Saturday, January 15, 2011

Training Shelter Dogs: Selecting Behaviors

Ideally, all the dogs would perfectly learn all basic manners, all husbandry, and additional tricks.

But, I'm the only one that does training, I'm only there for one shift, about two hours, per week. With about 20 dogs in the 'big dog kennel', and with cleaning having to get done... I don't always do as much training as I want.

For each dog, I have 2-3 behaviors we are working on, and though I don't have to actually sit down and carefully plan what those are, there is a strategy.

Dog 1: 8-9 year old beagleX, been at the shelter for many years. Mobility issues. Interested in people she knows. A little barky. Not so great for handling.
- Due to her weight, it would be good if we could get her more exercise, but she has some health issues limiting how much she can safely walk. Stationary behaviors are a better idea. Obviously the handling needs to be addressed, and it would be nice if she wasn't demand barking. If we could get her more social with strangers, she would have an increased (just very very slightly) chance of getting adopted.
- What we're working on: Barking on cue. And not barking off of cue (on cue is better than the being quiet). Nail trims ( I can clip 1-2 nails now!). Targeting (is touching, but not moving to touch).

Dog 2: 3-5 year old lab/pointery type cross. Barky. Figity. Sometimes jumps on people. Not super social with people or dogs, yet attention seeking with humans he knows. He is a higher energy dog, but I want to encourage calmer behaviors than what he does now.
- What we're working on: Stays. This started with clicking sits that had "feet still" instead of moving. His front feet will move a lot if I'm not careful. Placement of reinforcer was slightly off to one side to keep his foot still rather than the left foot lifting while he ate.
- We also are VERY careful with management. When dogs are going to be moved past his kennel, he is locked outside part of his inside-outside kennel. This prevents potential barking, fence fighting, or spinning.

Dog 3: A year old pit bully type dog. Of the very cutest type. She's been here for several months, is really laid back (she would be SUCH an easy dog to live with!), and completely adorable.
- What we're working on: Nose targets (for recalls, greetings, etc), Recalls ('cause we might as well), and walking.
- I'm not sure why she hasn't been adopted. She's the cutest pit bully type dog, round and squishy and brindley. Easy to handle. I'm hoping that additional training will make her more adoptable, but also maintain her calmness and prevent her from getting too wild.

And the list goes on for the rest of the dogs.
My priority in selecting behaviors is for things that are immediately impacting the dog (things that may prevent other volunteers from exercising or playing with the dog or being able to move the dog to and from his kennel), second is things that are annoying (jumping, barking, spinning, fence fighting, not coming), and third priority is the behaviors that make the dog more adoptable (basic training, tricks).

I'm never sure if the tricks/manners should be first priority or not, but because so many of the animals are at the facility long-term, the other volunteers really need to be able to safely and happily handle the animals.

No comments: