Humane Society implements programs to benefit shelter dogs

By Renee Parkins
Wenatchee Valley Humane Society

(Provided image)

The Wenatchee Valley Humane Society?is participating?in?new programs to?help its shelter dogs.

The Humane Society has added behavior and obedience programs to?help dogs make easier adoption transitions. The programs are a tool used to help some of the more rambunctious and untrained dogs at the shelter. The goal is to reduce their length of stay at the shelter and increase their adoptability.

?Dogs that come to the shelter with behavior issues have a difficult time being adopted,? explains WVHS Executive Director Dawn Davies. ?Long lengths of stay in a shelter setting are stressful for animals. Our goal is to give these dogs every opportunity to find their forever home, as quickly as possible. Adding a dog behavior program that teaches positive habits, confidence for good manners and basic obedience skills was the next natural step for us to take.?

Wenatchee Valley Humane Society Animal Behavior Manager Karen Headlee and Scooter. (Provided photo/Wenatchee Valley Humane Society)

All dogs entering the shelter are evaluated. Those who show signs of treatable behavior issues are placed into either the Canine Good Citizen-Ready (CGC) program or the Total Obedience Program (TOP) Dog program. Both programs give dogs a second chance for a happy home through training, diligence, and one-on-one development.

In the CGC program, WVHS staff and volunteers work with the selected shelter dogs to train them on specific good behavior skills, with a goal of mastering them. Mastering these behaviors prepares them for the American Kennel Club CGC Test and once ready, shelter dogs are tested on?10 real-world scenarios. If they pass, they are labeled ?CGC Ready.? Adopters of these dogs will be briefed on their dog?s skill set and are encouraged to work with an independent CGC Evaluator for CGC certification testing.

Dogs participating in the TOP Dog program work on skills similar to the CGC-Ready program but in addition to good behavior skills, TOP Dogs learn advanced skills specific to each dog?s needs. Adopters of TOP Dog participants have the opportunity to visit WVHS with their dog, where the owner can learn the training skills received during the program and earn a WVHS TOP Dog certificate.

Animal Care and Control Officer James Miller with Ranger. (Provided photo/Wenatchee Valley Humane Society)

The Humane Society?will also be?partnering with the?ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)?through its Learning Lab Program to help shelter dogs with behavior issues.

This program, based at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Weaverville, N.C., is an interactive educational program where select shelters participate in an intensive, hands-on workshop and discuss all aspects of advanced behavioral care in animal shelters.

WVHS is among the first group of animal welfare agencies to participate in the ASPCA Learning Lab program and will be applying key learnings to integrate behavioral and psychological support for homeless dogs into its entire sheltering operation. The WVHS team was chosen for the selective program after taking part in an in-depth application and shelter visitation process.

?We were honored to be invited to send six of our key staff to participate in a four-day Learning Lab retreat at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in North Carolina,? said Davies. ?The ASPCA Learning Lab demonstrated game-changing techniques in both a classroom and hands-on environment. The ASPCA tailored private training to specifically address the challenges that we face as an open-door shelter in greater Wenatchee. We are excited to implement new tools to enrich shelter life not only for animals, but for our dedicated staff too, and ultimately, to increase our success rate of placing hard to adopt animals into forever homes.?

The ASPCA Learning Lab launched in 2018 at the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center, the first-ever permanent facility dedicated to the rehabilitation and study of extremely fearful, unadoptable homeless dogs, most of whom are victims of cruelty or neglect. As the Learning Lab program evolves, the ASPCA plans to develop a national network of partner organizations that can share learnings and best practices and serve as specialized behavioral rehabilitation hubs in their communities.

The work of the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center is showcased in an award-winning ASPCA documentary, ?Second Chance Dogs,? which is available on?


Renee Parkins is with donor development at the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society.