Shelter Owners Help Rescue Dogs Get Adopted

Training helps rescue dogs get adopted.

By | Posted: Thu Mar 1 00:00:00 PST 2001

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Once they match a dog with a home, they offer new owners post-adoption training and obedience classes.

    "Shelters are becoming more than just places to adopt a dog or cat," said Cindy Stitely, HSUS director of animal shelter issues. "They're expanding their services to become community resources, offering obedience and behavior training and much more."

    Each year, the HSUS dedicates the second week of November as National Animal Shelter Awareness Week to recognize the work done by shelter staffs. This year, it replaced "awareness" with "appreciation" to describe more aptly the matchmaking they perform.

    Adoptions are on the rise at the Arizona Humane Society shelter largely due to two new programs: second chance and foster care. Behaviorists and trainers evaluate the dogs and work to correct their problems to make them more desirable.

    Some of the 800 volunteers, schooled in basic obedience and behavior training, serve as foster parents for shelter dogs too young, sick or troubled to be adopted immediately.

    "Many dogs come to our shelter terrified," said Melissa Gable, the AHS's shelter spokeswoman. "They are placed temporarily in foster homes to be socialized and learn basic commands like 'Sit' and 'Stay.' We provide these families with the food and medications the dog needs. We've been able to save more dogs' lives thanks to foster families."

    Two programs  TLC and HEAL  save dogs from certain euthanasia at the Los Angeles SPCA shelter. The Teaching Love and Compassion program pairs sheltered dogs with middle-schoolers who have history of family, drug or school troubles. Under the supervision of trainers, the students spend three to four weeks after school in classrooms learning about dog behavior and at the shelter working directly with dogs.

    "TLC teaches both the student and the dog patience and tolerance," said Jill Marie Yorey, trainer for the L.A. SPCA. "A lot of these kids relate to these abandoned dogs, for they, too, have had horrendous lives. They help us improve the behaviors in dogs so that they can find homes."

    Last year, Yorey created Helping Enhance Animals Lives, a weekly class where volunteers learn to identify and correct shy, aggressive and otherwise misunderstood behaviors in dogs brought to the shelter.

    "We've had strays come in that were completely untouchable at first, who were slowly taught how to trust and play again," Yorey said. "Some of these dogs have had such negative starts in life, but through this program, they learn training can be fun. That's half the battle for the person looking to adopt."

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