our qualified and experienced staff develop a behaviour modification program which is implemented by trained staff and volunteers. Behaviour modification programs could include issues such as basic manners and walking nicely on lead, to rebuilding confidence and addressing problem behaviours.

After several days of training, we will retest the dog. If the dogs fails the test again, but has shown improvement, we will continue the cycle of training and testing until we believe the dog can be made available for adoption. If there is no improvement or the behaviour could result in harm to either a person or another animal then the dog will not be made available for adoption.

A dog never fails a temperament test for just being boisterous or ill-mannered as these are training issues (not temperament issues) which our team works with and improves. A dog doesn't have to be perfect to find a new home, but we need to learn what we can about their behaviour to find the perfect home for them. We understand that the shelter environment can be stressful for some dogs and we of course take this into account during testing.

While dogs are staying with us at RSPCA ACT, we are committed to keeping dogs mentally healthy through physical stimulation and the use of environmental enrichments.

Congratulations to Frances, our Senior Behavioural Trainer, on being awarded Shelter Worker of the Year by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

September 18, 2012

Fully Fledged

It’s almost that time of year when baby birds will be out of their nests and learning how to fly. Here’s what to do if you spot a baby bird on the ground:

Firstly, is the bird a nestling or a fledgling? 

Nestlings may not be fully feathered and are not ready to learn to fly. They may have accidently been knocked or blown out of their nest. They need to be lifted off the ground out of harm’s way and placed in a temporary nest like an ice cream container. The little bird’s parents should be nearby, but if the baby is left alone for a full day, please bring the bird to RSPCA.

Magpie nestling
If the bird is a fledgling, he will be able to stand up. He may be very wobbly, but he will be trying his hardest! This is the easiest way to tell the difference between a nestling and a fledgling. The fledgling’s parents should be nearby watching over him or getting food for him.

Magpie fledgling
If the fledgling is in immediate danger from pets or children you can lift him off the ground into a temporary nest, otherwise you can leave him where he is. If you don’t see his parents return within a day you can bring him to RSPCA. If you try to pick him up and larger birds start swooping you, pop him back on the ground, because it is most likely his parents letting you know they are there.

If any bird is obviously injured, pick him up and bring him to RSPCA straight away. When he is healed we will release him where you found him.

Please try your hardest to ensure that baby birds remain with their parents, as they can teach them the life skills they need to grow and flourish in the wild. Humans simply can’t offer this kind of guidance!

If you have any questions about the welfare of a native animal you can contact us during business hours seven days a week on 6287 8100 or after hours (wildlife only) on 0413 495 031.

You can learn more about wildlife first aid here.

September 3, 2012

Nest Intentions

The sun is shining, trees are budding, blossoms are blooming, and rogue magpies have started swooping!

Magpies swoop during breeding season because they are trying to protect their nests, eggs or young from intruders. This behaviour is completely natural and only lasts for a few weeks.

There are a number of measures you can take to protect yourself, your children and your pets from swooping birds. Please visit the Territory and Municipal Services website for more information.

It is extremely important that you do not pick up a fledgling magpie (one who has just left the nest) unless they are obviously injured or in imminent danger. These babies are learning to fly and their parents are usually nearby watching over them.

Not all magpies will swoop. Harassment by humans causes some magpies to start swooping, so please do not chase them or throw things at them. Please remember that magpies, like most native animals, are protected in the ACT. 

If you are concerned by a magpie that appears particularly aggressive, or would like a warning sign erected in your neighbourhood, please contact the ACT Parks and Conservation Service on 13 22 81.