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The Value of Training Shelter Dogs

By Robin Tierney

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According to studies by the American Veterinary Medical Association and other groups, more than 5 million dogs are surrendered to U.S. shelters a year due to what owners blame on behavior problems. Yet 90% of all of these dogs were given no obedience training. Most of the problems owners encounter can be avoided or resolved through humane training and socialization of their dogs.

When in a shelter or kennel boarding environment, the given-up dogs have little of the positive physical and emotional stimulation they need. These environments do not support the development of normal behavior, and typically lead to the development of undesirable behaviors. The daily commotion of animals longing for attention leads to tense dogs overreacting to every little sound, sight and visitor. Often, the dogs' behaviors discourage prospective adopters, who don't have any idea of how the dog would behave in a good home.

Some shelters and animal welfare groups have launched shelter dog training programs to help make dogs more adoptable. These include The Walter Turken Training for Adoption Program (WTTAP) at the Humane Society of Collier County, Florida.

The Turken program's activities include teaching dogs to sit when people approach them in the kennel - which offers visitors a much better first impression of the dog. The dogs are also taught to heel when walking, act calm when encountering other animals, wait at doorways, and stay on command.

In addition to the value of training these specific behaviors, the stress level of the animal decreases as a result of learning acceptable ways to respond and from the attention received during training. The program helps socialize the participating dogs, who in turn develop better manners.

Most of the Turken program trainers are volunteers who are taught breed identification, breed characteristics and how to interpret canine body language, properly use leashes and collars, how and when to give food rewards, and safety measures.

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Last Updated: October 20, 2014 (LET) PawSupport