Nelly bounces back to life

Nelly makes a remarkable comeback 

Nicole recalls -“Nelly was in quite a state when she got to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. After she completed her intensive care she was transferred to pre adoptions quarantine where I started working with her to get her comfortable with handling, got her feeling a bit better, being more satisfied and happy in her kennel” 


Nicole is the resident animal behaviourist at Cape of Good Hope SPCA, originally from the Eastern Cape. Animal behaviour is a specialised field. Animal behaviourists consider the emotions of an animal, how they learn, how they feel and through the use of positive affirmation training help to prepare dogs for their new homes.


Aside from addressing the physical needs of a dog and making them physically healthy, there is also a focus on their emotional wellbeing. After the 10 days in pre-adoption quarantine, Nelly was moved to adoptions. 

“At this stage, I started working on building Nelly’s confidence, dogs that come from such physical neglect will have suppressed behaviours. This is where I help dogs like Nelly learn to trust again,” says Nicole.


Every animal is an individual, every animal responds differently to stress and reacts in some way to an unfamiliar environment. Nicole explains her first step was making Nelly feel comfortable and to observe how she responded to her new environment and her interactions with the staff.  

Behavioural Assessment

The behavioural assessment evaluates their level of comfort with physical handling. How she reacted to different shapes and sizes of people as well as her compatibility with other animals, including behaviour towards other dogs, cats or other livestock as an example. “We can from here start determining what an animals’ personality is like and start shaping a profile of what kind of home he\she would thrive in,” says Nicole.


Many animals display signs of being touch-sensitive or fearful, which is where Nicole’s work becomes important. Animal behaviour is fluid and can not specifically be categorised. “Animals respond to different stimuli they are exposed to in their environment and how they feel and respond to the stimuli defines behaviour,” says Nicole.


Observations like abnormally aggressive behaviour, extreme fear are flagged and Nicole has to then create distance from what they are fearful of. This slowly starts improving their level of comfort, which helps them out of their fearful state and into a thinking state, where they can control their response to stimuli in their environment. Thousands of animals have blossomed under Nicole’s care.

The Process

A basic assessment is done to establish a baseline where behavioural changes and progress can be charted, tracked and reported on. The basic assessment assists with identifying underlying issues which are then referred to Nicole to remedy. If there are no issues identified at this stage the animal moves to adoptions to be rehomed.


Nicole will take the animal out of their kennel and into her assessment room. Progress depends on the animal, after the baseline assessment, there are about two to three follow-ups. We rely on further feedback from our kennel hands and volunteers. If they pick up any behavioural changes the veterinarian and animal behaviourist are notified for further assessment.


Animals change as they adapt to a new environment, different behaviours can manifest. Dogs don’t become aggressive, sad, depressed, happy or excited, they respond or react to stimulus in their environment. This stimulus makes them feel or react in a particular way, which is why our animal behaviourist is key in isolating and determining what triggers specific behaviour.

Nelly was not my worst case

“People do not realise that animals have a rich emotional life, they are capable of experiencing emotions such as fear, happiness, sadness and depression. Negative emotions can usually be attributed to owners not being able to meet the physical, mental and emotional needs of an animal.”

Follow #TheNellyStory – Episode 5 Nelly finds her forever home. But first, they will need to get the Nod from our adoptions queen, Michelle the Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s mother of dragons, breaker of chains, freer of the oppressed and she’s #GOT game.


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