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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At the Marin Humane Society Shelter in Novato, Calif., a good manners program also helps dogs find homes. Trainer Trish King schools volunteers and then once a week, dogs learn social etiquette  sitting for a bowl of food, waiting until being called and walking on a leash.

"A potential owner likes a dog they can play with, but more importantly, a dog that will calm down," King said.

Adopters receive free behavior or obedience consultation after they take home their chosen dog to help minimize return rates.

San Francisco's no-kill SPCA shelter provides canine "condos" with viewing windows instead of barred cages. Staff and volunteers spot dogs that chew couches or bark continuously and correct their behaviors in these home-like settings. They give dogs daily training in behavior and obedience.

"The dogs here are continually exposed to people, strangers, traffic to improve their social skills," said trainer Bob Gutierrez. "We train our dogs to sit when someone approaches - it makes for a better presentation."

They purposely locate puppies in the back to improve the chances of older dogs getting homes.

The Denver Dumb Friends League, one of the nation's oldest and most successful shelters, offers pet parenting classes for new owners and good manners classes for dogs. Staff members constantly update dogs' biographies and share them with visitors.

Like other successful shelters, Denver subscribes to the honesty approach. The more information  good and bad  they can provide about a dog, the better chance the dog will find a home, said behavior manager Kit Jenkins.

"Our return rates are down to 7 percent because we work hard on the front end to make a realistic match," Jenkins said "We tell people that we aren't sending them home 'done dogs.' Training is a never-ending process."

Beyond training, dogs at more shelters are socializing with people and each other. At Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, dogs live in a cage-free environment, housed in pairs or small groups, depending on their temperaments. The dogs socialize continuously, from morning meals to afternoon walks to evening groomings. On-site veterinarians and animal behaviorists tend to their medical and emotional needs.

Best Friends is the nation's largest no-kill refuge, caring for homeless animals, many with histories of abuse and abandonment. Situated in the red-rock terrain of southern Utah, this 350-acre sanctuary is a slice of animal heaven on earth. Staff and volunteers train, feed and pamper about 1,800 animals. Best Friends keeps 650 dogs of various ages, breeds and demeanors in an area called Dog Town.

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