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St. Joseph Animal Control and Rescu: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

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

The grant that we received was used to make it possible for me to attend a Dogs Playing for Life mentorship at the Longmont Humane Society in Longmont, Colorado.

While participating in this mentorship, I received invaluable training and experience regarding playgroups for dogs as well as many amazing training techniques for shelter dogs, both of which help to increase a dog’s adoptability.

I was able to bring all that knowledge back home with me and share it with my colleagues so that we can implement the same practices here with our own shelter pets. I now have a much better understanding of how dogs interact and communicate with one another, and being equipped with this insight has allowed me to more accurately diagnose a shelter dog who may have a behavior problem or who has had an extended stay at the shelter for whatever reason, and ultimately create a plan to help that dog as an individual through playgroups and training.

Receiving the opportunity to attend this mentorship has helped and continues to help the dogs who come through our facility.

How many pets did this grant help?

I couldn’t put an exact number on how many pets that this grant has helped, because with the knowledge and experienced gained, my shelter is able to continue to help dogs each day, meaning the number of pets helped is ever-growing. What I learned regarding playgroups for dogs has been implemented in our Pups for Parole program, in which at any given time 14 of our shelter dogs are housed at the WRDCC, where they receive much-needed training. This has made it possible for us to get every single Pups for Parole dog into a playgroup, identify their play styles, and just learn more about the behavior of each dog overall. This is so important because doing all of this helps us not only to enrich the lives of the dogs in our care while increasing their adoptability, but it is also crucial to help us see the dog as a whole and in turn place that dog into the best-fitting home possible.

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

One pet who was specifically helped as a result of this grant is a dog we currently have called Zena. When Zena came to our shelter in July as a stray, we didn’t know anything about her. Over time, we noticed that Zena displayed barrier reactivity towards other dogs and sometimes people too, and that the severity of this behavior was increasing.

Prior to attending the Dogs Playing for Life mentorship, it is likely that I would have assumed Zena was dog-aggressive and could not safely be placed for adoption. I now know that most barrier reactivity is a result of frustration because the dog is unable to get to the thing that it wants (in this case, another dog or person).

With my newfound knowledge of dog-on-dog behavior and playgroups, as well as helpful training techniques for more difficult dogs, I was able to make the decision to place Zena in the Pups for Parole program and address her issues. Zena can now play off-leash with other dogs in the group, and this is something that never would have happened before at our shelter for a dog like her.

Zena has yet to be adopted; however, she has received a second lease on life and is continuing to make improvements so that she will soon be advertised for adoption. Without the training I received from this grant, Zena would not have had this opportunity.

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