Welcome to Trust Our Trainers blog! I’m looking forward to offering you a monthly behind-the-scenes look into our Behavior and Training program here at WHS!
We are fortunate to have trainers on our staff that can support both our community and our shelter pets. We have volunteers join us on our Behavior & Training Team, made just for dogs that need a little extra help. It’s because of this collaboration that we are able to assist dogs like Hank.
Hank came to us from an overcrowded shelter in Texas. He was quickly adopted, but he was eventually returned when his family had to move to a non-pet-friendly residence.
Hank is as brilliant, charismatic, and playful as a dog ever was, and oh, so affectionate. He’s easily my favorite resident right now.
Hank does have some challenges in the kennel environment, and finding him a foster home or a foster-based rescue hasn’t panned out.
This cutie’s main difficulty was that he was barking (okay, screaming), pulling, and jumping around when he couldn’t go greet a dog he saw.
Sound familiar?! “Barrier reactivity” is one of the behavior challenges we commonly see in shelter dogs and community pets!
Hank just couldn’t help it. You can imagine how overstimulating and frustrating it can be for a dog who is social (even if picky!) to live in a kennel surrounded dogs he can see and hear—but not quite touch.
Hank’s Action Plan
We’ve used a multi-prong approach, which is more effective than coming at something from just one angle. For starters, we enhanced our management plan, meaning better environmental setups and interactions so that Hank could be successful and comfortable.
For Hank (and many others), this involves:
- Choosing a quiet kennel location
- Taking Hank out when and where there is minimal dog-foot-traffic
- Adding visual kennel barriers
- Choosing humane and effective walking gear, like a front clip harness and head halter
Daily enrichment is a priority for Hank. As a social and active guy, he needs appropriate outlets to stay happy and healthy. Some of our volunteers provide training or simply company from outside his kennel, and others provide his favorite kind of room service: food puzzles and novel scents on plushies.
When we have potential dog-friends for him, he gets off leash play, and when we don’t, we fill in the gaps with social play with us. He’s all about flinging his floppy toys around to catch, chasing a toy tied to the end of a lunge whip, and playing tug. Hank thrives with experiencing the world through his nose on sniffy walks, running on a long line in the woodsy back property, and hanging out with us in our office, where he plays, snuggles, and snoozes regularly. Finally, Hank loves training, which is a great brain game!
Speaking of training, yes, of course, it’s part of his plan! Hank is so smart, attentive, and easily motivated by fun, rewards-based training sessions. We have no doubt his progress will accelerate in a home.
For now, though, we are happy to see improvements in his reactivity out of his kennel when we play counterconditioning and desensitization games, and he is walking more nicely on leash than ever before. We’ve started his basic manners training and worked on developing some self-control skills.
Even though he’s ready to go home and be someone’s fulfilling pet, we want to make sure we set his new family up for success, too, which is why we are providing private lessons as part of his adoption package!
Is Hank Right for You?
We’ve so enjoyed getting to know and helping Hank during his time with us. He’s made us laugh countless times, and we think that as much as he needs to be entertained, he’ll also be doing a lot of the entertaining for his new family. If you want to be that family for Hank and give him the fresh start he needs, please read more about him here.
If you need help with your own dog–whether it’s teaching them from scratch or addressing a challenging behavior–you can learn more about our public services here.
Thank you for supporting Willamette Humane Society!