The impact of length of stay on the mental health of shelter dogs

Fiona, Marlow, Cade and Confetti all have lengths of stay at the shelter of at least three times the average Great Plains SPCA shelter dog. Living in a shelter environment, despite incredible dedication to making it a low-stress experience, can have many negative effects on the mental well-being of shelter dogs.

These effects can include:
  • Increase in barking and vocalization
  • Increase in arousal and overall excitability
  • Development of inappropriate social skills such as jumping up
  • Lack of “instant connection” with potential adopters due to disengagement or less desirable behaviors
  • Development of behaviors that were not present at the beginning of their stay such as negative reactions to other animals or people
  • Additional staff and volunteer resources, energy and love spent attempting to help them navigate their time living at the shelter


• Intake Date: 5/11/2021
• Total Length of Stay: 189
• Loves stuffed toys and long walks.
• Housetrained and loves to cuddle.


• Intake Date: 8/16/2021
• Total Length of Stay: 92
• Mellow and easy going.
• Housetrained and very treat motivated.


• Intake Date: 6/16/2021
• Total Length of Stay: 153
• Toy obsessed and playful.
• Loves laying right next to his people.


• Intake Date: 8/21/2021
• Total Length of Stay: 87
• Housetrained, loves belly rubs and destroying stuffed toys.

These dogs deserve homes just as any other dog does. Please find it in your heart to share this story to help us raise awareness of the plight of long-term shelter dogs like these. If you are interested in learning more about fostering with us, contact

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