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Paws for Life Utah: Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship Grant Report

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

The $1,000 granted by the Petfinder Foundation was used to pay the tuition for our Operations Director, Nancy O'Connor, to attend the Dogs Playing for Life Mentorship training session at Longmont Humane Society from May 20-23, 2019.

This grant enabled us to send our Operations Director to learn best practices from a training and management perspective. Through daily participation in the training sessions, she learned many lessons on which practices are most beneficial to dogs in playgroups and why.

Some examples of things she learned and incorporated into our playgroups are as follows:

1. Tools to use during playgroup or any time you need to distract a dog to prevent fighting or any bad behavior.
2. Teaching dogs a door routine, which we now use consistently and also have trained our fosters and volunteers in. We use this standard process and train all handlers so that our dogs do not try to, or are not able to, run out the door when it opens.
3. We incorporated several new games learned at DPFL that really are helpful and productive in creating safe and beneficial playgroups with dogs. We have used them to show fosters how to keep dogs from going for things dropped on the floor that could potentially be dangerous to them.
4. Letting dogs play, letting them correct each other and only intervening when there is potential danger.
5. Using new tools to keep the handler and the dogs safe.

In addition to using these lessons for our own play yard, our executive director worked with the Heber City Engineering Department, Parks Department and Animal Control on a committee to renovate our new "Boneyard" dog park. Much of the design of the park (entry and exit gates, footing, stations, etc.) incorporated lessons learned at the mentorship. At the grand opening of the Boneyard dog park, where our executive director, mayor and city council members held a ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by a fun dog park event and, later, an adoption event, we held training sessions with the public to educate them on dog-park safety. The event was attended by more than 100 people and was a huge success!

How many pets did this grant help?

This will help all the dogs in our care every year, which is approximately 900 dogs per year.

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

We rescued a very sweet and scared border-collie mix named Zeg from [an open-admission] shelter in Vernal, Utah. He was terrified, and we were told that he was afraid of other dogs and would just cower in his kennel. With the lessons learned from the DPFL mentorship program sponsored by the Petfinder Foundation, we worked with Zeg, first at our boarding facility in turnout groups with dogs who helped socialize him. Zeg responded initially better to those confident, playful dogs who were not a threat to him. Soon he began responding better to our handlers and prospective adopters.

When we brought him to the grand opening of our new community dog park, Zeg was a hit! He did wonderfully in large turnouts with new dogs, and played with everyone. He was befriended by a young boy at the event (first photo) and got the attention of a prospective adopter, who needed a kind, gentle and large dog who was social and could to assist her with her disability. She fell in love and adopted Zeg, and he is currently in training to become a service dog. We are so grateful to the Petfinder Foundation, which enabled us to learn these best practices and apply them to pets in our program. This type of program and educational experience is the gift that keeps on giving!

Further Reading