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Training and Motivation

Training shelter dogs potentially increases their adoptability by teaching them behaviors that make them more desirable to adopters. A good training program will motivate dogs to learn and provide them with mental stimulation. It will also educate staff, volunteers, and owners about the value and fun of basic dog training. In order for training to be effective, consistency is key. Training sessions should ALWAYS be fun for the dog and the staff. Staff and volunteers must always have the following tools on hand when working with dogs:
  • Treat bag (with treats that will motivate a dog)
  • Training tools (no-pull harness or head collar to help with training as needed)
  • Quick access to a desirable toy
Weekly shelter dog obedience classes are also recommended for every shelter if possible. These classes help staff and volunteers learn training techniques, train the shelter dogs, and allow behavior staff to observe the dogs in a group setting. 

Rewarding Calm Behavior

Teaching shelter dogs to interact with visitors, while not jumping or barking, can make a shelter visit more enjoyable for potential adopters, and teach dogs behaviors (i.e., sit) that will also make them easier to manage in a home. We use treat buckets to create positive associations with people and to reward desirable behavior from outside the kennel.

Another technique used to reward calm behavior is to teach dogs to move to the back of the kennel and remain calm when visitors enter and exit the kennels. This can prevent dogs from escaping and teaches them to pay attention to cues when they are excited.

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Right Rewards

Using the right rewards will help motivate dogs to learn new behaviors and to interact with us. The goal of the program is to determine which reward a dog enjoys the most in order to use positive reinforcement.

Say Please

The Say Please Program creates and maintains relationships with people, in a non-confrontational manner, by teaching the dog to sit (or perform another trained behavior) in order to gain access to what he or she wants. All dogs should learn to sit prior to participating in the Say Please Program.

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Loose Leash Walking

Teaching dogs to walk nicely and NOT to pull on a leash is an important foundation behavior for our shelter dogs. Dogs that are pulling on leash are often paying attention to their environment (and not us) which can get them into trouble. This can also be a safety risk for volunteers when a dog suddenly lunges at a cat, squirrel, or dog. In addition, it is much more fun to walk a dog who is paying attention to you and not constantly pulling into their collar, harness, or head halter.

We use martingale style collars with all of our dogs, to prevent them from slipping out of their collar on walks. If a dog is pulls strongly on leash, we often use an Easy Walk™ Harness or Gentle Leader™ head collar.

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