Masked shop mannequin helps train RSPCA rescue dogs in Cornwall

Mannequin in mask at RSPCA St Columb Credit: ITV News

A masked mannequin is helping to prepare rescue dogs for the 'real world' at an RSPCA centre in Cornwall.

Most of the 19 dogs awaiting rehoming at St Columb, near Newquay have never seen people wearing face coverings.

Staff say the most timid dogs can find it threatening.

To tackle the problem they have dressed up a former shop dummy donated by a local branch of New Look to help the dogs get used to our 'new normal'.

The dogs that are a welfare concern and haven’t had the best start in life are a bit more cautious of the mannequin. They are a bit worried, so they are hesitant in approaching or they may vocalise towards the mannequin when they first see it. When they realise there’s no danger, then they’ll approach quite happily and then they’ll interact.

Helen Jones, RSPCA St Columb
RSPCA handler trains 'Lady' the Collie Cross Credit: ITV News

'Mary' the mannequin is part of a sensory garden that has been created at the RSPCA centre in St Column during lockdown.

It is designed to help the dogs get used to a range of distractions, as well as being fun.

There was a dog playing ball in here and it actually came up to the mannequin and dropped the ball at it’s feet and just sat there waiting for the mannequin to pick the ball up and throw it.

Jason Digweed, RSPCA St Columb

Staff say they now hope to expand the sensory garden at St Columb.

Its maintenance team is appealing for donations of building materials that can be recycled, as well as fake 'life-size farm animals' for a farm-themed dog training area.

Tegan is one of the dogs awaiting rehoming at RSPCA St Columb Credit: ITV News

The RSPCA is still operating a rehoming service, but COVID-19 restrictions mean that initial assessments with prospective dog owners are now done via video link. 

More information on rehoming a dog with the RSPCA can be found here.