Filmed at the Animal Welfare League NSW (AWL), The Dog House Australia reveals the emotional backstories of dogs who may have been abandoned, surrendered, or taken away from their families, all while sharing the beautiful moments when they finally get matched to their perfect home.
“It’s been an awesome experience. It's great to combine TV production with what we do and to showcase to Australia what is such an important role we have helping animals,” shelter manager of AWL, Sam March told 10 play.
“It's been a really positive outcome; we’ve had a lot of people call through and a lot of people wanting to come out to the shelter to adopt. It's been a massive, massive hit for us and it's been such a positive experience. It's wonderful.”
Sam has been an animal lover for his whole life and knew at a young age that he wanted to dedicate his career to helping rescue four-legged friends.
“I’ve been privileged to be brought up with animals for my whole life and I've always wanted to do something where I was going to give back to the community and my passion to work with animals led me down that path.
“I wanted to help and rescue as many animals as possible, dog, cats, livestock, whatever that may be. It's passion-driven and AWL is the perfect place for that and I couldn’t be more proud, or happier to do the job I do.”
Although working with dogs all day seems like a job full of fun and playful moments, it comes with a wide range of challenges and plenty to oversee and manage.
“There's a lot of things involved, but the main things we look after is all the animals that come in. I have a team of 30 underneath me and that includes all the animal attendance, team leaders, shelter reception, the maintenance team, as well as two foster carers,” Sam said.
Sam helps manage the intake of animals, oversees the adoptions by his team, works alongside the marketing team, and coordinates with regional pounds on what dogs they can take in, as well as working very closely with the vet clinic.
“I help out with animals who need a bit more training, as well as the abandoned, neglected and injured animals that come in. We also train the staff to read body language for dogs or cats, how to work with them appropriately, and then I do all the dog assessments, so that will include seeing who's got separation anxiety if the dog is social or not, is it food motivated and things like that.”
Since July, the shelter has done over 450 adoptions and it’s only going to go up now that The Dog House Australia has provided the shelter with more exposure.
“Since The Dog House has started, we've had a lot more people call through and we’ve been booked out week by week for adoption, which has been great because that's brand awareness and it's getting more animals homes – the more we can bring home, the more animals we can save.”
The Dog House Australia provides viewers with a look behind the realities of what happens once a dog is neglected, as well as the joy which comes from finding them new homes.
“It's a real feel-good show. Australia is one of the top three countries in the world that have dogs as pets and having a show where you get to see animals come in… I think it's a real pull on the heartstrings, we all love animals and seeing an animal getting rehomed and living there forever. I think that’s a real good positive outcome for what everyone needs at the moment, especially with a pandemic.”
During lockdown, adoption rates for pets have increased significantly with families having more time to look after a new member of the family.
“Adopting a rescue dog, especially during the pandemic when people are home, feeling down, is great. Dogs bring so much joy to your life, if you've had a bad day, you come home, and they're always there, happy and waiting to greet you and that just brings people's spirits up.”
But in some cases, it can be difficult to convince aspiring dog owners to adopt a rescue dog.
“A lot of people, unfortunately, think that rescue dogs are broken dogs, but that's not true. We've put a lot of work and effort into dogs and rehoming them but they are not broken, they’re just a dog who's, I guess, been let down in the past, which is really sad.”
There's nothing better than giving a rescue dog a home, to “break away from thinking they need a clean slate. It’s not about having a clean slate, it’s about giving a dog a second chance and no better place to come than to AWL and picking up a rescue dog.”
When match-making, AWL ensures the family is the right fit for the dog, but also that the dog is the right fit for the family and there's a lot of work behind the scenes that goes into rehoming the right dog to the right family.
“When we match up a dog to a family, they are assessed beforehand. Animal attendants get a really good bond with their animals, so they get to know what their personality is like and who they're going to be better off with.
“If you have a really big dog who's going to just knock children over then you wouldn't want to rehome it with children. Or if you've got a dog who has quite bad separation anxiety, you wouldn’t want to rehome it to someone who's going to be out for eight hours a day working… Nine times out of 10, they go home with the dog we recommend.”
But the most important thing when looking to adopt a dog is to be open-minded.
“Let the experts match the right dog to you. We have beautiful dogs, from puppies all the way up to 15-years-old. Give a loving dog a second chance, there are a lot of rescue dogs who do need a home and I think you just need to kind of rip the band-aid off, have a look and speak to the experts and see what they recommend.”