Shelters can be a stressful environment for dogs. Fortunately, there are simple, low-cost enrichment activities that can be implemented to provide comfort, reduce stress-induced behaviors, increase confidence, and promote adoptability. Enrichment can also be used to teach shelter dogs how to interact with their environments in a way that delivers a positive outcome. One easy way to provide enrichment is with shaping, the process of gradually teaching an animal a new action or behavior by clicking and treating the animal during each step of the process.
Building Confidence with Training
If you work at or have ever visited a shelter, you know these dogs: the shy dogs that cower in the corner of the kennel, reluctant to interact with visitors, staff, or other dogs. Unfortunately, since they aren’t greeting visitors at the front of the kennel, they are also the dogs that don’t always get adopted. Clicker training can help a shy dog develop confidence by building trust and giving the dog control over the environment.
Teach Behaviors that Lead to Faster Adoptions
If you work at, volunteer for, or have visited a shelter, you’ve probably experienced rows of dogs barking and jumping at the kennel doors. Dogs that bark excessively as people pass by are sometimes overlooked by potential adopters. How do you teach these dogs to remain calm and quiet so that they can increase their chances of being adopted? With positive reinforcement training, of course!
Foundation Behaviors for Shelter Dogs: Loose-Leash Walking
When they think about adding a new dog to the family, many people dream of long, leisurely strolls with their dogs walking beside them nicely. However, leash pulling is one of the most common complaints that pet parents have; it is one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters. By teaching shelter dogs to walk nicely on a leash, shelters can increase adoptions as well as decrease the chances that adopted dogs will be returned.
Shelter Enrichment for Cats: The Target Game
The shelter environment is stressful for dogs, and for the people who work there, but the environment is especially stressful for cats. In addition to losing all familiar contacts and past comforts, they are subjected to a constant barrage of alarming stimuli, including noise, strange smells, intrusions from unknown humans, close confinement, and the often-frightening sight and smell of other unfamiliar cats. While you can’t always change the physical environment, you can change the mental environment at a shelter by providing low-cost training and enrichment activities.
Training in the Shelter: Harness Desensitization
Walking a dog with a harness is safer and more comfortable than walking a dog with a traditional collar. However, many dogs are afraid of having a harness put over their heads. Shelter dogs are often already stressed, so wearing a harness can easily induce more fear. By creating a positive association with the harness (or any new equipment), you can help a dog overcome his/her fear.
Training in the Shelter: Introduction to Targeting
Targeting, when a dog to touches a body part to a specific object or person, is a very valuable and versatile skill to teach a shelter dog, as it serves as a base for so many useful behaviors (come, heel, go-to-crate, go-to-place, say hello, and many more). Targeting can also help many shy dogs develop confidence with people fairly quickly.
Karen Pryor Academy Helps Raise Standards for Dog Training Professionals
Waltham, MA, December 16, 2019—Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) will be the first private education institution to join forces with three leading industry associations in the effort to raise professional standards for dog trainers. The standards require trainers to commit to comprehensive education and skill proficiency, prioritize positive training solutions, and follow clear ethical practices in all aspects of their client work.
Karen Pryor Academy Announces 2019 Zoe Shelter Scholarship Recipients
Waltham, MA, October 31, 2019—Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) and Lisa White, DVM, founder of Veterinary Behavior Management Solutions in Cincinnati, Ohio, are pleased to announce and congratulate the winners of the 2019 Zoe Shelter Scholarships to KPA’s Shelter Training & Enrichment course.
Low-Cost Enrichment Ideas for Shelters
Life in a shelter is stressful for dogs—even at the most humane shelters. A variety of enrichment activities can enhance the quality of dogs’ lives while they are at the shelter by reducing stress and anxiety and, in turn, promoting adoptability.