Dog's Eye View: I have a dream

Do right by the dog you have now

So many people work tirelessly to find suitable homes for rescue or shelter dogs. As a trainer and behavior consultant, most of my work takes place once that animal is in a new home.

Laura Tyler

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.

Dog's Eye View

This weekly column about dog training publishes on Fridays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Unfortunately, on occasion, some of these dogs have been living in shelters or rescue for months to years. Often the dogs coming out of this prolonged recycle program carry their original behavioral baggage with them only to be relinquished back to the system again and again.

It can take several months in a new home before all of the “old” behavioral baggage begins to emerge once again. Why does this keep happening?

I think it’s a combination of different expectations and services in each new location. For some rescue/shelter groups, getting the dog out and either fostered or adopted is their first priority. There is no training or behavior modification program in place. And sometimes the needs of the individual dog are not readily apparent in the shelter environment.

With a bit of “thinking outside the box,” the possibility of this dream becoming a reality is attainable. There is a workable plan to counter the steady stream of confusion these dogs must feel when humans don’t understand what they need to be successfully placed in a forever home.

If all professionals, foster families, shelter volunteers and potential adopters speak the same “training” language and hold the same expectations, our chances of placing these dogs with appropriate families will definitely increase. This dream will require that we all step up, learn these simple techniques, practice them on a regular basis and develop the skills needed to consistently teach and communicate with each dog in our care.

Statistics kept in the first year of this program study showed that there were 90 percent fewer dogs returned to the four original shelters participating in the startup program.

In addition, Pet Finder sponsored each of these shelters with grant money to hire a trainer for one year. One Humane Society saw an 84 percent correlation between the number of dogs trained and the number of dogs adopted. I pulled this information from an article published in 2012 edition of the Chronicle of the Dog, our industry magazine.

This news is so exciting, and so we are bringing it to our region.

It’s called "Train To Adopt," and it was developed by Sue Sternberg in response to the alarming trend where dogs are returned to shelters multiple times.

We — those of us actively working in the rescue/shelter world — have a regional opportunity to participate in a day-long workshop learning these techniques and developing new skills to help the dogs in our care. The "Train To Adopt" workshop is coming to Craig on May 3 and Sternberg will be here to help us get started.

If you work in an animal profession or shelter or with a Humane Society and actively engage with animals, this workshop will add to your skills. If you are actively fostering dogs or would open your home to foster if you could learn a set of specific skills to help dogs for adoption, this workshop is for you. And if you wish to watch this program in action and apply the skills with your own dog, you can also join us.

Any profit made from this workshop will go back to the nonprofits spearheading this event.

My dream from start to finish is that each dog entering the “system” is given a chance to learn new skills to help them become more adoptable.

Each person actively involved in this dog’s life will practice the same training skills with this dog. The potential adoption family will take part in learning the training started by the shelter staff or foster family.

If we standardize these techniques and training exercises, then each person in this dog’s life is speaking the same training language. We have an opportunity to grow our own success rates training to adopt the same plan across the board. It’s a win-win.

More information about the "Train To Adopt" workshop can be found at www.totalteamworktraining.com.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25+ years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado.

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