Sunday, December 19, 2010

Training Shelter Dogs: Enrichment and Adoption: Interactive Dogs

Every week I do a shift at a nearby humane society. And I work on getting the dogs to have more behaviors that will help them be adopted and behaviors that make them easier to handle. It's not a high volume facility and we don't have a lot of dogs coming in...but that also means there are a lot of dogs that aren't going out.

My first priority is general behavior that makes the dog adorable and attention seeking. Response to name. Offered eye contact. Offering sits. This results in dogs that try to engage with people and that are going to look potential adopter right in the eye!

So how do we get here?

Offered Attention
Stand in the kennel, right outside the kennel, or in a small play yard with the dog. Click when the dog turns towards you, move towards you, or looks at you. Then pull a treat out of your pocket and toss it to the dog. Repeat until the dog is immediately turning back to you after after eating a treat. And then repeat even more. If you can get someone else to do this, all the better!

Response to Name
As before, you can be in the kennel with the dog, standing outside the kennel or in a play yard. Call the dog. If he looks or turns, click and then pull out a great treat to toss on the floor/bed/bowl. Repeat. Get others to participate. Walk away and come back later for another short session. If the dog is not wanting to turn, do the offered attention exercise before trying response to name again.

Offered Sits
This is fabulous because it's easy. If the dog knows that Sit works, he will keep sitting when he wants things and wants attention. And this gives lots of opportunities to reinforce appropriate behaviors. The initial sits can be taught through capturing (feed a treat when the dog sits on his own), shaping, or luring. Many of the dogs do at least offer a Sit making it a matter of heavily reinforcing the responses you get. We want the dogs to think that Sit is always the right answer.

And this is stuff we do in training class all the time. But it's good for me to practice on a lot of dogs and to see all the responses and look at where there may be handler error and where there are dog differences and how the dog differences impact the results.

More to come... as I'm organizing my shelter training notes and this will help me get that done! Every time I check something off my list, I end up adding five more. Kind of like the training questions yesterday leading to so much more.

1 comment:

Kristine said...

That's fantastic. I am sure these simple behaviours go a long way to getting these dogs adopted. Simple but it does take some time. Good on you for making such a worthwhile effort!