Helping Shelter and Rescue Dogs Find Forever Homes
I have been asked by those of you working with shelter and rescue dogs how to help them find adopters and place them in forever homes.
I have spent most of my career working in shelters and with rescues assisting these organizations in finding the right homes for the right dogs and in doing so also helping them make their dogs more adoptable.
The great part about this is that it is simple and easy to do, just a few minutes of your time a few days a week and you too could help a dog find a forever home just by teaching it a few good manners!
One of the reasons that most good dogs find it difficult if not impossible to escape a shelter situation is that they are so excited when someone comes to visit they often jump and fly through the air barking and pulling on the leash, excited about the prospect of getting out if even for a brief moment.
Often people who are looking to adopt a shelter dog have never had a dog before, and are not amused at having a dog flying past their head and then dragging them down a hallway. This poor behavior is often enough to keep a highly adoptable, sweet dog from finding a home.
What Do You Need?
Some Great Treats (something small and succulent)
A lot of patience!
This can easily be accomplished by shelter staff or volunteers and it only takes a few short sessions to make a dog’s behavior change 180 degrees. We are going to use clicker training principles without the clicker, because a new adopter won't have a clicker on them!
Go into the kennel and as you snap the leash on the dog’s collar take a treat up to his nose and lure him into a sit position. When his butt hits the ground release the treat and reward calmly. DO NOT get over excited, you are here to calm him down and teach him appropriate behaviors.
Each time you handle the leash lure him into a sit and treat. Do not give him a command! A potential adopter isn’t going to walk in and give a command or use the same command with the same tone you are using, the key is to get him to show good behavior with absolutely no verbal cue.
Take the leash in your hand and get him to sit. Do this often enough that it is becoming common place for him to do this in his kennel, next you can take him out of his kennel and teach him the same thing. It might be harder to get his focus now that he is out in the “real” world with other dogs barking, but be patient and wait or help him into a sit so that he can be rewarded.
Take a few steps, fiddle with the leash and get him to sit. Then you can take him out to the yard and play with him a bit, whenever he comes to you for a treat show him the leash and encourage him to sit before he is rewarded either by petting or by treats.
Next get an accomplice to help you. Once he is sitting for you, hand the leash and the treats to the second person and teach him to sit and wait patiently for his treat! Again do not give a command, lure him into a sit position and reward the position with praise and treats. It is imperative that the “command” is nonverbal and should be the touching and exchange of the leash, this makes our boy look smart and well behaved.
Use as many people as possible to help you, as you pass the leash to the next person always pass a few treats too and hopefully your new canine friend should be sitting patiently for his rewards!
Now imagine a family comes to look at him and take him out of his kennel; he has been taught to sit when he gets his leash hooked up in the kennel, he has been taught to sit often as he walks through the kennel, he has been taught to come and sit when he is playing in the yard when he wants attention AND when you pass the leash to his potential new owner he should automatically sit calmly and await his reward. This is now a dog someone wants to adopt.
Adopters will think he is the smartest dog in the bunch and will be clamoring to take him home with them!
All it takes is a little time and patience and a lot of practice to get any highly adoptable dog the skills and manners needed to impress their new forever family!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.