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Animal Compassion Team of CA: All-Star Dog Rescue Celebration Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

A portion of the $8,000 was used to prepare a large room at our adoption center for a new indoor training center. Previously a lab with center islands and cabinetry, it is now an open and inviting area for training classes and doggy-socialization sessions. Another portion of the grant was used to hire (at reduced cost) the services of a local dog trainer (Debbie from All Ears Dog Training) to run weekly Canine Good Citizen classes for a select group of ACT shelter dogs. We have also hired her to help a dedicated volunteer work one-on-one with one of our particularly difficult dogs, Gypsy, as a model for more intensive behavior-modification techniques. There is still a large portion of the grant money left that will continue to fund further CGC classes for our shelter dogs to make them more attractive to adopters.

We haven't quite completed the first set of trainees yet, but the response has been very encouraging and the dogs who are participating in training have shown remarkable improvement. Ten adoptable dogs of various breeds and sizes have been partnered up with volunteer trainers with the goal of learning the skills to pass the AKC's Canine Good Citizen evaluation. Roughly half of the dogs chosen for this first class have been with us at ACT for longer than two years. The others were selected because they have some quality that makes them traditionally hard to adopt out -- they're seniors, pit bulls, or are heartworm-positive (treatable). Their profiles on our website (and Petfinder) will be updated to advertise that they are undergoing CGC training, giving them an edge to get adopted.

The skills targeted in CGC are all the things that adopters look for in a new pet: leash skills, basic obedience, good manners around new people and other dogs, etc. This allows us to share lots of positive qualities on their web profiles and is a great source of video footage for potential adopters. If the dogs are adopted before the classes conclude, adopters will be invited to complete the series of classes and earn the CGC certification with their new pet. In the meantime, the dogs thoroughly enjoy the classes and all the attention that goes with them! Dogs who started out timid and insecure around strangers and other dogs have blossomed. A few of the dogs had reactivity issues, but over time have made improvements while on-leash in a public setting. The training has definitely made all the dogs involved more adoptable; it has also given us an opportunity to learn so much about the dogs' temperaments and personalities that we can then share with potential adopters.

Another component to this training grant is to target one dog at a time with more severe behavioral issues. Currently our trainer is working with a volunteer and Gypsy, a 3-year-old pit bull mix with extreme reactivity to other dogs and an intense fixation on toys and leashes. Because of this, she doesn't generally get as much time in the exercise yard or with volunteers. Her behavior is also a huge obstacle to adoption.

Since beginning the one-on-one training program, Gypsy has improved remarkably. While she used to grab the leash out of our hands and not let go, she now allows us to walk her (mostly) calmly on a leash to and from the yards. She used to spend all her yard time racing along the fence line frantically barking at other dogs, but now she engages with volunteers in fetch and is correctable at the fence line. In the past, she has locked onto toys and would not release them, but now she has learned to wait before taking toys and treats and will drop them on command. Her training is not complete -- she still has bouts of unmanageable behavior -- but the results give us hope that, someday soon, Gypsy will be ready for a home.

How many pets did this grant help?

So far, about 11, but we have only just begun the first wave of training courses.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Bubba is a senior pit bull with an unfortunate past. He come to ACT from a rural shelter where he was picked up as a stray repeatedly over the course of a year. The last time he entered the shelter, Bubba was injured and showed obvious signs of neglect; his owners did not come to reclaim him. A staff favorite there, we were begged to rescue him from eventual euthanasia. Bubba became an ACT dog! As a naturally friendly boy with reasonably good manners, you would think that Bubba would be easy to place in a home. However, as a senior and a pit bull (with facial scarring, no less), Bubba’s profile page doesn’t get many hits.

Since beginning the Canine Good Citizen class, Bubba has been a star student. His leash manners and basic obedience have improved, he’s learned to focus on his human even with the distractions of other people and dogs, and he’s made a ton of new friends! People who were initially hesitant because of his breed and age are now comfortable with him and, while the classes aren’t over, he’s already had interest from potential adopters. We are confident that Bubba will soon find a wonderful, loving home, and that Bubba will have all the skills to make him successful once he’s in it!

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